Odds are you’ve heard the name Jane Goodall at some point in your life. After all, she is one of the most remarkable women on the planet and is recognized for her achievements as an ethologist. But Dr. Goodall is also greatly known for the incredible work she has done as a humanitarian, animal rights activist, primatologist and author, work that spans over half a century.
Dr. Goodall has had a number of different interests over the years including communication, chimpanzees, and the environment. These days she spends her time inspiring everyone she comes in close contact with by sharing all of the knowledge and wisdom she has learned in her lifetime, with the hopes that humans will take the steps to solving the problems we have inflicted on our planet.
“I dream of a world in which people learn to live in peace and harmony with each other and with the natural world.” – Dr. Jane Goodall
Here is our list of 10 extraordinary facts about Jane Goodall you probably didn’t know:
10. It All Started With Jubilee
Jane Goodall’s love for animals began as a young girl. When she was just a toddler her father came home and gave her a stuffed chimpanzee that she later named Jubilee. She adored it so much that almost 80 years later, Jane still has Jubilee and it sits on a dresser in her England home. It wasn’t too long after receiving Jubilee that her interest in animal behavior started. She would spend hours of her spare time outdoors, looking for all the different types of birds and animals she could find, and would then make sketches and take notes of everything she observed. As she got older she began avidly reading books on ethology and zoology, thus gradually opening the doors to her future.
9. Her Education is Entirely Practical
At the young age of 18, Goodall was invited by a friend to go to Africa for a much anticipated and long overdue visit. She opted out of going to University and instead worked as a filmmaker’s assistant, waitress and secretary to save money to go on her adventure to Africa. Not long after her arrival, she was introduced to world renowned anthropologist Louis Leakey. Goodall was offered a job by Leaky to be his secretary, and soon was participating in digs at what is now known as Olduvai Gorge, a site full of fossilized ancient remains.
Leaky had a specific goal in mind; to study chimpanzees since there weren’t many successful studies done at that time on the second most intelligent primates on earth. He was convinced that Goodall had the most suitable temperament to conduct this study in the wild. Because of the fact that she had no scientific education and didn’t even hold any kind of college degree, many of his peers objected to his decision. However, clearly he made the right one considering all of Goodall’s amazing accomplishments and contributions over the years.
8. She Was The First To Name Her Subjects
Most scientists as well as researchers normally assign numbers to their test subjects, for the main purpose of eliminating the chance of becoming attached to their subjects. However, Dr. Jane Goodall didn’t agree with this technique and was actually one of the first scientists to name her subjects. By implementing this one small change in her research, she raised a lot of attention to herself, and as a result, she was the subject of a great amount of criticism, especially among her peers. By taking this route, and giving her subjects names instead of numbers, her actions eternally altered the way that we see ourselves, the animal kingdom and where we stand among all living things.
7. Man, The Tool Maker
On November 4, 1960 Dr. Jane Goodall made an astonishing discovery that automatically made scientists in her field and a lot of people around the world open their eyes and examine the significance of the meaning behind being human. The discovery she made happened when she was observing David Greybeard who turned out to be the first chimpanzee to overcome his fear of Goodall. She observed him pick up a tiny twig, remove the leaves, and then prod this tool into a hill of dirt searching for termites. This was the first recorded event of a chimpanzee using a tool.
6. Her Many Discoveries
It took Goodall about two years of observing the chimpanzees of Gombe to eventually gain their trust and they would often come to her in hopes of food, typically bananas. Knowing this, she used her new found trust to her advantage and developed the “banana club,” which basically consisted of a method she created to gain an even better understanding of their behavior. Because of this, she became familiar with more than half of the Gombe chimpanzees.
Goodall would eat the same food they did, climb and sit in trees and copy whatever behavior she could see. By doing this, she was able to discover a number of previously unknown behaviors demonstrated by the chimps. In her observations, she found that the chimps had a complex social system, which contained ritualized tendencies and primitive communication practices, including a type of “language” that had over 20 different sounds.
Because of her research and discoveries, she is noted to be the one person in the world to have recorded the findings of chimpanzees making tools and eating meat (previously it was believed that chimps were vegetarians). She also witnessed chimps throwing stones as a type of weapon, comforting one another with a humanistic touch and noted that they have intense bonds with each other.
5. Her Many Honors
It’s not a big surprise that a woman who has changed the course of modern science for the last five decades has been awarded as many honors as Dr. Jane Goodall has. Over the years, she has received a variety of honors for her humanitarian and environmental work. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named her a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2002 and two years later, in a huge ceremony at Buckingham Palace, she was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Some of her other honors include Japan’s prestigious Kyoto Prize, the Rainforest Alliance Champion Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science and The Primate Society of Great Britain Conservation Award.
4. She is an Award-Winning Author
Goodall has written a total of 27 books, with the main goal in mind being to educate people of all ages in regards to the ethical treatments of animals. Her first published book was in 1969, entitled My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees, which was published by the National Geographic Society. She has written eleven children’s books, and in 1989 wrote The Chimpanzee Family Book, which was written for the very purpose of extending her knowledge on a more humane view involving all wildlife to children. The book ended up receiving the Unicef Children’s Book-of-the-Year award that same year and she donated all the prize money to have the book translated into Swahili. It has since been dispensed throughout Uganada, Burundi and Tanazania to further educate children who live in close proximity to chimpanzees.
3. Still Globetrotting in Her Eighties
Every year, Jane Goodall spends more than 300 days visiting countries all over the globe. When she reaches the desired locations on her list, she then conducts a series of lectures and shares her vast knowledge of the threats chimpanzees encounter, including the many environmental issues they face and how important it is for everyone to do their part to help make a difference not just for chimpanzees, but for all living things. Most of the proceeds made from her world-wide lectures help towards projects she’s involved in to help with the future relocation of a large number of abandoned chimpanzees in the Tchimpounga Sanctuary to islands in the Koilou River in the Congo republic.
2. The Jane Goodall Institute
The Jane Goodall Institute is a nonprofit global organization that she founded in 1977 in support of Gombe research to protect chimpanzees and their natural habitats. It has a total of 19 offices around the globe. She created the institute in hopes of empowering people of all ages around the world to make a difference for all living things that inhabit our planet. In 1991, she was encountered by a group of teenagers that showed up on her back porch at her home in Tanzania who were interested in talking about the problems within their community. Goodall was overwhelmed with their enthusiasm and decided to start a new program within the Jane Goodall Institute. She incorporated Roots & Shoots for youths, and what started as 16 teenagers eager to learn, has now grown to a group of over 10,000 youths in more than 100 countries.
1. Her Health Issues
Now at the age of 81, Goodall is as busy as ever between traveling the world, advocating for forest conservation and conducting lectures on animal welfare and environmental issues. You would think she would want to perhaps lessen her workload, but Dr. Jane Goodall still has a great deal she wants to accomplish in her life and nothing could possibly stop her; not even a medical condition that she has called prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. This condition at times gives her trouble recognizing people as well as chimpanzees. She has said that she is often unable to distinguish individual chimps by their faces…”I have huge problems with people with ‘average’ faces…. I have to search for a mole or something. I find it very embarrassing! I can be all day with someone and not know them the next day.” She adds that she also has difficulties recognizing places: “I just don’t know where I am until I am very familiar with the route. I have to turn and look at landmarks so I can find my way back. This was a problem in the forest, and I often got lost.”