Jane Goodall was born in England in 1934 and grew up with an insatiable curiosity for nature. In 1957, having worked as a waitress to pay for her ticket, Jane boarded a ship bound for present-day Tanzania where she worked for paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge, supporting him as he conducted his research. Before long, Dr. Leakey asked Jane to study chimpanzees as part of his work on the origins of humankind. Although she wasn't a qualified scientist, he thought Jane's enthusiasm, perseverance, and passion made her the perfect researcher. He was right.
In 1960, Jane began her groundbreaking research at Gombe Stream, observing the behaviour of chimpanzees in their natural habitat. It was there that she discovered that chimpanzees fashion and use tools. This was an astonishing discovery because, until that moment, humans had been defined by that particular skill as “Man the Toolmaker”. Upon hearing about her amazing discovery, Dr. Leakey sent her a now-famous telegramme: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as human.” History had been made.
Jane took an unconventional approach to her research, viewing each primate as an individual with a distinct personality, mind, and emotions. She felt it was the differences between individuals that made them fascinating. This approach wasn’t readily accepted by the global scientific community at the time. When she first presented her discoveries to a scientific audience, they dismissed and ridiculed her for giving the chimpanzees names and talking about their individual characteristics. But she persevered, graduating from Cambridge University with a Ph.D. in ethology, the study of animal behaviour.
Though she contributed significantly to the world of science as an academic, Jane gradually became more involved in conservation and activism, having seen the many and growing problems facing not just her beloved chimpanzees, but other wild animals and the environment at large. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Conservation, and Education (JGI).
Dr. Jane Goodall now travels more than 300 days a year, speaking to audiences around the world about threats to chimps and their habitat, as well as other environmental crises. On any given day, she could be on any continent, speaking to a group of students, meeting with government officials to discuss conservation issues, sitting before television cameras being interviewed, or meeting with donors to raise money for JGI.
In particular, Dr. Jane has a special connection to young people and makes it a point to prioritise reaching out to them. She hears, firsthand, the voices of young people across the world speaking of their hopes and their determination to make a better world, and she carries their message to audiences all over the world.
This is Jane’s life today – sometimes exhausting, but always driven by purpose. Despite the hectic schedule, she is constantly pushing to conserve wildlife and empower people to do what they can for a better world.
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
– Dr. Jane Goodall
– Dr. Jane Goodall