The story of Jane Goodall is like a campfire tale. It gets better with each telling. Her story has been told many times in many ways. So, people know it right away. In 1965, she was a young scientist. She wanted to learn about chimpanzees. Jane had no training in research. Yet she managed to move through the male worlds of science and media. She made important discoveries in her field. She spoke out about conservation. This is her story.

Growing Up

Jane Goodall grew up in England. She loved animals and dreamed of living in Africa. Once she began to work, she saved her money. When she had saved enough, she bought a boat ticket to Kenya, a country in Africa.

There, she met Louis Leakey, a paleoanthropologist. Leakey was famous for his research on the history of humans and his interest in apes, like chimpanzees and gorillas. He hired Goodall as a secretary. Later, he arranged for her to do field research on chimps in another African country called Tanzania.

Roughing It

It was the summer of 1960. Goodall set up camp in the Gombe Stream Reserve. Leakey had raised money for her to do six months
of  fieldwork.

Goodall followed her instincts for her research. Most scientists who studied animals identified them by numbers. Goodall gave the animals names like Fifi, Flo, and Flint. She recorded her observations using those names. Goodall watched the animals through her binoculars and tried to get close to them. But she hadn’t made any important discoveries yet.

Flint takes a peek at Goodall from the top of her tent.

David Greybeard visits Goodall’s camp.

Turning Point

Then everything changed. Goodall made three discoveries. Each would turn science on its head.

In her first discovery, she observed a chimp eating a dead animal. Until then, scientists thought that apes didn’t eat meat. She had named this chimp David Greybeard.

Two weeks later, she saw the same chimp. He was poking a blade of grass into a termite tunnel. He pulled it out. It was covered with termites. Yum.

In a third case, Goodall saw the same chimp pick up a twig and strip it of its leaves. He used it to fish for termites. At that time, scientists thought toolmaking and tool use were things only humans did. On hearing this news, Leakey sent a telegraph:


Leakey’s telegram

Freud carefully inspects Goodall’s hair.