On July 4, 1960, 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived at Gombe Stream Game Reserve in Tanzania to study the behavior of chimpanzees. Through her accounts of the drama-filled lives of Fifi, David Greybeard and other chimps, she showed that these apes share many traits previously thought to be unique to humans. These days the 76-year-old Goodall works to save endangered chimps and their habitats. Scientific American recently reached Goodall by phone in Hong Kong, where she was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of her work in Gombe. Edited excerpts from the conversation follow.
Scientific American: When you first arrived at Gombe, what were your preconceptions about chimpanzees?