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Jane Goodall; The Woman Who Redefined Man: Biography

Updated on October 24, 2014

A force to be reckoned with in research and environmental protection

"You can do anything you set your mind to", such is the phrase that every child hears growing up from teachers and parents. Yet how many of us truly live up to that potential? Jane Goodall is the living embodiment of that sentiment who, without advanced formal education, ended up doing more for animals and arguably humans than anyone prior in history and clearly more than anyone thought was possible from a mere woman. As a woman in the 1940s and 50s it was unheard of to take on projects that even today are challenging. She faced tremendous gender biases and with grace and determination, broke down every barrier that was thrown her way by men or nature. She stood up to old world thinking of proper animal observation practices, trying new ideas and never being afraid to fail. And if that was not enough, she shared her passion for protecting the environment with the world forming youth environmental groups and petitioning for protection for Chimpanzees in both the wild and in captivity. This was one tough woman who would not take no for an answer. This is her story...

The story of researcher, activist, and larger than life woman

So frequently the name Goodall is simply synonymous with Chimpanzees; it is unfortunate that some of her equally amazing accomplishments are relatively unknown. To look at her history is to look at the modern history of field research as she pioneered most modern methods and wrote most current practices for fieldwork, not to mention how to work with those same animals in captivity. But let's start by going into how it all started when she was just a child.

Jane showed early fascination with animals, filling notebooks with detailed observations of animals one would expect to find in the middle of a major city. While they were amateur in nature, they set the groundwork for a life filled with fieldwork. She was always interested in Africa, and at a young age self-funded a trip to the dark continent as it was known then. The remarkable part of this is a young women traveling to Africa was not a common trip in the 40s, even more interesting was her goal of doing so alone, and her lack of concrete plans once she got there. She had an offer to do relatively safe work with horses in the affluent colonial part of Africa, but instead decided to set out on her own working in the Nairobi museum. Take yourself back for a moment to the 40s when television was just barely making its way out of inventor's laboratories, radio signals were just starting to become common place, even cross-continent air travel was still in the adolescent state. And here comes a woman in her early 20s who decides to travel to Africa, without modern conveniences and communication, and set out on her own to do something extraordinary. This first glimpse of her gumption would continue to serve her well.

She met Louis Leakey who was trying to find a woman to do field research on Chimpanzees, as he believed a woman could get closer to these animals then a male researcher. Keep in mind when Jane was accepted she was the first woman to ever do extended field research (extended was considered more than a month in the field). In fact by law she had to be accompanied by a male who was supposed to protect and take care of her and even that was a tough battle with the male preserve wardens (in actuality she could out-walk and out-last most of her local male support teams). Africa was an unstable region with dangers both in animal, insect and human form. Sadly there were kidnappings that took place both at her camp and others. Notably, Jane Fonda later was kidnapped but eventually tricked her kidnappers and escaped after several days. In addition, a number of Stanford students who were studying in Goodall's research camp were kidnapped in a daring night raid and after much negotiations and possibly money transfers, were eventually also released. Poisonous snakes and insects were common and living hours away from civilization without any means of communication ensured that a bite would almost certainly mean an early and painful death. With this triple threat (specifically the kidnappings) almost all foreign researchers fled the region, yet Jane stayed to continue her work living in the field for years completely immersed in her work. The behaviors that Jane observed, the methods she pioneered, and how she was able to fund all of this unproved research is a fascinating story. This includes the interesting tidbit that Jane observed that Chimpanzees created and used tools, something that was up to that time assumed only a feature of humans. This forced the entire scientific community to reexamine the definition of man versus animal. As if that was not enough, Jane was able to discover that other animals including a bird actually used tools which truly turned the academic field on its head. This was a woman who studied any and every animal in the wilds of Africa, even bringing her tiny children with her bouncing over the Savannah in a jeep chasing after wild animals. Nothing was too difficult or too outrageous for her to pursue.

"The greatest danger to our future is apathy."

- Jane Goodall

A Pioneer in Research

If it was not impressive enough to be the first woman doing extended field research, she also realized very early on that the current ways to observe animals in the field was terrible outdated. They were based on brief field visits where they would try to attract animals to a key location or build blinds in locations previously visited. The goal was to observe quickly and get home to 'civilization'. Jane, through first hand experiences, knew these techniques had limited value and sometimes provided false natural observations and thus chose to literally write entirely new field manuals on how to observe animals in the wild.

Without a formal education on animal observation or even a college degree, Jane postulated that the more time she spent among the animals the more normal she would appear and thus they would eventually ignore her presence as a non-threat. This would take months, even years to desensitize the animals to her presence before getting the types of observations that she would need for research. With most eminent scientists telling her this was crazy (since most would not want to spend years on end in the field), that is exactly what this high society London born woman did on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Feeding bananas and following these animals every day, sometimes camping out in the field alone miles away from camp when she was following a particularly interesting group, she became an accepted member of the Chimpanzee community. She would start to make shocking discoveries about these very human like animals, including the occasional cannibalistic tendencies and their complex social community.

