From the very beginning, Jane exhibited a queer liking for the wild, which was quite unusual since she was born in the urban part of London. Even during her time, London was far from wild. Being England’s capital, Jane was raised in a relatively upbeat neighborhood where all the new things happen.
As Jane grew up, she was fascinated with animals of any kind, even the lowly worms. Her mother once saw a handful of earthworms on her bed, Jane was lucky for not getting reprimanded. It was her mother’s love and patience that further nurtured her interest in the jungle. If not for her understanding, Jane wouldn’t have explored the wild and straightened out some of the myths we were led to believe as facts concerning our living thing counterparts.
But Jane’s mother not only understood her, she went the extra mile by going with her daughter on an expedition when she was denied entry to Gombe Stream National Park without a chaperone. Jane was 26 years old when she first undertook a mission in Tanganyika, now known as Tanzania. For someone without the appropriate educational background, researching about wild chimpanzees could be a daunting task.
Studies about chimpanzees existed prior to hers but the longest was done in a year’s time, hardly enough to answer more questions and make reliable observations. In a way, Jane must be the first explorer to take on chimpanzee research with genuine interest.
Perhaps chimpanzees could sense sincerity. After patiently waiting for the perfect moment to foster a relationship with the evasive primates, Jane finally won David Greybeard’s trust. It was the beginning of her Tarzan–like adventures. She spent more time with them than she did around people. Because of that, Jane found out many amazing things about chimpanzees. Two of her most notable findings were about them not being totally vegetarian and their being able to make tools out of the things around them. Those were very important discoveries as they led to negate more misleading “facts” about chimpanzees.
Without Jane Goodall, we might still have the wrong opinion about primates and our humanity. But it was not only Jane’s discoveries that made her a trailblazer. It was her genuine concern for the environment and unrelenting spirit to achieve change that gave us more reason to celebrate Jane’s contribution. On a global scale, Jane must arguably be one of the people who have largely influenced others to care for the planet given to us. Changing how people live is nearly impossible, but Jane has this ability to speak for our environment in a very compelling way.
Early Biography in England
Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born on 3 April 1934 in London, England. Her father was Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall, a race enthusiast, salesman, and engineer. Her mother, on the other hand, was Margaret Myfanwe Joseph. She was a novelist who used the pseudonym, Vanne Morris-Goodall. She shares a birthday with her sister Judy albeit four years apart.
Hers and Judy’s birthday would not be the only coincidence in Jane’s life. She would turn out to be someone whom the real Tarzan of the Jungle might fall in love with if he lived in her time.
Jane grew up in a big house by the ocean and shared the place with two aunts. Her father was a daredevil. He loved adventures and the outdoors. Mortimer gave his eldest daughter a toy chimpanzee. Concerned friends of her parents commented that the toy might scare little Jane and give her nightmares. On the contrary, she adored the chimpanzee and gave it the name Jubilee as it was given to her in a Jubilee year.
They lived quite comfortably until World War II broke out. Mortimer was drafted to join the British forces and he went to war when Jane was only about four years old. Margaret was left with two daughters to take care of. As her eldest Jane started growing up, her interest in animals began to show.
At one time, she collected earthworms and placed them on her bed. When Margaret found out about it she promptly asked Jane to return them to the ground as the vulnerable worms might die. It was Jane’s earliest recollection of her mother’s wonderful parenting. Instead of reprimanding Jane, she indulged her while instilling respect for other creatures by not being cruel to animals.
When she was about four and a half years old, Margaret brought her to the suburbs. They went to a farmhouse and Jane was tasked to collect the eggs. As she was picking them up one by one, she noticed that the eggs were quite big. Jane was stumped as to where the eggs came from because nowhere did she see a whole as big as the eggs anywhere the hen’s body. Puzzled, she asked around but the adults were all busy and did not pay her any attention.
