Recently I had the pleasure of attending a public talk by the infinitely wonderful Jane Goodall. You may have heard the name, you may have seen the Simpsons episode featuring a parody of her but I want to make sure that you are aware that this woman is 100%, genuine, inspiration personified. I’m genuinely finding it hard to describe this woman in a way that will do her justice. So away with superlatives for now and I’ll start with some facts.
Goodall was born in London in 1934, and from a young age showed a fondness for animals. Stories of Dr. Dolittle and Tarzan only amplified her love and it became her dream to travel to Africa to live amongst and observe the wildlife. Her family did not have the money to send her to university so Jane took up a job as a secretary. Later she had a job picking the music for documentaries and all the while still dreaming of making it to Africa.
Finally her chance arrived, she was invited by a friend to visit with her in Kenya. Jane saved up the money for her fare by waitressing and in 1957, at the age of 23, found herself on a boat to Kenya. It was during this visit that Jane met Dr. Louis Leakey. Leakey was a paleoanthropologist and archaeologist and at the time working at the Coryndon Museum. It was her belief that the meeting was simply a chance for her to discuss animals with a professional in the field but, much to her surprise, after their meeting Leakey offered her a job as his assistant and secretary. You see a lot of Leakey’s work was in human evolution and he was a firm believer that by studying apes we could get insight into the behaviour of early hominids. He had a suspicion that Jane had all the right qualities to travel to Tanzania to observe the chimpanzees. This offer was proposed to Jane who readily accepted.
While Leakey was finding funding for the research Jane was sent to London to study primate behaviour and anatomy. Finally, in 1960, she realised her dream and arrived in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania with her mother by her side.
Why was her mother there? I hear you ask. Well, Jane was required to have someone to accompany her, primarily for her safety, and her ever-supportive mother took up the position.