The Good Scientist : A recap of Jane Goodall’s amazing life

Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall, famously known as Dr. Jane Goodall has so many awards and honors to her name that if we start listing them, this article will be over soon. If you don’t know- Jane Goodall is a British anthropologist and primatologist who has dedicated her career to explore the social and family interactions of chimpanzees in the wild. Her 55 year old research on chimpanzees was the longest recorded research on a living being except human. Most of what we know today about chimpanzees- we know because of Goodall’s work.

Jane was born on 3 April 1934 in London, England. When Jane was a child, her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee toy and Jane fell instantly in love with it. Thus began Jane’s love for animals. Jane was only in her early twenties when she decided to travel to Africa and observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat. She was surprised to find out that chimpanzees, much like human beings, used and made tools. In one of her National Geographic documentaries, Goodall was quoted saying, “They picked a twig and stripped it off its leaves. That was object modification. The crude beginning of tool-making.” This was never seen before- the popular belief being that humans were the only creatures who knew how to make tools and put them to proper use.

Jane was the first to find out that chimps have complex social hierarchy.

Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees are not vegetarians- they eat meat and have their own language made up of distinct sounds. All of this was revolutionary, and Jane soon wrote to Louis Leakey, famous Kenyan paleoanthropologist, he replied, “We must now redefine man or accept chimpanzees as human.” When Jane’s work was published in newspapers and journals, it caught people’s eye but she also received a lot of flak. Because she challenged deep set stereotypes- stripping humans of their uniqueness and because she was a young girl with no formal training, many were not up for her work. Leakey later helped Jane get a grant and further continue her research on chimpanzees.

Perhaps Jane’s most famous work till today have been “In the Shadow of Man”, written in 1971. Today Jane has the title of Dame Jane Goodall- Dame being the female equivalent of Knighthood. Jane runs her own organization which goes by the Jane Goodall Institute and she encourages young people to join hands and protect the environment and consequently save animal species.

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