Jane Goodall

Synonymous with her work studying chimpanzee behavior, Jane Goodall is one of the most famous scientists. Her extensive work on chimpanzees was groundbreaking and allowed for much further research in the field of primatology and animal behavior. A pioneer as a female scientist, Goodall has inspired many young females to also pursue science related careers.

Born on April 3, 1934, Goodall is a primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist, as well as a UN Messenger of Peace. She is best known for her 55-year study in Gombe Steam National Park in Tanzania on chimpanzee behavior. Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots program, Goodall works extensively in conservation and animal rights issues. Her passion for her work and for the wellbeing of animals has led Goodall to become an ambassador for her field.

In addition to her many achievements, Goodall has inspired young women to challenge barriers and pursue careers in the science field. Thanks to work of Goodall, along with others such as Diane Fossey, women are leading the primate behavioral field. Goodall recalls, “in China, a young woman came up and burst into tears because she’d been studying pandas and thought that school girls didn’t do that sort of thing and then read my book, and so there she was.”

In 2008, 12% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 3% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and less than 1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women. In addition, 53% of scientists and engineers working in the social sciences are women, while only 13% working in engineering are women, and 26% working in computer and mathematical sciences are women. It is imperative for female scientists, like Goodall, to inspire future generations.

When asked if there was any advice she would give to a middle school girl, Goodall responded,

I would tell girls in middle school about the dreams they could pursue through science — from flying through outer space to observing animals in the wilds of Africa. And I would encourage them to try different classes in mathematics and science to see what areas they most enjoy. And, perhaps most importantly, to read, read, read — whatever they can!”

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