Spreading the Word

Goodall began to publish her field research. Yet, she was met with skepticism from the scientific community. After all, she had no science training. In 1962, Goodall gave a presentation at the Zoological Society in London. She impressed many people there. But, others were not impressed. One member of the Zoological Society described her work as “anecdote and … speculation” that made no “real contribution to science.”

A chimpanzee digs for termites with a blade of grass.

Melissa reaches out her hand to Faben.  

Proof Positive

Goodall needed more evidence of her work. The National Geographic Society suggested she create a photographic record of her discoveries.

The Society hired Hugo van Lawick for the job. The 25‑year‑old Dutchman had some experience in natural history filmmaking. He reached Gombe in August 1962.

As Goodall and van Lawick documented the chimps’ behavior, neither focused on taking pictures of Goodall with the chimps. But National Geographic magazine editors wanted photos of her as well. They wanted to show people how she studied the animals.

At first, that made Goodall uncomfortable. She wanted her work to be about the chimps only. But, she came to understand that people were interested in her, too. It was unusual for a woman to be a scientist at this time. People were as curious about Goodall as they were about the chimps!

Lawick’s work captured photographic proof of the chimps making and using tools. He also recorded nest building and how the chimps behaved socially. And he took many pictures of Goodall doing her work.

His photographs appeared with Goodall’s words in National Geographic magazine’s August 1963 story, “My Life Among Wild Chimpanzees: A courageous young British scientist lives among these great apes in Tanganyika and learns hitherto unknown details of their behavior.”

The cover of National Geographic magazine, August 1963

A Novel Approach  

The issue was a huge success. In 1964, Goodall was set to give her first major public lecture in the United States. She was a little nervous about being on stage in front of thousands of people. The members of the National Geographic Society’s lecture committee seemed even more nervous. As the event neared, the committee asked for a draft of her speech. She hadn’t written one!

But Goodall knew what she wanted to say. She reported on her scientific discoveries. She described Gombe as beautiful and peaceful. And as she would throughout her career, she described chimps by their personalities and the names she’d given them.

She described Fifi as “agile and acrobatic” and Fifi’s older brother, Figan, as an adolescent who “feels he’s a little bit superior.” Goodall named one baby chimp who was “just beginning to find her feet,” Gilka, after a National Geographic editor.

a chimp named Pom

Goodall watches Flint from a doorway.

In describing the need to protect the chimps and prevent them from being shot or sold to circuses, Goodall referred to David Greybeard. He was the chimp who had opened the door to some of her most important discoveries.

“David Greybeard … has put his complete trust in man,” she told the audience. “Shall we fail him? Surely it’s up to us to do something to ensure that at least some of these fantastic, almost human creatures continue to live undisturbed in their natural habitat.”

Her presentation was a triumph. It was also a milestone in her becoming a public figure. This wasn’t a status she was looking for. But she learned that it could help her deliver her message to more people. It was the beginning of a long and successful career.

Jane Goodall, Continued

Jane Goodall went on to earn her Ph.D. from Cambridge University. She has published many magazine articles and books about her research. In 1991, she founded an organization called
“Roots & Shoots” in Tanzania.
Its goal is to help young people begin careers in conservation work. Today, her work in conservation continues.