Jane Goodall is an enduring champion of animals and the environment.
When she was a child, Goodall was given a lifelike stuffed chimpanzee by her father; the gift sparked a lifelong love of animals that continues to this day.
Goodall was born in London in 1934, but she began her career in Kenya. At this point, she had no degree nor background in research, and initially began working as a secretary. But Goodall’s scientific ability was soon spotted, and she quickly became involved in a research study into chimpanzees.
Goodall began her study in London, where she learned about primate behaviour and anatomy. And in 1960, she travelled to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. This marked the beginning of her study into wild chimpanzees, research that would continue for over 55 years.
Over the course of her research, Goodall obtained a PhD degree from Cambridge. However, her lack of formal training meant that Goodall devised unique methods of research. She named the chimpanzees she studied: an unorthodox method at the time, and eventually created a close bond with the creatures – thus, she remains the only person ever accepted into a chimpanzee troop.
Goodall found that the chimpanzees would exhibit typically ‘human’ actions such as affectionate, supportive behaviour. And were capable of performing tasks using tools: a quality previously considered unique to humans.
However, Goodall noted that chimpanzees were also capable of extreme aggression, both towards other animals and within their own troops. Her research considerably extended understanding of primate behaviour, and challenged several preconceptions regarding the differences between humans and animals.
On top of her research, Goodall has long been a bastion of activism and advocacy on the part of chimps and the wider environment. In 1977, she set up the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI): a global organisation which supports conservation and development in Africa. She has also written a number of books, and frequently performs lecture tours and speeches all over the world.
Over the course of her expansive career, Goodall has received numerous awards and honours, including becoming a Dame in 2004. She continues to work as a tireless advocate for the welfare of chimpanzees and for environmental conservation.
Last updated: 23 February 2018