1/29/2018 1 Comment
By Lidiya Angelova
Dame Jane Morris Goodall is the world’s most famous primatologist and conservationist. She dedicated her life to studying the nature of chimpanzees. Even though they are the closest living relatives to humans, chimps’ behaviour and biology weren’t being seriously investigated by scientists when Jane began her career. Her work brought to light the incredible world of chimps.
Jane Goodall’s astonishing journey started in London, England. She was born on April 3, 1934, and became interested in animal behaviour at a young age. She spent her free time observing wild animals, taking notes about them, and reading zoology literature. Her passion for understanding life in Africa led her to reach out to famed archaeologist and palaeontologist Louis Leakey, who hired Jane as his secretary. However, Leakey had bigger plans for Jane and her talents and sent her to Tanzania to begin her studies. Jane’s eagerness to learn about wild animals made her the best candidate to continue Leakey’s work on chimpanzees in their natural habitat. The young lady from London didn’t have a university education in zoology, but she had the motivation to learn on the spot and the drive to share the amazing traits of our “cousins.” She later received a PhD in ethology from Cambridge University, making her the 8th person at that time to be allowed to study for a PhD without a prior degree - a major exception made by the University.
Jane’s work with chimps primarily focuses on their social behaviour and family structure. In 1960, she began studying the Kasekala chimpanzee community in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Rather than identifying the animals by number, she deviated from scientific protocol and gave each one a name. She is the only human who has ever been accepted into a chimpanzee group as one of their own. By having a first-row seat to the chimps’ daily lives, she identified the animals’ individual personalities and demonstrated that they shared many aspects of human behaviour – a revolutionary idea at the time. She also greatly contributed to the scientific community by being the first to recognize that chimpanzees use tools and that they do not have a vegetarian diet.
In 1977, Dr. Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which aims to continue her work of preserving the natural habitats of wild animals and comprehend them better. She also founded the Roots and Shoots program in 1991 and has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since 1966. She is the author of numerous books and the subject of more than 40 films.
Her story inspired many documentaries as she worked closely with the National Geographic Society for about 50 years, but “JANE” is the first-one which shows the world a true multidimensional view of Dr. Jane Goodall: a woman, a scientist, a pioneer, a challenger of gender stereotypes, a dreamer, a humanist, and the first human who was able to connect with our closest relatives – the chimpanzees.
Director Brett Morgen didn’t just make a documentary, he honored Jane’s legendary life. The film uses rare and never-before-seen footage of Jane’s work with National Geographic and juxtaposes them with recent interviews with Jane. The splendid music composed by Philip Glass was written especially for the movie and provides an extra layer to the film, transforming it into a modern fairy tale starring a real-life heroine who opened the world to the hidden life of chimps. Watching it made me temporarily forget where I was and who I am. It transported me to Jane’s world and provided me with a brand-new understanding of this astonishing woman!
“JANE” is a movie which you can’t watch just one time; it’s a movie you should watch when you need inspiration or when you want to see the world through the eyes of nature. It’s a movie to watch when you need to get away from the blandness of city life.
About the Author
Lidiya’s curiosity about “how life works” led her to complete a Master’s degree in Biology and a PhD in Microbiology. After working for a few years as a researcher at the National Institute of Health in Rockville, MD, USA, followed by a career in science communications and writing, she is looking forward to going back to the lab where can apply her fresh, new ideas. Lidiya loves to travel and has lived in many countries. She is still looking for a place to settle down with her young daughter. Lidiya is thrilled to be a part of the Scientista bloggers team, and loves being able to connect with wonderful female scientists at all stages of their careers, while writing about science and life.
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