Jane Goodall is one of the leading conservationists and animal researchers in history, having devoted over 50 years of her life to the study of chimpanzees. Jane Goodall is usually described as a primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist. She has also been awarded the distinction of becoming a United Nations Messenger of Peace. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and, at age 78, continues to dedicate her life to the welfare of animals.
Jane Goodall was born on April 3, 1934 in London, England. Her father was a businessman who presented Jane with a stuffed toy that resembled a chimpanzee. Jane adored the toy, which she named Jubilee, and accredits it with being the trigger that started her interest in animals and confesses that she still has the toy in her London home. Jane has often cited her parents as being a major influence in her life; her mother even accompanied her to Africa on her first visit to the continent.
Jane Goodall first arrived in the African nation of Tanzania in the year 1960 when she was 26 years old. She had no scientific training or educational degree and was working as a sectary for a British naturalist known as Lewis Leaky. Despite these humble beginnings, Jane would go on to have a remarkable impact on the field of animal studies, especially when she discovered that chimps had the advanced mental ability to use tools in order to achieve goals such as finding food. Knowing how to make and use tools requires advanced cognition, something that was thought to belong solely to humans prior to Jane’s discovery. Jane also discovered that chimp societies and family structures greatly resemble those of humans and their emotions, both good and bad, are also eerily close to human beings. These are the groundbreaking Jane Goodall findings which resulted in her becoming famous once the media grabbed hold of the story.
Due to her findings and subsequent fame, Jane was able to get the support and funding to continue her chimp studies. She also managed to obtain a Doctorate degree from Cambridge University without first holding at least a Bachelors; she is one of only eight individuals to ever get permission to do this. Jane Goodall married twice and has one son. Both of her husbands were also involved in the documentation and preservation of chimps.
There are hours of footage spanning several decades concerning Jane and “her chimps.” YouTube has a number of interviews with Jane and even an hour-long BBC documentary about her. Jane’s career has spanned a time period that has allowed humans to learn a lot about chimps and how close their DNA is to ours. In fact, chimps are susceptible to human viruses!
The study of chimps is still ongoing in Africa, although currently Jane spends most of her time traveling the globe and raising awareness about maintaining chimp environments noting that their numbers have dropped dramatically in the past decades. Her work has led to a greater understanding of chimps, the environment and even human history. Thus, Jane Goodall is truly a notable and incredible member of society and is someone whose story every animal lover should be aware of.