She could not go back to London without finding the answer, so she went to a hen-house and observed how they lay eggs. As with children, Jane was oblivious of the time and did not notice that she had been sitting there for hours. Margaret realized that her daughter was nowhere to be found and enlisted the help of the police to search the whole place. When they finally found her, Margaret kept her distress from showing. Jane was having the time of her life and she opted to listen to her daughter’s discovery instead. That’s how Margaret nurtured Jane’s curiosity.
A Sucker for Animal Books
From then on, Margaret would always make time to take Jane and Judy out to the zoo. When Jane started learning how to read, her mother gave her books about animals to encourage her to practice more. That was basically how Jane mastered reading. In school, Jane performed quite well. She was a bright kid and a well-behaved one too.
While the war raged on, Margaret, Jane, and Judy had the worst time of their lives. There was hardly enough food for them to eat. In an interview, Jane recounts her memories of the war:
“I went through, as a child, the horrors of World War II, through a time when food was rationed and we learned to be very careful, and we never had more to eat than what we needed to eat. There was no waste. Everything was used.”
Growing up in the time of war helped Jane to see the world through a grown-up’s eye. The war taught her to be modest and not to waste resources. In a way, the war shaped Jane’s earliest ideas about the kind of attitude we must have towards food and other provisions. She saw pictures of the German holocaust and was horrified by the cruelty of human beings. From their home by the ocean, the sound of bombings could be heard, adding to her mortification.
Jane and Judy were still looking forward to seeing Mortimer again after the war. Little did Jane know that Jubilee would be her father’s last gift to her. He did survive the war, but was no longer willing to go home to them. When the World War II ended, Mortimer and Margaret were divorced. Jane grew up without a father by her side, but she adored her mother so the divorce did not do a lot of damage to her and Judy.
Living with Prosopagnosia
Needless to say, Jane grew up in a happy home. She kept reading about animals and later on learned about Africa. Tarzan was Jane’s first crush, which proved to be another coincidence since Tarzan’s lady love in the novel was also called Jane. Among her other favorites was “Dr. Doolittle.” Although she was doing well in school, Jane found it hard to recognize faces. For the longest time, she harbored insecurities brought about by prosopagnosia. Basically, prosopagnosia is a portmanteau of Greek words ‘prosopon’ and ‘agnosia,’ meaning ‘face’ and ‘not knowing,’ respectively. Prosopagnosia made socialization difficult for Jane, but Margaret was always there to make life more bearable.
In 1952, Jane graduated from high school. That time, the Goodalls were pretty much on their own. No support came from Mortimer so Margaret could not afford to send her eldest to school to study about her first love—animals. Jane was not eligible for scholarships. Scholarships were only possible for people who could speak a foreign language, and since Jane couldn’t, she gave up her dreams of ever going to a university. But not Africa. She’s going there come hell or high water. It’s just a matter of time.
Margaret convinced her that if she really wanted to go to Africa, she better do her best to get there. Her mother was a key player in the events that unfolded after high school:
“... my mother, again playing this role in my whole life, who said, "Well, do a secretarial course, and then if the opportunity presents itself, you can get a job in Africa." Her whole philosophy to me, all through my childhood was, if you really want something, you work hard, you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up. You will find a way.”
Heeding her mother’s advice, Jane looked for a secretarial job in order to save money for her Africa trip. She worked at Oxford University for a time, typing documents and doing odd clerical jobs. Jane also worked in a filmmaking company, assigning background music for documentaries they produced.
Meeting Louis Leakey in Africa
Clo Mange, one of her school friends, wrote Jane a letter, inviting her to visit Kenya. Clo and her family migrated to Africa and she was aware of how badly Jane wanted to get there. A day before she turned 23, Jane had enough money to go to her dream place where the jungle awaited. She sailed on to Africa on 2 April 1957.
Jane worked as a secretary in Nairobi in order to get by. One day, she heard about Louis Leakey, an anthropologist and paleontologist, and his wife Mary doing some digging nearby. She took a trek to meet the couple, which led to another coincidence for Jane. Louis’s secretary just left and he needed a new one. She hired Jane as her replacement right then and there.
