Jane Goodall

Kai Eriksson

Posted on June 14 2018

British ethologist, the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees and an animal rights activist



1934 Born as Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall on April 3 in London, England
1957 At age 23, she sails to Africa. While in Kenya, she meets famous anthropologist, Dr. Louis Leakey
1960 Sets out to Tanzania to study wild chimpanzees. Louis Leakey, her boss, married with three children, bombards Goodall with protestations of his love
1962 Marries Baron Hugo van Lawick, a Dutch wildlife photographer and filmmaker
1965 The documentary Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees gets its first broadcast on American television
1967 Gives birth to a son, Hugo Eric Louis, who has always been called Grub. Her first book, My Friends, the Wild Chimpanzees, made her a star among the public, though it was regarded dimly by academia, causing her becoming nearly expelled from the Cambridge University
1971 In the Shadow of Man, her first major work, is published
1974 Marries her second husband, Derek Bryceson, a member of Tanzania's parliament and director of its national parks. Observes that chimps wage war on other groups of chimps. During this time, Goodall made a career shift from scientist to conservationist
1977 Cofounds Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation
1986 Summarizes her years of observation in The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior
2008 Controversially describes Edinburgh Zoo's new primate enclosure as a 'wonderful facility'
2013 Accused of plagiarism. According to The Washington Post, she borrowed sections from the web in her new book Seeds of Hope without giving them proper credit. The book was reissued in the following year








  • Along with Dian Fossey, who researched gorillas in Rwanda, and Biruté Galdikas, who studied orangutans in Indonesia, she is known as one of the three most prominent primatologists
  • The first exemplar of the pop-culture scientist-communicator
  • Refuted the beliefs of the day that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were vegetarians
  • Revolutionized the perception of family relationships among chimpanzees
  • At the same time, shaped the self-understanding of humanity
  • The most prominent advocate for the rights of non-humans
  • Advocates for ecological preservation through the Jane Goodall Institute
  • Has received numerous honors and awards, including:

The Gold Medal of Conservation from the San Diego Zoological Society in 1974

The National Geographic Society Centennial Award in 1988

The Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences in 1990

  • Named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations in 2002
  • Awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003







Previous studies of primates had been confined to captive animals. Instead, Goodall spent years living among chimpanzees in Tanzania.


In Cambridge University, she was told that she had done her study all wrong. Instead of numbering the chimps, she gave them names.


She could not talk about their personalities, minds or emotions as those features were unique to humans.


She was also told that scientists must be objective and never show empathy for their subjects.


Giving human attributes to animals – anthropomorphism – needed to be avoided in the name of science


Today, animal personalities and emotions are subjects for academic study.


Furthermore, the social lives of various species have been abundantly cataloged using Goodall’s methodology.




The findings


Goodall made one of the most important scientific observations of modern times by witnessing a chimpanzee in the act not just of using a tool but of making one.


At that time, the best definition of a human being was man the tool-maker.


Her finding, published in Nature in 1964, that chimpanzees use tools – extracting insects from a termite mound with leaves of grass – altered humanity’s understanding of itself.


Louis Leakey famously said: “Now we must redefine man, redefine tools, or accept chimpanzees as humans.”


Moreover, Goodall showed that chimpanzees are not vegetarians but hunt and eat meat. They can also be belligerent, planning violent attacks within their own groups.


Their complex social live suggests an emotional capacity previously ascribed only to humans.  


Harvard palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould counted this finding as one of the great achievements of 20th-century scholarship.


Today, many philosophers, including Giorgio Agambendeny that there is any particular essence which makes people human – instead, being human is a scattering of individual attributes.





  • Margaret Power believes that Goodalls practice of using feeding stations to attract chimpanzees in Gombe altered the animals normal social relationships, thus corrupting her data.
  • A reviewer for the Washington Post found plagiarism in Seeds of Hope. Unattributed sections were lifted from websites about organic tea, tobacco, and 'an amateurish astrology site,' as well as from Wikipedia







  • In the Shadow of Man, 1971
  • The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, 1986
  • Through a Window: 30 years observing the Gombe chimpanzees, 1990




  • Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees, 2002
  • Jane, 2017



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