Jane Goodall Biography for Kids


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Jane Goodall was born on April 3, 1934, in England. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old and she moved with her mother to Bournemouth, England. In Bournemouth, Jane met the legendary wildlife expert, Sir Richard Attenborough, who taught Jane about the wonders of primates and the importance of preserving their fragile habitats.

In 1957, Jane was hired as a secretary to travel with anthropologist Louis Leakey to Kenya and Tanzania. She was immediately captivated by the trusting animals when she was first approached by a chimpanzee that she named David Greybeard. She soon began feeding David on a regular basis, and eventually he took bananas straight from her hand and even allowed her to groom him. Other chimpanzees, observing the interactions between Jane and David, allowed Jane to observe them at close range. Goodall soon began studying chimpanzee social structure in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park. While studying chimpanzees, Goodall made several important discoveries about the animals. She first discovered that the chimps were intelligent enough to fashion tools from natural resources in their surroundings for obtaining termites deep within their nests. It was the first time in history that animals other than humans had been documented constructing tools. Her observations led many in the scientific community to consider the close evolutionary relationship between humans and chimpanzees. Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees hunted and ate African bushpigs, which disproved the theory that chimpanzees were strictly herbivorous (plant eaters). Goodall soon returned to England and earned a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in ethology (animal behavior).

Goodall returned to Tanzania in 1965 and made more discoveries concerning the nature and society of chimpanzees. She gave names to the chimpanzees that she studied and recorded that each chimpanzee had distinct personalities, traits, and behaviors. She wrote extensively about relationships and social hierarchies within the chimpanzee society. Previously, scientists rarely suggested that such animals possessed emotions, personalities, and traits. In addition, Goodall documented the brutal side of chimpanzee society, in which certain clans engaged in “warfare” with other clans. In 1971, Goodall published In the Shadow of Man, in which she described her years of observations. The book focused on the events of the life of a female chimpanzee she named Flo.

In 1977, Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation to support continuous research into chimpanzee society. Today, Goodall has received dozens of prestigious awards including several honorary doctorates. In 2003, she was named as a “Dame of the British Empire,” an award similar to that of knighthood. In 2004, she was named a United Nations “Messenger of Peace.”