In the Shadow of a Man

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World-renowned primatologist, conservationist, and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall’s account of her life among the wild chimpanzees of Gombe is one of the most enthralling stories of animal behavior ever written. Her adventure began when the famous anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey suggested that a long-term study of chimpanzees in the wild might shed light on the behavior of our closest living relatives. Accompanied by only her mother and her African assistants, she set up camp in the remote Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania. For months the project seemed hopeless; out in the forest from dawn until dark, she had but fleeting glimpses of frightened animals. But gradually she won their trust and was able to record previously unknown behavior, such as the use—and even the making— of tools, until then believed to be an exclusive skill of man. As she came to know the chimps as individuals, she began to understand their complicated social hierarchy and observed many extraordinary behaviors, which have forever changed our understanding of the profound connection between humans and chimpanzees. (Goodreads)

I bought this book and another of Jane Goodall’s two years ago when she visited my university and I was actually able to see her speak. Jane Goodall was my role model as a child. Maybe it’s because we had a poster of her in my science classroom and she was the only female scientist I know, or maybe it’s because she worked with animals and I loved animals, or maybe it’s because she’s just down right awesome, we may never know. This book is utterly amazing whether or not you have a particular interest in Jane Goodall. It’s about science, but isn’t overly scientific. I mean, Goodall wasn’t educated in science when she began her research, so she did things that hadn’t previously been done, such as naming her subjects, that help make her research read like a story rather than a lab report even while making groundbreaking discoveries about animals. In the Shadow of a Man has a life about it that I’ve never seen in another science book, not that I’ve read too many scientific novels to begin with, but that’s beside the point. While reading Goodall’s words, I cared about these chimps. I wanted to know how they interacted and what would happen to them. It was fascinating to read about Jane Goodall’s early days before the majority of the world knew her name or trusted her observations. it’s an amazing tale from how she originally got herself to Africa and later on received money to do research without previous experience to the amazing moment a chimp first let her touch him, all to getting an actual research facility and taking on students to aid in research; and I truly think anyone could find something in here to identify with or learn from.

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