Jane Goodall was born on April 3, 1934 in London, England. Her full name is Dame Jane Morris Goodall DBE. From an early age, Goodall loved animals and dreamed of studying them in their natural habitats in Africa.
Goodall attended Uplands School in Bournemouth. She later worked as a secretary and a film production assistant to save up money to travel to Africa. In 1957 at the age of 23, Goodall traveled to Kenya where she met the famous anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey.
Uplands School and College
- Uplands School was an all-girls school that focused on environment conservation
- Goodall graduated in 1952
- Didn’t attend university but took a secretarial course
Meeting Dr. Louis Leakey
- Leakey was impressed by Goodall’s knowledge of Africa and passion for animals
- He hired her as his assistant and sent her to study chimpanzees
Early Research at Gombe Stream National Park
In 1960, Leakey sent Goodall to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania to study the wild chimpanzees. This began her lifelong research on social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees that continues today.
- Goodall observed chimps making and using tools to fish for termites
- This was first time tool making was observed in animals
- Challenged prevailing belief tool making separated humans from other animals
- Documented various aspects of chimp social life never observed before
- Discovered chimps can adopt orphaned infants
- Chimps eat meat and wage war against each other
- Showed striking social and behavioral similarities between humans and chimpanzees
- Revolutionized contemporary knowledge of chimp behavior
- Became world expert on chimpanzees
Goodall had no formal training but made groundbreaking discoveries through patient and meticulous observation. She gained global recognition for her achievements and is today considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.
Later Career and Research
Goodall continued making field observations in Gombe for over 55 years. She obtained her PhD in ethology from Cambridge University in 1965. Goodall established the Gombe Stream Research Center in 1965 to support her research work.
- First field study of wild chimp lifecycle from birth to death
- Showed each chimp has distinct personality from a young age
- Conducted studies that demonstrated advanced chimp mind capable of rational thought, reasoning and problem solving
In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute to support wildlife conservation, particularly chimpanzee habitats across Africa.
The Jane Goodall Institute
- Works internationally to protect and improve chimpanzee habitats
- Pioneered community-centered conservation programs in Africa
- Youth programs promote environmental education globally
Goodall is a prolific speaker and author. She travels extensively to advocate conservation and inspire people to help improve our planet.
Advocacy and Outreach
- Authored several acclaimed books and over 100 papers
- Featured in numerous documentaries and films
- United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2002
- Promotes sustainable development, youth empowerment, animal welfare, and more
Now in her late 80’s, Goodall still maintains a busy international lecture and travel schedule working to save Earth’s ecosystems. Her groundbreaking work and vision continue inspiring new generations.
Facts and Trivia
|Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall
|April 3, 1934 (age 88)
|Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall (father), Margaret Myfanwe Joseph (mother)
|Judith Goodall (sister)
|Divorced from photographer Baron Hugo van Lawick (1964 to 1974)
|Hugo Eric Louis van Lawick (son)
- Goodall’s father gifted her a lifelike chimpanzee toy named Jubilee that sparked her early love of animals
- She still owns Jubilee and took him to her first meeting with Dr. Leakey
- Goodall worked as a waitress to fund her dream trip to study animals in Africa
- She chose her own middle name Morris after a favorite cat named Morris that she loved as a girl
- Goodall was featured on The Wild Thornberrys, a Nickelodeon cartoon show
Jane Goodall is one of the most inspirational scientist role models and conservation leaders of our time. As a young woman with no formal training, she pioneered the first field studies of wild chimpanzees in Africa’s jungles during the 1960s.
Through nearly 60 years of close observation and breakthrough research, Goodall made trailblazing discoveries that transformed scientific thinking on great ape behavior and intelligence while also revealing the deep social and emotional similarities we share with mankind’s closest animal relative.
Beyond her groundbreaking chimpanzee discoveries, Goodall established global programs empowering youth, advocating animal welfare, promoting sustainable community development, and raising awareness to help protect fragile ecosystems and dwindling chimp populations across Africa.
Now in her late 80s, Goodall still travels the world tirelessly lecturing and sharing her vision to create hope and change hearts and minds for the sake of future generations. Her remarkable life story stands as an enduring model of perseverance, compassion and the tremendous positive impact one person can create through a lifetime of purpose and passion.
Frequently Asked Questions
What family did Jane Goodall grow up in?
Goodall grew up in an upper middle class British family. Her father Mortimer worked as a motor racing entrepreneur and engineer while her mother Margaret was a novelist.
Where did Goodall travel in Africa as a young woman?
In 1957 at age 23, Goodall traveled to the family farm of a friend in Kenya. This trip included her first visit to the Nairobi National Park where she gained inspiration to later study animals in Africa. By 1960, Dr. Leakey chose Goodall to travel and study chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream Reserve in western Tanzania.
How long did Goodall study chimps in Tanzania?
Goodall studied the Gombe chimpanzee population continuously through 2014, making it the world’s longest running continuous field study at 55 years and counting. The Jane Goodall Institute continues the forest research to this day.
What are Jane Goodall’s most famous discoveries?
Goodall’s breakthrough discoveries include that chimpanzees make and use tools, adopt orphaned young, eat meat through organized hunting, engage in violent conflict, and demonstrate complex emotional qualities, personalities and intelligence including reasoning abilities. These upended long-held beliefs that such qualities separated humans uniquely from all other animal species.
What awards has Jane Goodall received for her work?
Among her over 150 awards and honors, Goodall was named Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2004. She also received the French Legion of Honor, Medal of Tanzania and National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal. Goodall received the prestigious Kyoto Prize in Japan for lifetime achievements advancing humanity’s scientific knowledge.
How did Goodall’s first marriage influence her work?
Goodall met her first husband, Dutch photographer Baron Hugo van Lawick, while studying chimpanzees at Gombe Stream in 1962. The National Geographic Society commissioned Lawick to photograph and film Goodall’s pioneering research for documentary films. Their son Hugo Eric Louis van Lawick was born in 1967 in Tanzania. Goodall and van Lawick later divorced in 1974 due to growing apart while immersed in their globetrotting careers.
What organizations did Goodall establish later in her career?
To support her conservation efforts, Goodall founded Gombe Stream Research Centre in 1965 then later established the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977. Today the JGI supports over 150 community-centered conservation and development programs across Africa while also expanding youth education and advocacy globally.