When Louis and Mary brought Jane with them in their Olduvai Gorge expedition, he saw how at home Jane was with nature and animals. She was not crazy about her appearance and was sincerely interested in learning. It struck a chord in him and he decided to give her an assignment.
The Gombe Expedition
Jane was 26 years old when she was tasked to observe the chimpanzee community in Gombe Stream National Park. That part of Tanganyika was then considered a British protectorate and authorities refused to grant Jane a permit, saying it’s too risky for a young woman to go there. Jane did not lose heart, she kept bargaining until they conceded on one condition—that she would go there with a chaperone. Who else would be kind enough to live in the wild to help Jane realize her dreams but her ever supportive mother?
It took a year for Louis to get funding. When he finally raised enough money to support the project, Jane went. Their funding was only enough to support her for six months, and Margaret for four months. Jane had better have new discoveries for the project to go on.
It was hard for Jane at first because she didn’t know where to begin. She did not have enough training and was only operating by instinct with the help of some knowledge she accumulated from reading. The chimpanzees were evasive. They obviously felt antagonistic towards any trespasser. Her mother helped her by fostering friendships with the local people. She brought medicines with her and acted as the tribe’s doctor in the duration of her Gombe expedition. That strategy worked and the local people soon grew fond of Jane and Margaret. They knew more about Gombe’s topology, so they helped Jane locate possible locations where she could observe the chimpanzees.
But it took some time for the chimps to warm up to her. Both she and Margaret caught a bad case of Malaria, which kept them unproductive for several days. Jane’s time was ticking, but there was still no hope of getting the chimpanzees’ cooperation. She was losing hope and becoming more and more depressed. Many things were going on in her mind and she started questioning her capability. Until one day, she heard stomping outside her tent. The noise was from a gray-chinned chimpanzee, trying to call her attention. On her table was one ripe banana, she handed it to him. That was the first time she met David Greybeard.
David Greybeard Helps Jane Formulate New Theories
David was a big help to her research. He led her to their community where she made breakthrough discoveries. She saw David Greybeard fashion a tool out of a twig and that busted the longstanding belief about men being superior to animals being the “only” creature capable of tool making. One more observation of Jane had something to do with the chimpanzees’ diet. They did not only rely largely on plants for food, but also ate meat, even that of their own. Those observations were more than enough reasons for Louis to keep the project going.
Since she had no proper education, Louis persuaded her mentee to get a degree. In 1962, Jane set foot on England again to study at Cambridge University. Neither equipped with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, Cambridge allowed Jane to get a doctorate. She was listed as the eighth person in the world to be given that privilege. She became a bonafide ethological doctor after completing her thesis at Cambridge.
With a degree under her belt, Jane went back to Africa. National Geographic became interested in her findings and they sent one of their best photographers, Hugo van Lawick, to cover her expedition. He was impressed by Jane’s passion and intellect. The two fell in love and eventually married on 28 March 1964. Jane would then be referred to as Baroness Jane van Lawick following her marriage to Hugo, who was a Baron. Another period of Jane’s life began when she gave birth to her only son, Hugo Eric Louis or “Grub,” after three years.
Controversial Facts Jane Uncovered
She raised Grub while in Africa. Jane became an international figure when she started appearing on television programs and speaking at conventions around the world. Scientists questioned her means, saying that naming the chimpanzees was unacceptable. It became a bone of contention among anthropologists. So much fuss had been generated by Jane’s unconventional methods. But Jane pushed through and later on achieved the following results:
1960: Chimpanzees as meat eaters
• The first recorded instance of toolmaking by nonhumans
1964: Planning-Figan showed deliberate planning when he kidnapped baby Flint in order to get his mother Flo and the rest of the group to follow him.
• Using man-made objects- Mike used empty kerosene cans to intimidate larger males, and become the alpha male.
1966: Polio invaded Gombe and devastated both humans and chimps alike. Chimpanzees can also get AIDS.
1970: Awe-the chimps spontaneously danced at the sight of a waterfall Jane believes that expression of awe in chimps resembles the emotions that led early humans to religion.
