Friday, April 12

Jane Goodall: “When I was 10 and said I wanted to go to Africa, everyone laughed at me”

Jane Goodall, during an interview. / Ignatius Gil

The famous ethologist recounts her hard experience to become a scientist at the CNIO’s 8M commemorative event


“When I was 10 years old and said I wanted to go to Africa and write books about animals, everyone laughed at me. Girls didn’t do those things in those days.” This is how Jane Goodall began the moving account of her difficult experience to become a scientist offered during the International Women’s Day event, organized by the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) and the British Embassy in Spain, with the collaboration of the Institute Jane Goodall in Spain.

The British ethologist, who today represents a great example of self-improvement, passion and commitment for women and girls who want to dedicate themselves to research, reviewed the situation she encountered at the beginning during her speech at the event .

“I have lived almost 90 years on this planet and I have seen many changes in the field of women and science. When I was young there were very few female role models for girls in science and Madame Curie was the most famous, the only one we learned from in school.”

“I think that since I was born, I was fascinated by animals and their behavior,” continued the ethologist. “And I would spend hours watching the birds and bugs and squirrels in our garden in England. Fortunately, I had a mother who was very supportive.”

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Her training as a little scientist began at the age of 4 in the family chicken coop. “Curiosity, asking questions, not getting the right answer, deciding to find out for myself, being wrong, not giving up having the patience to learn. It was all there, and a different mother might have squashed my scientific curiosity,” warns Goodall.

«When I was young there were very few female role models for girls in science and Madame Curie was the most famous, the only one we learned from in school»

She says that when she said she wanted to go to Africa to investigate, everyone asked her how she would do it, being a distant and dangerous country and she was just a girl. “But my mother told me: ‘No, if you really want to do something like that, you should take every opportunity. Work very hard and, if you don’t give up, you will find the way », she moved. And this same advice is what Jane Goodall wants to pass on to today’s young people, according to what she said in her speech.

Years later, without a university degree and thanks to the support of the famous paleoanthropologist, Louis Leakey, the girl who was fascinated by animals managed to achieve her dream, as well as funding to carry out her research.

“When I started publishing my results, most scientists were saying, ‘Why should we believe it? She is just a girl. She hasn’t even been to college. They support her just because she has nice legs and they can make her a cover girl.’ But Louis Leakey decided that he had to get a degree so that other scientists would take me more seriously. So, she got me enrolled in a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and I was the eighth person in the history of this university to do a PhD without a bachelor’s degree.”

Over time, Goodall was accepted by the scientific community, and her team is still continuing those studies today, more than 60 years later, according to her own account. “Each of us makes a difference every day, and we can choose what kind of difference we make,” the ethologist proclaimed. And as a last piece of advice to young scientists, as reported yesterday by the CNIO in a statement, he said: “If you have a passion, if you have a dream, keep it until the end. And, in the end, it should come true.”

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