April 3, 2012
JANE GOODALL (b. 1934), primatologist and conservationist, is one of the world’s best-known environmental advocates. In 1957, a love of animals led her to Africa and Louis Leakey, the renowned anthropologist, where she was soon assigned to study chimpanzees in the wild. Goodall’s first foray into chimp country was made with her own mother as chaperone. She later returned to Cambridge to earn her Ph.D. in Ethology (leapfrogging over lesser degrees) before taking up her notebook again in the Gombe reserve in Tanzania. The seraphim of what were later termed Leakey’s Angels, Goodall was the first of three female primatologists who embedded themselves in great ape societies; the others being Dian Fossey (gorillas) and Birutė Galdikas (orangutans). Goodall’s scientific observations were patient, meticulous — and groundbreaking. She discovered that chimps use tools, have individual personalities, and develop complex social relationships over lifespans which can span up to 50 years. At the time of her findings, tool use was one of the main markers dividing man from beast; Goodall showed that instead of dividing us from them, it marked common territory. Ironically, Goodall’s love of nature has called her out of the wild and back to civilization, where she translates her passion for animals into passionate arguments for the preservation of their habitats, which are of course indelibly intertwined with our own. She does tireless laps on the lecture circuit on conservation, ecology, and of course the planet’s animals. In these tipping-point times, an effective environmentalist is not merely someone who loves flora and fauna — it is someone who can communicate that love to the rest of us, so that future generations of chimps, and humans, might have something to love as well.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Alec Baldwin.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Postmodernist (1924-33) and Anti-Anti-Utopian (1934-43) Generations.