Jane Goodall


Jane Goodall


Scientist and Activist


Leading authority on chimpanzees with ground-breaking discoveries, identifying similarities between man and chimpanzee.


Jennifer Stalker Hardin


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Birth Date

April 3, 1934


London, England


Primatologist, Anthropologist, Ethologist, Conservationist

Biographical Text

Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall conducted research which revealed aspects of the chimp society previously unknown to the scientific community, such as: tool making/ using, emotional displays, social status and relationship building between chimps, communication and dietary characteristics. Jane made discoveries which indicated a parallel between chimps and humans in several areas, indicating that chimps are much more like humans than previously believed. This information was shared with the scientific community and though it was criticized for not following set scientific standards, her findings were recognized as significant. Jane went to Cambridge University and obtained her PhD in Ethology. She opened the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977 to promote the research as well as address concerns with conservation. Following a conference in 1986, Jane became acutely aware of the dangers imposed upon the chimps due to a diminishing environment from human encroachment upon their ecosystem. She left her beloved research in Africa to take up the cause to bring awareness to the peril chimps faced from man’s disruption of their environment. In 1991, Jane developed a conservation program for children called Roots and Shoots to educate and support the following generations in their goal to protect the environment. It is currently available in almost 100 countries today. Jane travels 300 days a year speaking to people around the world to champion the cause for chimps and promote changes to preserve our environment. Her work as an ethologist, scientist, activist and conservationist encourages society to make changes that promote sustainable living and preservation of the environment and animals, especially the chimps.

From an early age, Goodall loved animals. She dreamed of going to Africa someday to write about the animals she so loved. Growing up in a society where girls were dissuaded from such ideas, she had the support of a matriarchal household that encouraged Jane to follow her dreams via hard work and use of opportunities. During her childhood, World War II had broken out and she, her mother and her sister went to stay with her grandmother. Her father joined the military then later divorced her mother. After graduation from high school in 1952, Jane did not have enough money to go to college. Urged by her mother to learn secretarial work, Jane took classes and became employed as a secretary in a few different firms. In 1956, Jane was presented with the opportunity to go to Africa to a friend’s family farm. She used this opportunity to pursue her dream. Shortly after arriving in Africa, Jane met anthropologists Drs. Mary and Louis Leakey who hired her as an assistant. She accompanied them on an archeological dig in Olduvai Gorge. Recognizing Jane’s enthusiasm and intelligence, the Leakeys asked Jane if she would go to Gombe to study chimpanzees to determine a link between man and this species. After funds were secured for the research, Jane found herself at the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in 1960. As a young girl with no degree nor experience, Jane used methods deemed unempirical in the current scientific community. In doing so, she made significant discoveries which rocked the scientific world’s understanding of chimp behaviors. Understanding the need for Jane to be educated, the Leakeys arranged for her to attend Cambridge University to obtain a PhD. This was unprecedented as Jane did not even have an undergraduate degree. However, she completed her thesis using her research at Gombe and obtained her PhD in Ethology in 1965. Setting up the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, she left less than 10 years later to promote environmental awareness and sustainable living to save the chimpanzees. As of this publication in 2017, she is in her 80s and continues to travel the world 300 days a year to share her message of activism and environmental protection.

The name Jane Goodall is synonymous with chimpanzee research. She has been identified as the authority of chimpanzees but her story goes well beyond that. Depicted in issues of National Geographic and appearing in National Geographic documentaries, it may seem her fame as an ethologist was obtained effortlessly. However, Jane faced many obstacles before reaching her goal of studying animals in Africa. As a child, she faced the trials of living during a world war with an absent father. Her love of animals and propensity for research at an early age did not prevent a society who felt girls did not belong in such positions from discouraging her. The scientific community challenged her methods, despite the incredible discoveries she made during her research. Jane met this opposition with determination, taking advantage of every opportunity that allowed her one more step towards her goal. She was blessed with a mother that encouraged and supported her and later in her life and the Leakey's who recognized her strengths and offered opportunities that led to her goals. These efforts paid off: Jane is the leading authority on Chimpanzees with decades of research, several books and academic papers to support this. In addition, she is invited around the world to share her knowledge about her research and the environmental changes needed to maintain a sustainable future.

The information gained from Jane’s research may seem only relevant to the scientific community and those interested in chimpanzees, but it extends well beyond this. She revealed that animals can have similar emotions, social patterns and relationships as humans. Jane transformed the way animal research is approached today, stepping outside the scientific boundaries to gain insight about chimpanzees that were never realized before. Extending beyond her research, Jane understood the need for changes to occur in the manner humans relate to their environment so a more balanced ecosystem may be maintained, one that could support the animals, particularly the chimps, in their ever-decreasing environment. She continues to advocate for changes in the way humans treat and interact with nature, teaching adults and children alike the need to take care of the earth for future generations of both humans and non-human creatures alike. Through her research and activism, Jane continues to strive towards developing a better world for all.


Goodall, Jane. The chimpanzees of Gombe: patterns of behavior. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986.

Goodall, Jane. Through a window: thirty years with the chimpanzees of Gombe. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990.

Goodall, Jane, and Dale Peterson. Africa in my blood: an autobiography in letters: the early years. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Goodall, Jane, and Phillip L. Berman. Reason for hope: a spiritual journey. New York, NY: Warner, 2005.

Goodall, Jane, and Hugo Van Lawick. In the shadow of man. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

Montgomery, Sy. Walking with the great apes: Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey, Biruté Galdikas White  River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub., 2009.

O’Malley, Robert C., William Wallauer, Carson M. Murray, and Jane Goodall. "The Appearance and Spread of Ant Fishing among the Kasekela Chimpanzees of Gombe." Current        Anthropology  53, no. 5 (October 2012): 650-63.


Date Added
April 27, 2017
Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
Item Type
Jennifer Stalker Hardin, “Jane Goodall,” Women Who Dared, accessed May 22, 2024, https://womenwhodared.omeka.net/items/show/75.