1974: Warfare-a war broke out between the Kasakela males and seven males of a splinter group. This lasted four years; the rival group was eradicated, except for a few females. This type of violence had not been recorded in chimpanzees.
1975: Cannibalism-Passion killed and ate Gilka's infant, and shared the meat with her daughter, Pom. Together they continued eating infants for two years.
• Coalitions-Figan's status as alpha male was somewhat challenged when his brother Faben disappeared.
• Transfer of a female to a different group
1987: Adoption-Spindle, an adolescent female, "adopted" baby Mel, after his mother died of pneumonia.
1994: Consortship-researchers at Gombe have observed males leading females away from the community and establish short-term monogamous relationships. This is believed to be so the male can ensure that the offspring are theirs.
• Technology transfer-Chimps from one community "modeled" the toolmaking behavior of chimps in another community.
1995: Twins-Rafiki gave birth to only second set twins recorded at Gombe, Roots and Shoots.
• Medicinal plants-chimps have been seen chewing the plant Aspilia, a medicinal plant believed to relieve stomach pains or reduce internal parasites.
(SOURCE: Adrian G. Weiss, "JANE GOODALL 1934-", Webster.edu)
Founding the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation and Roots & Shoots
In order to do more for the primates and the environment, Jane Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation. This was followed by Roots & Shoots in 1991, which was originally composed of Tanzanian teens. After more than a decade, Roots & Shoots now operates in more than 100 countries.
Even though Jane and Hugo divorced in 1974, they remained good friends. The following year, Jane married Derek Bryceson, a British war veteran who became director of Tanzania’s national park system. The marriage did not last long as Derek passed away after succumbing to cancer in 1979.
Despite issues concerning her credibility, Jane Goodall became recipient of many prestigious awards and accolades, among them were: The Kyoto Prize in Basic Science in 1990, the Lifetime Achievement Award, In Defense of Animals in 1995, The Primate Society of Great Britain Conservation Award in 1996, the International Peace Award in 1999, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003, and many more.
In 2002, Kofi Annan appointed her as United Nation’s Messenger of Peace. She gladly took the responsibility, seeing it as another opportunity to influence people. Her fight for animal rights and ecological conservation is yet to see its end.
Animals led Jane to a profound understanding of our behavior as humans. She took it upon herself to share her knowledge and put her energy to work on things that really matter in this generation and the many generations to come. The contributions she made to organizations that aim to enlighten people on better eating habits, logical farming, sustainable energy, and respect for nature are priceless.
At almost 80 years old, Jane still manages to travel around the world to fight for her cause. Although the future looks bleak for this planet, she still has faith in the human race. This is the only planet we have and on this same planet would our children and their future children’s home be. There is no reason not to appreciate Jane’s unparalleled concern for the home all of us should be taking care of in the first place.
As intelligent human beings, we should be one with Jane on this crusade. Not to mention that we share one planet.
