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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Woman of the Week – Jane Goodall

Posted May 22, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Jane Goodall is considered to be the world’s most knowledgeable chimpanzee expert, after spending over 50 years studying their social and family interactions. She has worked extensively on animal and general welfare issues.

As a child, she was given a lifelike chimpanzee stuffed animal named Jubilee by her father. Her fondness for the toy started her love of animals. Today, the stuffed animal still sits on her dresser in London. As she writes in her book, Reason for Hope: “My mother’s friends were horrified by this toy, thinking it would frighten me and give me nightmares.” But in fact, the opposite happened.

Her passion and interest in animals brought her to a Kenyan farm in 1957. She took a job as a secretary, and while there, made a phone call to Louis Leakey, the notable Kenyan archaeologist and paleontologist, to see if he’d meet with her simply to discuss animals.

As luck would have it, he was in the market for a chimpanzee researcher. In 1958, he sent her to London to study primate behavior with Osman Hill and primate anatomy with John Napier. Leakey did some fundraising, and then sent Goodall went to Gombe Stream National Park, becoming the first of what would come to be called The Trimates.

Leakey believed that a long-term study of the behavior of higher primates would yield important evolutionary information. He had a particular interest in the chimpanzee, and little information was known about them at the time. Few studies of chimpanzees had been successful; either the size of the safari frightened the chimps, producing unnatural behaviors, or the observers spent too little time in the field to gain comprehensive knowledge. Leakey believed that Goodall had the proper temperament to endure long-term isolation in the wild. At his prompting, she agreed to attempt such a study. Many experts objected to Leakey's selection of Goodall because she had no formal scientific education and lacked even a general college degree.

On July 16, 1960, she returned to Africa and established a camp on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in the Gombe Stream Reserve. Her first attempts to closely observe a group of chimpanzees were not successful; she could get no closer than 500 yards before they fled. She established a nonthreatening pattern of observation with another group, appearing at the same time every morning on the high ground near a feeding area along the Kakaombe Stream valley. The chimpanzees soon tolerated her presence and, within a year, allowed her to move as close as 30 feet to their feeding area. After two years of seeing her every day, they showed no fear and often came to her in search of bananas.

Goodall's research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs: that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were vegetarians. While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove them from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites. They’d also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification that resembles basic toolmaking.

Goodall also discovered the aggressive side of chimpanzees. She discovered that chimps will systematically hunt and eat smaller primates such as colobus monkeys. She watched a hunting group isolate a colobus monkey high in a tree, block all possible exits, then one chimpanzee climbed up and captured and killed it. The others then each took parts of the carcass, sharing with other members of the troop.

Additionally, she discovered the violent tendencies the animals had toward one another. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop to maintain their dominance, sometimes going as far as cannibalism.

After her research, she spent many years sharing her findings and writing books. Her writings have been met with some controversy, however. Many critics questioned her work as a whole because of her sometimes unconventional practices and lack of education. Some thought her establishment of feeding stations may have triggered the aggression she observed, but she maintained it was necessary for research to be conducted at all.

In March 2013, Goodall attracted a lot of media attention for her book Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the Plants with Gail Hudson. The book had not yet hit store shelves when Goodall was accused of plagiarism after a newspaper reporter reviewing the book called it into question. Media reports say the scientist borrowed sections from Wikipedia and other sources in her new book without giving them proper credit.

The publisher announced the release of the book would be delayed to address the unattributed sections, in an announcement shortly after the accusations. She later apologized for the improper citations. Many have criticized the minimal treatment she received for the incident: critics said something like this would cost other writers their job and reputation.

In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute, which supports continued research and encourages protection of chimpanzees and their habitats. Today, she spends her time on advocacy projects such as this and continuing to spread the word about her discoveries and passion for protecting the environment.


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Re: Woman of the Week – Jane Goodall

05/22/2017 10:18 PM

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. A.E.
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