A Lifetime Devoted to Chimpanzees
In the summer of 1960, a young Englishwoman arrived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, East Africa. She was about to venture into the African forest to study chimpanzees—a highly unorthodox activity for a woman at that time. British authorities had insisted that the young woman have a companion, and so her mother would for a time share this adventure. As Jane Goodall first surveyed the mountains and valley forests of what was then called the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve, she had no idea her coming efforts would redefine the relationship between humans and animals or that this project would continue into the twenty-first century.
This Tanzanian adventure was the fulfillment of Goodall’s childhood dream. She had been fascinated by animals even as a small girl—once frightening the adults in her household by disappearing for hours to hide under some hay in the henhouse and wait for a chicken to lay an egg. "It was Jane's first animal research program," her mother, Vanne, would say later. Jane read countless books about wild animals and dreamed about living like Tarzan and Dr. Dolitte.
As a young woman Goodall searched for ways to realize her dream. When in 1957 a school friend invited Jane to her parents' farm in Kenya, Jane eagerly accepted. Within a few months of arriving, she met the famed anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. Leakey had been searching for someone to begin a study of chimpanzees, not only to better understand these little-known primates but also to gain insight into man's evolutionary past. Goodall’s patience and persistent desire to understand animals convinced him she was the right person. He believed that a mind uncluttered by academia would yield a fresh perspective.