Biography Jane Goodall

Ever been to day camp on a rainy day? If you have, then you have undoubtedly seen the movies about Jane Goodall and her ape friends in the jungle. (Think Gorillas in the Mist with real science.) Camp directors have run the reels for decades to keep rowdy campers out of the rain.

If you never went to camp, chances are you have seen documentaries about Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees of Tanzania. You either saw these films at school or on public television.

Who is Jane Goodall?

Jane Goodall is the most famous primatologist (ape expert) the world has ever known. In fact, her face has appeared on National Geographic’s cover more than any other person.

Goodall’s Childhood

Born April 3, 1934, in London, England, Valerie Jane Goodall was the daughter of Mortimer, an engineer, and Vanne, author of The Quest for Man (1975).

Jane’s younger sister Judy was born on her fourth birthday.

Goodall was an outdoorsy girl from the start and a fan of The Jungle Book and Tarzan. In her childhood journals, she jotted notes about wanting to be Tarzan’s Jane. Her father, who served in Singapore with the British military, gave her a giant chimpanzee toy when she was quite small. Jane named it Jubilee, and she kept it with her always.

The Goodall parents divorced when Jane was twelve. She then shared a large home in England with her mother, her sister, and two aunts.

Goodall’s First Encounters with Chimpanzees

After graduating, Goodall did not attend college. In 1960, at 26, she traveled to Lake Tanganyika, in East Africa, to study chimpanzees in community in the Gombe Game Reserve.

Alone, Goodall waited patiently, as the chimps observed her and finally trusted her enough to approach. She watched, as the apes rolled leaves to fish termites out from inside a log. This was the first ape toolmaking ever recorded by mankind. Goodall also observed the chimps interacting with one another and with her. She watched them form families, and she saw them eat meat, although scientists had assumed they were vegetarians. Continuing her on-site observations, Goodall eventually witnessed a war between rival chimpanzee groups.

Her mentor, anthropologist Louis Leakey, reported, “We must redefine tools, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.”

Adult Life
In 1964, Goodall married Hugo Van Lawick. The couple had one son, Hugo, Jr., whom they nicknamed Grub. The couple eventually divorced, and Goodall married Derek Bryceson in 1975. Bryceson, who was Tanzania’s national parks manager, died of cancer in 1980.

Goodall had earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge University and returned to Tanzania, where she founded the Gombe Stream Research Center.

Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977. This organization, based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, still operates to further research and protect primate habitats.

World Renowned Primatologist

Many organizations worldwide have honored Goodall for her achievements. She was named a “Messenger of Peace” by the United Nations in 2002. The following year, Queen Elizabeth II dubbed her a Dame of the British Empire. Goodall also received the Albert Schweitzer Award, the Encyclopedia Award, and the Kyoto Prize for Science.

A widely published author, Goodall wrote “In the Shadow of Man” and “Wild Chimpanzees”.

She has honorary doctorates from at least ten leading educational institutions.

Now in her 70s, Goodall continues to travel, lecture, and write. She maintains homes in England and Tanzania.