The legendary primatologist tells Neil deGrasse Tyson how she fell in love with science. Spoiler alert: It was way before she headed to Africa to study chimpanzees.
Simply put, Jane Goodall is a legend. Her groundbreaking research on chimpanzees during her time at the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in the 1960s changed the way scientists viewed the primates forever. Though she hadn’t been formally trained, Goodall’s discovery – that chimps were highly intelligent beings, had complex social structures, and could make and use tools – was revolutionary at the time.
Goodall’s scientific career began long before she trekked into the East African nation’s rugged mountains to study great apes, however. Her “science story” stretches all the way back to her childhood, and Neil deGrasse Tyson gets the scoop during an upcoming episode of his late-night show “StarTalk.”
During the show, Goodall explains her love of animals and science began when she was just 4 years old and wanted to know how hens laid eggs. After crawling into her family’s hen house and observing for hours, which prompted her parents to call the police because they had no idea where she was, Goodall finally learned the secret behind the mystery – and she couldn’t wait to tell her mother all about it.
“Isn’t that the making of a little scientist?” she explains. “Curiosity, asking questions, not getting the right answer, deciding to find out for yourself, making a mistake and not giving up and learning patience. It was all there when I was 4 and a half.”
In addition to her inquisitiveness, Goodall also had parents who encouraged her explorations, something kids today still need. “A different kind of mother might have crushed that scientific curiosity, and maybe I wouldn’t have done what I’ve done,” she says.
Goodall joins “StarTalk” co-host Chuck Nice, biological anthropologist Jill Pruetz, and primatologist Natalia Reagan to discuss chimp behavior, animal and environmental ethics, and the evolutionary differences between chimpanzees and humans.