Fans of the nineteen-sixties will recall a breathless time of progress, of limits being pushed and excitement in all kinds of new learning from astronautics to computers. Alongside all the Mick Jaggers and Jean Shrimptons there was another new girl who would change the staid world academia and leave a lasting legacy of learning and progress. Her name was Jane Goodall.
Jane epitomised all that was best in the values of the old English middle classes. Decent, hard working and ambitious, but not particularly well-to do, she managed to break in to the exclusively male world of primatology. Alongside the obvious integrity and academic flair was a shrewd mind, more than able to play the boys at their own games. Some of them, like Louis Leakey and John Napier, were among the sharpest minds of their generation. They gave her the break she wanted; the chance to observe real chimpanzees in the wild, to see if they had any bearings on human behaviour.
New discoveries and new methodologies came thick and fast, as she went round the jungle and the lecture theatres upsetting a whole series of apple carts. Chimps had personalities; so she gave them names. (it’s now standard practice in ethology). They were lethal hunters, not simple vegetarians. They made tools. And they killed each other in deadly wars. Sound familiar? And she became a star in a pioneering wildlife documentary for National Geographic, awakening millions to an awareness of nature.
It didn’t take long for Jane (that’s Dr Goodall to you and me) to realise that the same forces of destruction that threatened her Gombe Stream Chimp Reserve were busily smashing up all the other natural habitats all around the world. She soon took on a programme of environmental activism which you can read about in the link to her institute below. She now travels the world for at least 300 days year, actively educating, lecturing and campaigning. If your grandchildren are to have a future, they will point to one of the undoubted reasons why: Jane Goodall.
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