The third one may come as a bit of a surprise. This is Jane Goodall, the celebrated primatologist, in the news this week for having two children's books written about her. Her pathbreaking studies in primatology started with a childhood gift from her father, a toy chimpanzee called Jubilee. Goodall is best known for her studies of the social behaviour of chimpanzees. She lived among the chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Kenya, and is credited with the first observations of tool making in non-human primates, and for exploding the belief that chimpanzees were vegetarians. She also observed evidence of mental traits like reasoning, abstraction, symbolic representation and a sense of self among chimpanzees, which had been thought to be unique to humans upto that point. Jane's studies were criticised for not following the strict, impersonal norms of primate studies which were followed at that point, like giving names to the chimpanzees she observed, instead of numbers, as was thought to be more `objective'. This lack of `objectivity' was supposed to contribute to the `anthropomorphic' conclusions of her study. However, many of her conclusions have been validated by other studies.
In a recent interview, Dr. Goodall was asked a question on what she thought were the reasons for which women, by and large, stayed away from scientific careers. To paraphrase loosely, she said that this might be because science was thought to be a career where empathy and intuition, two traits which she said were pronounced in girls, were squashed out in favour of coldness which was equated with objectivity. She also said that scientists should be human beings first, and scientists next, and empathy and intuition should be taken advantage of, and the conclusions drawn using these traits should be tested out in the light of rationality. This is a truly unique message and surely worth thinking about.
Quote of the week: `If you have a dream as a child, follow it even if people laugh at you for it, as they laughed at me.'- Jane Goodall.
This post is by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.