Dame Jane Goodall (1934-present) is one of the world’s most famous primatologists. She is best known for her decades-long research of wild chimpanzees.
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Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan. And this is Encyclopedia Womannica.
Today’s explorer is one of the world’s most famous primatologists. She is best known for her decades-long research of wild chimpanzees. Let’s talk about Jane Goodall.
Jane Goodall was born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall in 1934 in London. Her father Mortimer was a businessman and her mother Margaret was a novelist, who wrote under the pen name Vanne Morris-Goodall.
From a young age, Jane was fascinated with animals. When she was four, Jane hid for hours in a henhouse just to observe how hens lay eggs.
As an adolescent, Jane dreamt of a life in Africa, where she could study and work with animals. When she did finally move there as an adult, she said upon arrival that “it felt like coming home”.
In 1957, Jane moved to Kenya. While there, she met Dr. Louis Leakey—a famed archeologist and paleontologist who offered Jane a job as his secretary. In 1960, Dr. Leakey sent Jane to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.
In Gombe, without a college degree, Jane began her study of wild chimpanzees. At the time, little was known about chimpanzee behavior. Jane later wrote: “It was not permissible, at least not in ethological circles, to talk about an animal's mind. Only humans had minds.”
Jane observed that chimps had unique personalities with a capacity to feel and display affection, support, joy and sorrow.
In the fall of 1960, Jane witnessed a chimpanzee squatting on a termite mound, placing pieces of grass into the mound then raising the grass to his mouth. Jane discovered that the chimp had been using the grass stem as a tool to “fish” for termites. It had been previously accepted that humans were the only animals capable of making tools.
When Jane sent her groundbreaking findings to Dr. Leakey, he wrote: “We must now redefine man, redefine tools, or accept chimpanzees as human!”
Over the course of her study at Gombe, Jane also found that chimps havealso had an aggressive side, systematically hunting and eating smaller primates. Jane even observed inter-group violence between two groups of chimps.
In 1963, National Geographic published an article about Jane. Through that piece, she connected with photographer Hugo Van Lawick. Hugo and Jane married one year later, and eventually had a son named Hugo Eric Louis.
Dr. Leakey urged Jane to attend the University of Cambridge, where she earned a PhD in ethology in 1965. She became the eighth person in the history of Cambridge to be permitted to pursue a PhD without an undergraduate degree.
In 1974, Jane and Hugo divorced. A year later, she married Derek Bryceson, a member of Tanzania’s national assembly, who died in 1980.
Jane used her famed discoveries to promote conservation to people all over the world—appearing on television, writing about her research, and even founding a global non-profit called The Jane Goodall Institute.
In 2002, Jane was named a UN Messenger of Peace by Secretary General Kofi Annan. In 2004, Prince Charles deemed Jane a Dame of the British Empire. Today, Jane continues to champion human rights and conservation through the Jane Goodall Institute.
Jane Goodall is credited with challenging long-held beliefs about chimpanzees. Her discoveries shifted the way humans see, observe, and think about primates.
“If we keep our eyes open, our ears open, and think of everyday as an adventure, then each day will give us a lesson.”
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