A Woman in Science: The Incredible Life of Jane Goodall

Given that this year’s Beatty Lecture at McGill is hosting the one and only Jane Goodall, let us dive into the life of one of the most influential female scientists.

When Jane Goodall was young, working instead of attending university, she travelled to Africa to assist Dr. Louis Leaky, a well-known archaeologist. This opportunity led to Jane living in Gombe to observe chimpanzees, whose ways of life were not well described at the time. A marked difference in her research was her method of immersing herself in the animals’ world, and perceiving them not as test subjects, but rather as individuals.

One of her greatest discoveries during this time was in 1960, with the observation that chimpanzees made tools, much like humans. She also reported the advanced social behaviour of these animals, in addition to previously unknown information, like on their eating habits. This revolutionized our understanding of our evolutionary relationship to chimpanzees. 

In 1965, she was awarded a PhD in ethology at the University of Cambridge, making her one of the only people to receive such a degree without first obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. She then returned to Gombe to continue her field research for the next several years.

In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, whose mission is to support field research and protect the wildlife in Gombe. This organization has helped protect wildlife in the face of global deforestation and loss of habitat. She also founded Roots & Shoots, a youth program that educates younger generations and advocates for nature conservation.

Over the years, Jane Goodall has become an opponent of the maltreatment of animals and an advocate for wildlife conservation during the current environmental crisis. She is now a United Nations Messenger of Peace and travels across the world, giving speeches and lectures to spread her message.

We are extremely lucky to have her speak at our very own university. If you can find tickets, find the time to go and listen to this extraordinary woman!


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