A Champion for Conservation

If Jane Goodall stopped here it would have been truly remarkable, but this woman was not done. She started an environmental organization called Roots and Shoots specifically for children around the world to continue her work long after she had to finish fieldwork. This organization has flourished around the world teaching children about the wonders of the animal kingdom and preservation in general. So large did this group become that Jane, who never liked staying in hotels anyway, rarely stays in hotels but is put up by local chapter members almost anywhere in the world. She encouraged African countries to setup eco-friendly tourist organizations to expose more people to the wonders of the animals in Africa.

She traveled around the world visiting zoos and research facilities that used Chimpanzees, using her long earned expertise, tirelessly educating them on how to work safely with these animals in a manner that provided them the best possible environments. She understood that medical research and having animals in zoos for others to learn more about especially for those who could never go to Africa was important. As a pragmatist she wanted to create the best possible situation for both humans AND Chimpanzees. When funds were short, she would use her own for wealth was never her goal. She never lost sight of her goal to change the world and as always by dreaming big, she achieved tremendous results.

This biography by Dale Peterson is wonderfully written book with fascinating dialogue and vivid portrayal of events. You may find yourself getting emotionally entangled not just with the leading subject, but also with the Chimpanzees who Dale personifies and humanizes. Jane opened a tremendous window into the animal world for us all to learn more; Dale opened an equivalent window in Jane's life and accomplishments. Even after 800+ pages, somehow you will finish wanting more since we know the story is not done, yet we loved the journey we just finished. I would strongly recommend picking up this book and taking the time to learn more about a fascinating woman. You might learn a few things about humanity as you read about Chimpanzees.

What we can learn from Jane's Story

I think there are a couple of key items that we all could take away from this story. First, Jane Goodall never let an obstacle stop her from pursuing her dreams. Whenever someone told her no, she learned why they said no and figured out a way around it. This tenacity is what set her apart and is something I feel we could all try in our own lives. When we hear no, instead of fighting and complaining, find out why we are hearing no and work to overcome. Never let gender, ethnicity, or age hold us down, instead do everything we can to overcome and build something better for ourselves and our community.

Second, given her tenacity in helping the environment it is no surprise that the next lesson be environmental. One of the items I found so fascinating about Goodall compared to others is her pragmatic approach toward the environment. She knew that one could not protect all of nature and still advance societies. Her goal was to always find a middle ground that helped nature and man. For us, more than environmental issues, I think we can all learn to try to find win-win situations in life knowing that rarely will a successful result be simply what one side wants. Learn to see the other side and sometimes give up a little to come to a happy middle.

Interesting quotes

"The greatest danger to our future is apathy." -- Jane Goodall

" People say to me so often, "Jane how can you be so peaceful when everywhere around you people want books signed, people are asking these questions and yet you seem peaceful," and I always answer that it is the peace of the forest that I carry inside." -- Jane Goodall

"If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way." - Jane Goodall

"Time spent in the forests, following and watching and simply being with the chimpanzees, has always sustained the inner core of my being. And it did not fail me then. In the forest, death is not hidden -- or only accidentally, by the fallen leaves. It is all around you all the time, a part of the endless cycle of life. Chimpanzees are born, they grow older, they get sick and they die. And always there are the young ones to carry on the life of the species. These things brought a sense of perspective back into my life, and with it peace. Gradually, my sense of loss was purged of bitterness, and the futile railing against fate was stilled." -- Jane Goodall

Jane always refused to go to bed mad at anyone. She liked to say as a child, "Let not the sun set on thy wrath"

It all starts with YOU!

While I hope you learned something about this remarkable woman, I sincerely hope that you take action based on what you learned today. Protecting animals and their habitat is something that can not be postponed for a decade, a year, or even a month. You need to start now! Some options

* Get involved in political activities which can be as simple as joining WWF mailing list which notifies you when there are environmental issues up for discussion in the US government and who you can write to about them.

* Participate in clean-ups in your community which keep trash out of our rivers, lakes, and oceans

* Donate to worth causes including the Jane Goodall Institute

It all starts with a single step or a single action. Please don't put it off.

Do you feel animals should be brought to zoos to expose them to a wider audience

See results

Great video retrospective of Jane Goodall in Africa

Items to learn or help celebrate Jane's achievements

Let me know what you think.

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting hub! I've admired Jane Goodall ever since I learned about her. She's a fascinating woman and has done a lot of very useful work, as you describe. Thank you for sharing the information.

