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Summary Article: Goodall, Jane (1934–)
From Encyclopedia of Environment and Society

BASED ON HER primate research in the Gombe Game Reserve in Africa, Jane Goodall is the world’s leading authority on chimpanzees and is considered a great conservationist. She was born in London, England, in 1934. When she was 11 years old, she decided she wanted to travel to Africa and possibly live there. In her early 20s, she found herself in Nairobi, Kenya, working as a secretary. About a year after her arrival, she met Louis Leakey, who was interested in studying apes and their relationship to humans. Both Leakey and his wife, Mary, began collaborating in their studies with Goodall. Leakey thought Jane would be the perfect person to begin a study of the great apes on the Gombe National Reserve in Tanzania, because she was not formally trained in ethology or primatology.

In 1960, Goodall arrived at the Gombe National Reserve and began her research, eager to develop a relationship with the chimpanzees. But after a few weeks of observation, she was discouraged because the chimpanzees would not let her get within 50 yards of them. This changed the day a male chimp wandered into her camp and began stomping and screaming after seeing a banana on a table. Eventually, the chimpanzees learned to accept the young researcher. They allowed her to follow them, and they would greet her with a touch or a kiss. She was able, through careful observation, to find commonalities between humans and chimpanzees.

Goodall married Hugo van Lawick in 1964 and they had one son, Hugo. She later divorced Lawick and entered into a second marriage to Derek Bryceson. Unfortunately, Bryceson died of cancer only five years later.

Jane Goodall received her Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1965. Over the past four decades, Goodall has made a number of significant observations of chimpanzees at the Gombe reserve. She observed, and was the first person to record in 1960, that chimpanzees were meat eaters and to document chimpanzees making tools, the first recorded instance of tool-making by nonhumans. In 1964, Goodall noted that chimpanzees engaged in deliberate planning and used man-made objects for various purposes. In 1966, it was noted that chimpanzees could contract AIDS. During the 1970s, Goodall observed chimpanzees expressing awe, engaging in war and cannibalism, creating coalitions, and transferring a member to another group. In 1987, she observed a chimpanzee adopting an adolescent. In 1994, she observed chimpanzees engaging in shortterm monogamous relationships and modeling toolmaking behaviors of chimps in another community. One year later, she witnessed chimpanzees chewing on a medicinal plant believed to relieve stomach pain. Goodall has taught the public that chimpanzees are able to express emotions, engage in affection, and have personalities.

Today, Goodall is active in promoting conservation and bringing attention to the similarities between chimpanzees and humans. She travels 300 days per year talking to audiences about their ability to help other people, the environment, and animals. With regard to chimpanzees, she has set up halfway houses for injured and orphaned chimps in the wild. She advocates the ethical treatment of chimpanzees in research, lab settings, and zoos.

In 1977, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering people, including youth, to make a difference. The JGI promotes creating healthy ecosystems and sustainable livelihoods for all living creatures, and focuses on nurturing and educating new generations of active, committed citizens throughout the world. The “Roots and Shoots” program, founded in 1991, is an example of the institute’s efforts. The program ultimately encourages care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community.

Throughout her long professional career, Goodall has written a number of children’s books, books for adults, and scholarly articles. Her most recent children’s book is Rickie and Henry: A True Story (2004). Her most recent adult book is Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating (2005). She has earned 27 honorary degrees and has received 79 awards for her work.

  • Animal Rights; Chimpanzees; Ecosystems; Leakey, Louis and Mary; Organic Agriculture; Pesticides; Sustainability; Vegetarianism.

  • Jane Goodall Institute (homepage) (cited June 2006).
  • Jane Goodall,” Women’s Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society,
  • Dale Peterson, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).
  • Dr. Margaret H. Williamson
    Gainesville State College
    Copyright © 2007 by SAGE Publications, inc.

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