Inside “Becoming Jane”

4 minutes read

Becoming Jane, the evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall is a retrospective of her childhood in England, her work, and her dedication to Chimpanzees. Discover the journey of the scientist, activist, and humanitarian who dream to work with animals and visit Africa.

Here is a look at” Becoming Jane.”

From England to Africa

Born in London in 1932, Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall has been fascinated by Africa and animals at a young age.

Jane Goodall

After a few years in France, she moved to England in the war years. The Birches, the family house in Bournemouth, was a perfect natural playground for young Jane.

She created a nature-society with her sister and friends compiling a magazine with nature stories and contests, opening a museum in the summer, and hosting racing snail competitions.

Did you know?

For her first birthday, she received a chimpanzee plush toy named Jubilee*

*Note: many memorabilia were created to celebrate the birth of a chimpanzee at the London zoo. The baby was named after King George V silver jubilee.

Jane’s chimpanzee plush toy

Tarzan and the story of doctor Doolittle were her favorite childhood books. She declared that they “inspired me to understand what animals were trying to tell us and instilled within me an equally strong determination to travel to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them.”

Jane’s childhood books

For the anecdote, she mentioned that she “fell in love with Tarzan and was very jealous when he married the wrong Jane!”

Source: NHM exhibit

After her graduation, she bounced from job to job until her friend Marie-Claude Mange invited her to her parent’s farm in Kenya. She saved money for the trip and spent three weeks on the family farm. Motivated to stay in Africa, she met Dr. Leakey, paleontologist, anthropologist, and curator of the National Museum of Natural History in Nairobi, and became his secretary. Jane was 26 years old.

Jane and Dr. Leake

Welcome to Chimpland*

*Jane named Lake Tanganyika “Chimpland”.

A year after, Dr. Leakey offered Jane to observe chimpanzees along the shore of Lake Tanganyika (now Tanzania). By studying chimpanzee behavior, Dr. Leakey intended to understand early humans.

Jane ‘s spotting scope

In July 1960, Jane, her mother, and Dominic (a cook) moved to the Gombe Stream Game Reserve for six months. She didn’t have academic methods*, but she was passionate and determined. She immersed herself in their habitat and worked from sunrise to sunset, observing chimpanzees with binoculars or spotting scope, taking notes and sketches about their daily behaviors.

‘*Jane earned her Ph.D. in ethology from the University of Cambridge in 1965, and she didn’t have an A.B. degree.

Jane’s notes

Did you know?

Her mother Vanne chaperoned her daughter as it was unsuitable for society to have a young unmarried woman in the field.
Jane and her mother Vanne

Jane’s work and scientific impact

One of her most important discoveries was animal intelligence. Through her observations, she demonstrated that chimps make and use tools, have social structures, personalities, different languages according to region, are omnivorous, and more. Her work changed the perception of animals and lead to more researches and discoveries.

David Greybeard is Jane favorite chimpanzee

Gombe’s chimpanzees have been studied for over 60 years. It is the longest-running field study of wild chimpanzees in the world.  Scientists established family trees, studied lineages and behavior across generations.

Did you know?

Dr. Jane Goodall named chimpanzees in Gombe after her family or books like Frodo from Lord of the Rings.

Jane published numerous books and articles. She is also participating in various conservation work, below are a few examples:

In 1965, she created the Gombe Stream Research Center. Today, there are more than 600 publications and 30 books related to this field of researches. 

In 1968, she worked toward the establishment of the Gombe Stream National Park.

In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute to continue her researches and develop chimp protection.

In 1991, she co-funded Roots&Shoots for youth activists.

Did you know?

Humans are 98 percent identical to chimpanzees.

Hominids are the group of modern and extinct apes including humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans.

Dr. Jane Goodall today

In the late ’80s, Dr. Jane Goodall left the field to combat threats facing chimps. Today, she is actively traveling the world using her voice to protect chimps and their environment.

Dr. Jane Goodall’s honors and distinctions

Dr. Jane Goodall received an abundance of honors and distinctions for her activism and discoveries. As an example, in 2003 she has created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). The following year she was named Messenger of Peace of the United Nations.

Until we have peace and harmony with the environment, we will never live in a world of peace. Dr. Jane Goodall.

Source https://www.janegoodall.org/our-story/about-jane/#conservationist

Ready to explore the making of Dr. Jane Goodall?


*COVD-19 update as of January 2022*

– Please wear a mask and practice a physical distance of 6 feet between yourself and others

– Please check NHMLA and L.A County’s health and safety protocols before your visit


Plan your visit:

  • Exhibit on view from November 7th, 2021 – April 17th, 2022
  • Location: National History Museum (NHM), 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007
  • Hours: 9:30am-5:00pm. Closed on Tuesday, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and January 1st.
  • Admission: $25 per adult ($15 for NHM admission + $10 for Becoming Jane exhibit), free after 3 pm Monday-Friday for L.A County resident. Advance timed-entry reservations are recommended.
  • Duration: I spent 1 hour discovering it.
  • Parking: paid on-site lot and limited street parking
  • More information is available at https://nhm.org/becoming-jane
  • Jane Goodall Institute https://www.janegoodall.org/

Article based on my visit in December 2021

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