Jane Goodall

Women in STEM
Jane Goodall

Birth: April 3, 1934

Specialty: Primatology

Major Contributions:

Founder of Jane Goodall Institute

First to observe chimpanzees using tools

Author and Speaker

Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

With a passion for animals and Africa, Jane Goodall ‘s 1957 arrival to Kenya to visit the farm of a family friend would mark the beginning of a lifelong career in the study of primates. Hired initially as a secretary for an archeologist, Goodall was sent out to observe the chimpanzees in Olduvai Gorge with almost no training and no degree. After some training in primate behavior and anatomy she traveled to the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.  With only her binoculars, notebook, and lots of patience she began observing the wild chimpanzees of the region. In 1962 it was arranged for her to earn a doctorate in ethology from Cambridge University and after earning her degree in three years she returned to her work in Gombe.

While observing the chimpanzees of the region she made two startling discoveries that challenged the beliefs of the time. The first was noting the use of a tool for feeding, when a chimp would use stalks of grass to remove termites from their mound in order to eat the bugs; challenging the notion of man being the only creature to use tools.

The second long held belief was that chimps were vegetarians so when she observed a hunting group chase a smaller colobus monkey into a tree, corner it, kill and eat it, ideas of chimp behavior changed. Over the years she also observed more aggressive and violent behavior within troops. Goodall concluded that at first, she thought chimpanzees had human-like characteristics but were on the whole nicer, then came to realize that they have dark sides similar to humans as well.

In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute which supports Gombe research and now has nineteen offices around the world working on conservation efforts in Africa. Goodall has been president of Advocates for Animals, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence and a UN Peace Messenger. She continues her work with chimpanzees, has written numerous books, and is a highly sought after speaker. Even the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t slow down her efforts to empower people to use their voices to address the issues that matter to them. JGI recently introduced “Virtual Jane” using remote lectures, recordings, and a podcast “The Jane Goodall Hopecast” to connect with audiences worldwide.

Written by Angela Goad


The Jane Goodall Institute

National Geographic: Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall (TED)

See Also:

Twitter: @JaneGoodallInst

Jane Goodall Pleads for Release of Two Very Special Chimps

What Separates Us From the Chimpanzees (TED)

How Humans And Animals Can Live Together (TED)