Jane Goodall - Biography

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Jane Goodall is an English Animal Rights activist famously dubbed as “the woman who redefined man”. She is an ethologist and anthropologist, best known for her 45-year study of primate behavior of chimpanzees in Tanzania. She was fascinated with animal behavior from her early years and dreamt of traveling to Africa someday to observe them in their natural habitats. This passion for animals led her to the Gombe Stream National Park after her schooling. Chimpanzees were considered the second most intelligent primate by her mentor and anthropologist, Louis Leakey, thus she began her research by observing them on a daily basis. Her interactions with chimpanzees challenged many long term beliefs such as chimpanzees are vegetarians and not as evolved as compared to humans. A previous belief that “man is the only toolmaker in all of the species that inhabit the earth” was discarded by her studies and was considered a significant milestone in the course of scientific history of evolution. She received many awards and accolades for her activism in creating a better society for animals. She wrote several books to encourage people for treating animals with kindness and love. She still spends about 300 days a year traveling, lecturing and raising funds for her institute in order to preserve the wildlife.


Childhood & Early Life
  • Dame Jane Morris Goodall was born on 3 April, 1934 in London to Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall, a businessman and Margaret Myfanwe Joseph, a novelist. She had a younger sister, Judy.
  • As a child, she received a toy resembling lifelike chimpanzee by her father that kindled her curiosity and love for animals.
  • In her early years, she used to observe nature and wildlife which increased her fondness for them over the years. She dreamt of traveling to Africa to watch and explore animals in their natural habitats.
  • She left school at the age of 18 because of her love for wildlife in order to pursue her dream.



    • She was employed as a secretary in Oxford University and also worked at a London based documentary film company to finance her trip.
    • Through her friends, she met the famous anthropologist and paleontologist, Louis Leakey, in Kenya. Leakey believed that observing chimpanzees, the second most intelligent primate would give way to some new information on evolution. He provided her an opportunity of study them in Gombe Reserve National Park and she took it happily because of her own passion.
    • Though she had no scientific knowledge or a graduate degree, Jane successfully observed chimpanzees and inferred some major breakthroughs on similarities between humans and chimpanzees.
    • In 1962, Leakey enrolled her in Cambridge University by raising funds and she obtained a PhD degree in ethology.
    • In 1977, she established Jane Goodall Institute to protect wildlife, especially chimpanzees all over the world.
    • She has been an animal rights activist in various movements around the world to support the cause of treating animals with utmost respect and kindness. She is still active in raising funds for her institute and travels a lot for educating people about preserving the wildlife.


      Major works

      • Jane is best known for her research in Gombe Reserve National Park for more than four decades. While going through her research, she adopted an unusual pattern of identifying chimpanzees by naming them instead of numbering which was the common practice at that time.
      • Before her observations, it was believed that only humans possess the skill of tool making and it distinguishes them from other primates. But after her studies about chimpanzees this belief was abandoned. She observed them as an intelligent primate, taking twigs from trees and removing leaves from it in order to make it an effective tool for fishing termites. Her mentor, Leaky wrote in an article to scientific community,”We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human”.
      • Through her continuous monitoring, she also established the fact that chimpanzees are non-vegetarians and quite capable of establishing affectionate bonds by expressing various emotions through hugs and kisses. On the other hand, she also encountered the tendency of violence and killer instinct among them similar to humans.
      • In order to protect chimpanzees, she founded Jane Goodall University in 1977 which now has its groups all around the world. Its global youth program “Roots & Shoots” began in 1991 focusing on saving them and their habitats.
      • She is the former president of Advocates for Animals which raised its voice against the use of animals for medical and laboratory research purposes.
      • She is an activist fighting for the rights of animals and creating awareness about wildlife to help preserve them for future generations.


        Awards & Achievements

        • In 1995, she was honored with National Geographic Society Hubbard Medal for Distinction in Exploration, Discovery and Research.
        • In 1999, she was honored with the International Peace award.
        • In 2003, she received Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science and the honor of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, presented by His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
        • In 2006, she was honored with 60th Anniversary Medal of the UNESCO and French Legion Honor.
        • In the recent past years, she has received Doctorate degrees from many prestigious universities around the globe.

        Personal Life & Legacy

        • In 1964, Jane married a Dutch wildlife photographer, Baron Hugo Van Lawick, who was sent to Gombe by National Geographic Society to shoot the project she was working on. They had a son, Hugo Eric Louis, but they got divorced in 1974.
        • Later in 1974, she got married to Member of Tanzanian Parliament, Derek Bryceson, who died of cancer in 1980.
        • She believes in a great spiritual power which is bigger and stronger than anybody in the world. Her life is dedicated to nature and wildlife since the past 60 years and she continues to fight for their conservation by traveling around 300 days a year to various countries and continents.


        • This famous conservationist became the eighth person to be allowed to study for PhD without having any graduate degree.




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Who is an English Animal Rights activist, famously dubbed as “The Woman who redefined man” ?

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