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Science & Tech

The Breakthrough

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 13:30 min

Dr. Jane explains the challenges she faced during her initial work in Gombe and how she arrived at the one breakthrough that changed everything.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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I shall never forget arriving at Gombe and going along the lake in this little boat. It just had a small outboard engine. We had very little money. Everything was on a shoestring. And looking up at the hills and these valleys coming down with thick forests and more open ridges between, and it climbs steeply up to the rift escarpment, and I remember so well looking at this forested area and thinking, how on earth am I going to find the chimpanzees in this place? Because there was no precedent. There was nobody to tell me. Louis Leakey didn't come. I was on my own. It was all up to me. And arriving, setting up the camp, and it was an old fashioned army tent and a secondhand one, which my mother and I had to share-- very different from the camps that people go camping in today. It had just a piece of canvas on the ground as a groundsheet, so if you wanted it to get cooler, you rolled up the side flaps and tied them with tape. And in came the air, but also the snakes and the spiders and the scorpions, which didn't really bother me, but my poor mother-- there she was, and she's always been afraid of spiders, and scorpions can be a bit nasty. Let's admit it. At any rate, that was the camp. And the food was mostly cans that we brought with us from the nearest little town, which is Kigoma. But also, there's a village. It's a very small national park, and the shoreline of Gombe is only about 12 miles. And to the north, there's a small village called Wamgongo. And the British authorities told us, don't go there. It's a very dangerous place. There's a lot of people there who are making trouble. But the person I was introduced to in those very early days, who was asked to go into the hills with me for the first while to show me some of the trails and so forth, and he came from that village. And so he took Mom and I. We were welcomed there, and that's where we bought some fresh things like fresh eggs and some fruit and bananas and things like that. So it was a very simple diet. And in those days, I was still eating fish, and the fish came from the fishermen along the lake shore. I, from the beginning, realized that if I was going to learn about these chimpanzees, I had to spend every daylight hour out there. And in fact, sometimes I would always come down in the first four months to have supper with Mom, but sometimes I'd go up again afterwards with my little flashlight, my little torch. And up on this peak, I'd found-- I took a tin trunk, and in there, there was a kettle hanging from a chain on a tree, box of matches, some instant coffee and so forth so that I could make coffee and so on. And that I did if the chimps were nesting nearby, so I could be close in the morning. And that was every day, so people said, what about the weekend? I said, what weekend? So there were two things that were important. One was to be out there every ...

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There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Very inspired to change my ways one step at a time. Have already switched to giving up Keurig pods for the manual ones and going meatless several times a week. Jane Goodall is so amazing and I have ordered her book. She says what all of us need to hear about not only our impact on the environment but also what steps we can take to make changes locally!

This class hasn't necessarily taught me anything I didn't know, but it has certainly inspired me and given me hope.

Dr. Goodall is such an inspiration to share her life and story. The basic premise to her life is connection, how we are all connected to our environment and the world. With connection comes responsibility to live to our fullest ability to care for all we have been given and to teach others that same sacred value.

Great class! Very inspiring! I will definitely use the info in a positive way!



That story at the end was so heartwarming! It's amazing to hear about David Greybeard's consideration for and recognition of Jane's good intentions. It reminds me that a similar kindness can be found in many humans as well :)

Chantel B.

A really interesting lesson in how parents can nurture curiosity and patience. I would like to think that I would have responded as Jane's mother did when she returned after being missing for 4 hours but I'm not so sure! Only one lesson in but really enjoying learning more about Jane's journey.

Bernardo F.

Wonderful! I can't imagine how excited she must have been. I mean, being out there, surrounded by nature is already exciting, but hers is another level. This reminds me a lot of Dian Fossey's story.

Antonia T.

Wait, how come a 26-year-old woman (that was 1960) brings her mum (who was 54 at the time) to Gombe to sleep with the scorpions? To study the chimpanzees was Jane's dream, not her mum's. Why did Jane have to drag her mother? Weird. Then, the person that guide them and brought them food, he had a name, didn't he? Why Jane doesn't mention his name? Very disappointing.

Shelly F.

As a teacher of biology, I am fascinated by Dr. Goodall's real life experience with the chimpanzees, must have been an exciting experience.

Marieke J.

I remember watching documentaries when I was little that featured animals like chimpanzees using tools, but I never knew that it was Dr. Goodall who discovered this behavior. Incredible! :)

Diana H.

What a treasure this class is! I love hearing her early education with her mother. It reminded me of Illation Meruliefs lecture on growing up with his Aleute ancestors in Alaska. The curiosity her mother fostered her whole life is beautiful. Especially in a marginalizing era. Many of us waitress our way into affording our higher education! I watched with my mother and we both are absolutely hooked on our inspiration Jane. Thank you.

Michael J.

A lesson in patience - all the great things we can learn and discover if we just take the time to do so.

Anne K.

What a beautiful moment with David Graybeard, such a different world. I am glad it can be shared.

A fellow student

Having grown up on a farm, I find her early experiences a little nieve. A farm child knows the bugs, worms, animals and plants both good and bad.