Jane Goodall Explains How She Became a 4-Year-Old Scientist

The famed primatologist shared a story about hens and one very worried mother.

by Ben Marx
Originally Published: 
Jane Goodall

If you’ve ever wanted to hear about how Jane Goodall got into science and watch Neil deGrasse Tyson laugh, you’re in luck. In a recent clip from Season 4 of StarTalk, Tyson’s National Geographic Channel show, Tyson interviewed the famed primatologist. And her response to how she developed a passion for discovery is just delightful.

Goodall is known for her life-long work studying chimpanzees, and most consider her to be the world’s foremost expert on primatology. While her career is usually said to have been kick-started by a research visit to Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania in 1960, it turns out Goodall’s scientific passions started long, long before, back when she was just 4 years old.

In the interview, Goodall describes her fascinations with hens at a farmhouse she stayed at as a child. After being given a job to collect the eggs, she became curious where the eggs came from, but her family couldn’t give her a satisfying answer. So, like any good tiny scientist, Goodall disappeared into the henhouse for four hours. But it wasn’t just her “research” alone that had an impact on her. At the end of the day, Goodall’s mom, despite being so worried about her missing daughter that she called the police, still wanted to hear what Goodall had found out. “A different kind of mother might have crushed that scientific curiosity,” Goodall told Tyson. “Maybe I would’ve have done what I’ve done.”

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