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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*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
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