    • lgOlson profile image

      L. Olson 4 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Growing up, Jane Goodall was an inspiration to me, and were one of those role models that can help change a persons life for the better.

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      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Jane Goodall is one of the most unique women who has ever lived. She dedicated her life to the study and preservation of these animals and literally changed the world's opinion about caring for wildlife. I deeply admire her and her dedication to the work that was hers alone.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Jane Goodall is one of the most unique women who has ever lived. She dedicated her life to the study and preservation of these animals and literally changed the world's opinion about caring for wildlife. I deeply admire her and her dedication to the work that was hers alone.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Jane Goodall is one of my hero(ine)s. I've even got a photo of her up on the wall above my office desk! I loved reading more about her. Thank you.

    • PlethoraReader profile image
      Author

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @Lenskeeper: Thank you for the blessing. She is absolutely an inspiration for all of us.

    • PlethoraReader profile image
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      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @NAIZA LM: It was just as fascinating to me. Thank you for the blessing!

    • PlethoraReader profile image
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      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @anonymous: Not just people keeping them at home, but also some of the inhuman ways that zoos and other private parks keep Chimps. She worked tirelessly to help educate them on what these animals need if they are going to be kept in captivity. Thank you for stopping by.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Jane Goodall has done incredible work with chimps. One further important issue she highlights is the wrongness of people keeping chimps in their homes as pets. I hope this cruel practice will be outlawed for good one day.

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 4 years ago

      A very interesting woman

    • NAIZA LM profile image

      NAIZA LM 4 years ago

      I didn't know much about Jane Goodall but now I learned a lot through your lens. Thank you for sharing. ~Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      yes u r a special godgift mam

    • Lenskeeper profile image

      Lenskeeper 5 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel. Wonderful lens about a wonderful woman.

    • rallo-smith profile image

      rallo-smith 5 years ago

      Thank you for a very inspiring lens. I enjoyed reading it.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Very inspiring lens - well done!!

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for putting together this interesting lens on the very inspiring life of Jane Goodall

    • RCGraphicsDesign profile image

      RCGraphicsDesign 5 years ago

      I first learned about Jane Goodall with an anthropology class I took in 1970 and fell in love with a great scientist. Thanks for a great lens.

    • Heksieden profile image

      Heksieden 5 years ago

      It is so nice of you to share your experience with all.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Deepest gratitude to you for building this page, a loving tribute to perhaps the last century's most noble human being. Who knows what she will yet accomplish in this century as she sacrifices what she most loves to travel the globe teaching all of us, and especially our young people, to cherish the Earth and all her creatures.

    • makemoneyonline5 profile image

      makemoneyonline5 5 years ago

      Beautiful tribute well done on your lens.

    • Tracie-Fisher profile image

      Tracie-Fisher 5 years ago

      What a nice tribute to an amazing woman. You really did your homework. Thanks so much.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      SquidAngel blessings.Thanks for reminding us all about Jane and her superb work.

    • Miratex profile image

      Miratex 5 years ago

      A wonderful woman with an important mission!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very inspiring and touching story. Jane is a remarkable person. Salute her and wish that her hard work on protecting these animals continue from one generation to another. Thanks for sharing.

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      sherioz 5 years ago

      Fascinating story and important. She is an inspiration.

    • KReneeC profile image

      KReneeC 5 years ago

      Such an extroardinary woman. Fantastic lens!

    • crazy anna profile image

      crazy anna 5 years ago

      wow, this really made me appreciate Jane Goodall. She is amazing!

    • profile image

      cabletiesandmore 5 years ago

      Great personality you referred in your lens. A true inspiration !

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great lense

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Write about Penny Patterson or Diane Fossey next, ok? You did a great job doing an article on a great woman. My blessings are bestowed.

    • ragtimelil profile image

      ragtimelil 5 years ago

      She's my hero!!!!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      I think that she was a great women. *blessed*

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      I always feel that it's wonderful when people work so closely with animals and have such amazing relationships with them! Blessed!

    • ceejaycmarshall profile image

      ceejaycmarshall 5 years ago

      awesome lens! monkeys are the coolest animals :]

    • sibian profile image

      sibian 5 years ago

      She is definitely one of the great ladies of the 20th century.

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      MerleDress 5 years ago

      cute monkey

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I enjoyed reading and learning more about Jane Goodall. Thank you.

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      vBizeso 5 years ago

      nice lens

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      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      This is an interesting story and journey into research and environmental protection. Jane was a very brave women.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very informational, good job!

    • AmrElsawy profile image

      AmrElsawy 5 years ago

      Hello dear friends, i am new here and i need squidoo likes ... can you help me :) my lense is: www.squidoo.com/infographics4journalism

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      As she found out more about chimps, we had to keep changing the definition of what it means to be human.

