Without Louis Leakey fighting to get that first money for me to go in 1960, there would be no Jane studying the Gombe Chimpanzees. –Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Fifty years ago, Louis Leakey took a bold chance on a promising young woman. Despite her lack of scientific credentials, Dr. Leakey urged Jane Goodall to study the behavior of chimpanzees at Gombe Stream in Tanzania. A staunch devotee of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, Dr. Leakey believed studying chimpanzees might yield valuable insight into our own evolutionary past, and engaged his patrons to fund Goodall’s field research.
Thus began Jane Goodall’s legendary career of pioneering research, which provided new insights into primatology and deepened our understanding of our origins and our own behavior.
Listen to an interview with Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall
Found in our archives, this interview with Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall was recorded for a television special in 1970. In it, they discuss her experiences at Gombe Stream, the importance of studying chimpanzees to gain perspective on human origins, and Dian Fossey’s work with gorillas. 38 minutes, 34 seconds long.
Listen to Jane Goodall describe working in Gombe Stream
This next audio clip was found on the same archive tapes as the interview above. Here, Jane Goodall records narration for the television special. 13 minutes, 35 seconds long.
Timeline of Louis Leakey and Jane Goodall’s Collaboration
- 1957 Louis Leakey (curator at the natural history museum in Nairobi) meets a 23-year-old Jane Goodall
- Louis and Mary Leakey invite Jane on one of their annual paleontological expeditions to Olduvai Gorge; it was during this time that Louis begins telling Jane about a group of chimpanzees living on the shores of Lake Tanganyika
- Louis sends Jane to receive some background training, for one year, at Dr. John Napier’s primate unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London; Jane also works for a time at the London Zoo
- 1959 Louis secures $3,000 in funding from a patron and one of the Founders of The Leakey Foundation, Mr. Leighton Wilkie, who helps send Jane to Gombe Stream, Tanzania
- 1960 Jane arrives in Gombe with her mother Vanne
- 1960 Louis receives an excited telegram from Jane describing her discovery of David Greybeard fashioning a tool to fish for termites; Louis Leakey sends Jane a telegram, with his now famous response: Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.
- 1961 Following Jane’s discovery, Louis secures additional funding for Jane’s study and arranges for Jane, who has no degree, to enroll in Cambridge University as a doctoral student
- 1962 Louis recommends to Jane that Hugo van Lawick visit Gombe Stream to photograph her research group; At the same time Louis writes to Jane’s mother, Vanne, telling her that he had found someone just right as a husband for Jane
- 1964 Jane and Hugo marry and Louis’s granddaughter is one of the bridesmaids
- 1972 Vanne Goodall sends a telegram to The Leakey Foundation Board of Trustees announcing Louis’s passing, while he is visiting London
- 1973 Three memorial lectures are organized to honor Louis- Jane gives the second lecture (the two other lectures feature Dr. F. Clark Howell and Dr. Phillip Tobias)
- 2008 Jane is awarded the prestigious Leakey Prize by The Leakey Foundation for her pioneering work in primatology
- 2010 Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE (Dame of the British Empire) celebrates her 50th Anniversary of arriving at Gombe Stream, under the mentorship of Dr. Louis Leakey
The Leakey Foundation can exist only when patrons like you are able to provide the much needed funding to make our work possible. Dr. Leakey relied on the generosity of his patrons; today we rely on your generosity.
In the tradition of our namesake, Louis Leakey, The Leakey Foundation awards what is, in effect, venture capital to emerging scientists, like Jane Goodall in 1960. The Leakey Foundation has helped launch the careers of other young researchers including: Don Johanson, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas, Zeresenay Alemseged, Jill Pruetz, Sileshi Semaw, and many more. Many of these Grantees have conducted seminal studies that have informed our understanding of human prehistory.
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