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Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 004-6442854054
ISBN-10: 0395854059
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging but overlong biography, Peterson (The Deluge and the Ark) details the life of the woman who revolutionized primate studies. In 1960, at age 26, Goodall was sent by paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey to the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to study the chimps. With no scientific training and no precedents to follow, but with plenty of courage and the conviction that chimpanzees have individual personalities, she lived with the animals. Patiently observing them, she discovered that they eat meat, engage in warfare and use tools—a revelation that persuaded Leakey that it was necessary to redefine "man," because the use of tools had always been thought to be uniquely human. Peterson provides colorful descriptions of day-to-day life at Gombe and Goodall's interaction with the chimps, and ably portrays her relationship with Leakey, the National Geographic Society (which sponsored much of her work), her two marriages, her reaction to her celebrity and her ventures as an activist for the well-being of chimpanzees in captivity and the wild. However, exhaustive details of Goodall's childhood, her youthful loves, the activities of her infant son and the lives of her students and fellow researchers become wearisome. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Nov. 15)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Born in England in 1934, the eldest daughter of a marvelously competent mother and a race-car-driver father, Jane Goodall was a contemplative child who loved animals and Doctor Doolittle books and possessed, as Peterson, her first biographer, astutely observes, "high energy, a natural and happy competitiveness, a capacity for intense and extended concentration, a surprising attraction to risk, and an unusual tolerance for physical stress," qualities that proved essential to her uniquely demanding and influential life as a pioneering field scientist and international activist. Biographies of the living are tricky, but Peterson, who collaborated with Goodall on Visions of Caliban (1993) and edited her two letter collections, makes judicious use of sources both archival and human. And Goodall, as beautiful as she is brilliant and intrepid, learned more than 40 years ago-when the visionary paleontologist Louis Leakey set her (then a secretarial-school graduate) on the path to scientific discovery-that to bring her knowledge about animals to the world, she has to feed people's curiosity about herself. And what a story of poise, conviction, and sacrifice Peterson tells, from Goodall's revelatory relationships with the chimpanzees of Gombe along Lake Tanganyika to her struggles for funding and autonomy, her many suitors and two difficult marriages, and her arduous work to portray chimpanzees as complex individuals with minds and emotions akin to our own. Peterson vividly and significantly enriches our understanding of Goodall as a scientist, spiritual thinker, and humanist. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (November 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395854059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395854051
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,588,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Although many people know who Jane Goodall is (sometimes confusing her with Dian Fossey), she has become a kind of myth. Films and books have portrayed her as having near-saintly status and a squeaky-clean character, which, though enormously charismatic, has been oversimplified in the media. This book shows her fascinating development from a dreamy child with an active imagination, a menagerie of pets, a talent for leadership in her self-started science club, and not much interest in school ("The Naturalist"), to the more familiar young chimpanzee researcher who fell under the spell of the intelligent apes of Gombe and who also had a series of romantic and professional adventures during a brilliant career ("The Scientist"), to the person who has inspired people all over the world to work to preserve the planet's animals and people, and to dream of a better future ("The Activist"). This book shows her funny, mischievous, thoughtful, and romantic sides, revealing a woman who struggled to make her way in a demanding field and who made enormous personal sacrifices in a great cause. The book is beautifully written, warm, lovingly detailed--a splendid portrait of a magnificent person.
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Format: Hardcover
The fact that not only Dr Jane Goodall, but also her family, friends and colleagues gave full cooperation to Dale Peterson in his authorship of this masterful biography, makes this heavily detailed work quite definitive (aside from, or read in addition to, those works written by Goodall herself), and a treat for those interested in her life and work. Dr Goodall's buoyant personality, enthusiasm, and dedication are rendered so clearly, especially in the descriptions of Jane's activism on behalf of chimpanzees, humans and the environment alike, that one cannot help but like her and feel impelled to action.

While remaining respectfully, appropriately, discreet (especially in describing her relationships with her first and second husbands), the personal details that are given are perfectly sufficient to understand how they shaped her life's course. Dr Goodall is, after all, very much a living, breathing person and therefore entitled to as much privacy as her celebrity will allow. Any more detail or airing of dirty laundry (if it existed) would have been tactless at worst and unnecessary at best. In all other areas - personal and professional - the details abound. However, I never considered such generosity of detail to be overwhelming or superfluous. It all served to create incredibly lucid impressions and pictures, and aided in understanding the subject all the better.

I have been reading about Jane Goodall and her work for many years and found all of the previously undisclosed information in this biography - her family history; the extent of the early financial difficulties in establishing and maintaining the Gombe Stream Research Centre; details about the kidnapping of the Gombe students in 1975, and the resulting ransom situation - all utterly fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover
Louis Leakey put it best. Jane Goodall's work in Gombe prompted a complete revision in how humans view themselves. The subtitle could well stand as the lead for this book. In this exquisitely detailed biography, Dale Peterson depicts how Jane's personality led to a number of fresh insights about how the other animals live and how science learned new ways to study them. Coming out of a rather obscure and unpromising life, Jane Goodall rose to prominence by unusal methods. She applied a sense of caring, developed through attention to her many pets, to the study of chimpanzees. Lacking any preconceptions about what chimpanzees were "supposed" to do, she was able to learn what they actually did do. To say her approach disturbed many "establishment" researchers is putting it mildly. However, her other major attribute in support of her caring, is persistence.

There's a wonderful irony in the circumstances of Jane's becoming a foremost field primatologist. In an era when women reject being "objectified", it was Louis Leakey's roving eye and philandering habits that propelled Jane into the African bush. Having found evidence of early humans at Olduvai, he wanted some signs of evolutionary links. Chimpanzees, as Darwin had noted a century before, were the most likely indicator. Peterson points out that science was woefully lacking in data on apes. They're elusive and shy. It was Jane Goodall who demonstrated the value of "habituation" - long, enduring and subtle contact with her subjects - that allowed her to see what nobody else had before. Chimpanzees use tools, and they're effective hunters. It was the latter trait, the author notes, that helped Jane and her associates to begin formulating the structure of how chimpanzee society is formed.
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Format: Hardcover
I do agree with another reviewer that Jane Goodall, The Woman who redefined Man is a wee bit longish. Okay, at 714 pages plus an index it is a long read. However, I disagree that the attention spent on her early life is the culprit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peterson lavishes many pages to Goodall's upbringing; her strong and directing mother and her danger loving race car father, her love of competition and her love of detail are overly mundane I feel that they tell us a lot about the person that Goodall eventually becomes. What other person, woman or man in 1960 was willing to chuch everything to study monkeys?

Peterson obviously loves his subject. As a teenager I remember hearing stories about this young and attractive woman who had devoted her life to studying primate behavior. I didn't realize until much later that she had been sent by Leakey. I certainly didn't know until reading this book that Goodall had been trained as a secretary. How the fates have a way of stepping in and changing things....a truth that is delivered to any reader of this book.

Jane Goodall has contributed a huge body of information to the world by her devoted work and study. Reading Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man will impress you and awe you. A truly great read.
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