    • Allens happy le profile image

      Allens happy le 5 years ago

      Great lens and a fantastic tribute for an equally fantastic person! Jane Goodall has inspired me for a long time now. This is certainly one of the better lenses I have seen on squidoo :)

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      Jennifer P Tanabe 5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Jane Goodall is a great person and this is a worthy tribute. Angel blessed

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Jane Goodall is a great person and this is a worthy tribute. Angel blessed

    • joannalynn lm profile image

      joannalynn lm 5 years ago

      She has had such an amazing life, and taught the world so much, as long as people have listened. There is a children's book about her life titled 'Me...Jane' by Patrick McDonnell. It's a great book for ages 4-8.

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      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have always admired her especially after visiting the center she inspired.

    • jayceehaynes profile image

      jayceehaynes 5 years ago

      great lens :)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was just here last month and am returning to congratulate you on receiving front page honors, you did her proud here!

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      What a brilliant lens about a brilliant lady

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      I am so inspired by Jane Goodall and all that she has achieved. She certainly played an important part in "redefining man" as you put it.

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      Love your lens. Thank you for writing about someone who has done so much for the world.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Jane has been a hero of mine forever and you have done her proud with this tribute for sure. Congratulations for being one of the Best of Squidoo - Earth Day 2012!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Terrific lens. She's got such an amazing story, doesn't she? Congratulations on Making the Best of Squidoo 2012 Earth Day Lenses. Blessed!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      A great role-model for young ladies, awesome Lens.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Pity more are not like her. The earth must come first. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012 and also on Earthday and What is Wrong with Planet Earth. Hugs

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      kimmanleyort 5 years ago

      She is truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing her story.

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      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      An amazing lens about an amazing woman. We have much to learn from Jane Goodall. Happy earth day and may every day become Earth Day during our lifetimes.

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      grannysage 5 years ago

      She contributed so much to our understanding of animals in the wild. If we could find a way to maintain them in preserves rather than zoos it would be so much better for the animals. Alas, we systematically destroy much of the habitats they depend upon. Congratulations for making the Earth Day Monsterboard.

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      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      It's inspiring to read about environmental champions such as Jane Goodall. Thank you for publishing this lens.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @KateHonebrink: Thanks Kate. What i found so inspirational is while she did not take no for an answer, she always did so in a kind and considerate manner. She received more success by using honey rather than vinegar.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @earthybirthymum: Thank you for the blessings. Hopefully we can all use her story to encourage more people to get involved in environmental projects like Roots and Shoots

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @Thrinsdream: Thank you and I could not agree more that she is incredibly inspirational.

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      Thrinsdream 5 years ago

      Inspirational woman. Great article. Thank you. Cathi x

    • earthybirthymum profile image

      earthybirthymum 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have always loved Jane Goodall, what an amazing woman mentor for so many. I think her Roots and Shoots program is amazing. Many Blessings

      Cheers

      Grace

    • KateHonebrink profile image

      KateHonebrink 5 years ago

      Jane Goodall is an inspiration to people everywhere. Imagine what we could accomplish if we implemented her don't-take-no-for-an-answer attitude! Wonderful job on this lens!

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      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      I have always greatly admired Jane Goodall. Wonderful tribute to this amazing woman.

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      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      What an amazing woman, it was a delight to learn more about her. She sounds like someone who did all she could but knew when to be a realist and work within bounds of imperfect life.

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      Donnette Davis 5 years ago from South Africa

      A real inspiration, I have written about JG on my website, although never read this book. Thank you for another fantastic review. Liked and +1d.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @kathysart: I appreciate you taking the time to read and leave your thoughts. Thank you

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      kathysart 5 years ago

      This is such a wonderful lens on such an amazing woman. Thank you, I enjoyed my visit.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @pawpaw911: Could not agree more. You might want to check out my review of Amelia Earhart who was almost as interesting.

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      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting woman.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @yano jl: Appreciate you taking the time to review. Will try to continue to provide interesting subjects.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @artillery lm: Thank you.

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      yano jl 5 years ago

      Truly a remarkable woman. Worthy of a lens, for sure. Thank you for sharing this!

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      artillery lm 5 years ago

      Lots of great insight on Jane. Really cool lens.

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you. Reading Jane's biography was one of the most inspirational stories I have had the pleasure to read in quite some time. Quite exciting she is one of the few that is still alive.

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      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      I have a deep admiration and respect for Jane Goodall. She is truly remarkable in every way. It was wonderful to learn more about her here. Thank you for this feature. Appreciated!

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      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you Janis, I am glad. She is a remarkable person.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Very informative. I knew of her, but your lens really taught me much more.