Organisations and Campaigns Supported
- Advocates for Animals
- American Association of Retired Persons
- Chimpanzee Guardian Project
- Avoided Deforestation Partners
- Heifer International
- Gombe National Park
- Live Earth
- Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
- Forests Now Declaration
- Population Matters
- Roots & Shoots
- Optimum Population Trust
- Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation
- Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies
- Save the Chimps
- United Nation
- Gombe Stream Research Centre
- Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education
- BBC Wildlife magazine
- Population Matters
- 1965: Completed her dissertation at Cambridge
- 1965: National Geographic created a TV series called Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees
- 1977: Founded Jane Goodall Institute
- 1980: Received the Order of the Golden Ark from World Wildlife Award for Conservation
- 1984: Received the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize
- 1985: The International Women's League gave her the Living Legacy Award
- 1986: Co-founded the Committee for the Conservation and Care of Chimpanzees
- 1985: Society of the United States awarded her the Award for Humane Excellence
- 1985: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals awarded her the Award for Humane Excellence
- 1987: Received the Albert Schweitzer Award
- 1987: Received the Ian Biggs' Prize
- 1989: Encyclopædia Britannica Award for Excellence on the Dissemination of Learning for the Benefit of Mankind awarded her the Anthropologist of the Year Award
- 1990: Received Kyoto Prize for Science
- 1990: Received the AMES Award
- 1990: Received the Whooping Crane Conservation Award
- 1990: Received the Gold Medal of the Society of Women Geographers
- 1990: Received the Inamori Foundation Award
- 1990: Received the Kyoto Prize in Basic Science
- 1990: Received the Washoe Award
- 1991: Received the Edinburgh Medal
- 1991: Founded Roots & Shoots
- 1993: Received the Rainforest Alliance Champion Award
- 1994: Launched Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education or TACARE
- 1994: Received the Chester Zoo Diamond Jubilee Medal
- 1995: Made Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- 1995: Received the National Geographic Society Hubbard Medal for Distinction in Exploration, Discovery, and Research
- 1995: Received the Lifetime Achievement Award, In Defense of Animals
- 1995: Received the Moody Gardens Environmental Award
- 1995: Given the Honorary Wardenship of Uganda National Parks
- 1996: Received the Zoological Society of London Silver Medal
- 1996: Received the Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Medal
- 1996: Received the Primate Society of Great Britain Conservation Award
- 1996: Received the Caring Institute Award
- 1996: Received the Polar Bear Award
- 1996: Recipient of the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement
- 1997: Recipient of the John & Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
- 1997: Recipient of David S. Ingells, Jr. Award for Excellence
- 1997: Recipient of Common Wealth Award for Public Service
- 1997: Recipient of the Field Museum's Award of Merit
- 1997: Recipient of Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
- 1997: Recipient of Royal Geographical Society / Discovery Channel Europe Award for A Lifetime of Discovery
- 1998: Received the Disney's Animal Kingdom Eco Hero Award
- 1998: Received the National Science Board Public Service Award
- 1998: Received the Orion Society's John Hay Award
- 1999: Received the International Peace Award
- 1999: Received the Botanical Research Institute of Texas International Award of Excellence in Conservation
- 1999: Received the Community of Christ International Peace Award
- 2000: Received the Gandhi/King Award for Non Violence
- 2001: Received the Graham J. Norton Award for Achievement in Increasing Community Livability
- 2001: Received the Rungius Award of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, USA
- 2001: Received the Roger Tory Peterson Memorial Medal, Harvard Museum of Natural History
- 2001: Received the Master Peace Award
- 2001: Received the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence
- 2002: Appointed to serve as United Nations Messenger of Peace
- 2002: Received the Huxley Memorial Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
- 2002: Received the National Geographic Society Centennial Award
- 2002: Received the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize
- 2003: Received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science
- 2003: Received the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment Award
- 2003: Received the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Achievement
- 2003: Received the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
- 2003: Received the Chicago Academy of Sciences' Honorary Environmental Leader Award
- 2004: Received the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest
- 2004: Received the Will Rogers Spirit Award
- 2004: Received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare
- 2004: Received Honorary Degree from Haverford College
- 2005: Received honorary doctorate degree in science from Syracuse University
- 2005: Received honorary doctorate degree in science from Rutgers University
- 2005: Received the Discovery and Imagination Award
- 2006: Received the 60th Anniversary Medal of the UNESCO
- 2006: Received the French Légion d'honneur
- 2007: Received honorary doctorate degree in commemoration of Carl Linnaeus from Uppsala University
- 2007: Received honorary doctorate degree from University of Liverpool
- 2008: Received honorary doctorate degree from University of Toronto
- 2010: Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds held a benefit concert for Gombe 50: A Global celebration of Jane Goodall’s Pioneering Chimpanzee Research
- 2011: Received honorary doctorate degree from American University of Paris
- 2011: Received Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- 2012: Named Grand Marshal of the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade
- 2012: Received honorary doctorate degree from National Tsing Hua University
- An organization at the University of Minnesota was created: Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies
- The eighth person to get a PhD without a bachelor degree
- Honored by The Walt Disney Company at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park with a plaque on the Tree of Life