April 3rd – Jane Goodall’s Birthday

Jane Goodall is famous for her work with chimpanzees–but as her biographers point out, she is much more than “the chimpanzee lady.”  Because of her research, we have learned so much about not only chimpanzees, but what it means to be human.   Through her research at the Gombe National Reserve in Tanzania, we now know how much our two species are alike:   We share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees. They often use facial expressions that look uncannily human, although we will never know if they truly possess any emotions that correspond with the expression. Chimps often greet one another with a kiss, hug, or gentle hand touch. Babies stay with their mothers until they reach adulthood. Chimps are omnivorous. They can make and use tools. All of these behaviors were researched and observed by Dr. Jane Goodall for the last 38 years.

In celebration of the day of her birth on April 3, 1934, here are a couple of  books to share with your family or classroom: a book pairing that includes “one for you (kids) and one for me (adults).”

The Watcher:  Jane Goodall’s Life with Chimps by Jeanette Winter

This is an outstanding new picture book biography of Jane Goodall:   accessible, well-written, and with compelling information on both her childhood and her adult accomplishments.  Readers ( young and old) will be intrigued and inspired by her world-wide crusade to save the chimps.  The power of “watching” is at the heart of this beautiful picture book.  Highly recommended!


In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

It’s always  inspiring to read of the accomplishments of our heroes “in their own words.”   This modern classic, first published in 1971, has been re-issued and remains an extraordinary story of adventure and discovery.  Her prose is absolutely eloquent as she describes not just the behavior, but the emotions of the chimpanzees she studied.   You feel you really get to “know” these chimps–especially Flo and her family–and it’s also a treat to view the black and white photos included in this edition.    And to learn more about what Jane Goodall has continued to learn, you’ll be intrigued by her website at:

The Jane Goodall Institute


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