Female Primatologists

Jane Goodall with baby chimp reaching out to touch her nose

Many of the most prominent scientists studying non-human primates in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been women. Here we highlight a few of them. Immediately below are listed some books about female primatologists.

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall hooting with young chimp

Dame Jane Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace. She is widely considered the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, and is certainly the best known. For 55 years she has studied the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Ntional Park. The founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, she continues to work on conservation and animal welfare issues.


Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey and babyDian Fossey was an American primatologist who worked with mountain gorillas in various countries in Africa. Her book about her experiences, Gorillas in the Mist, was made into a motion picture. Unfortunately, she antagonized the local people and essentially declared war on the poachers. After three years at Cornell focusing on her book, she returned to Rwanda where she was killed shortly before her 54th birthday.



Dorothy Cheney is a Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies communication and social behavior in non-human primates, especially baboons and vervet monkeys. Much of her research has been done with Robert Seyfarth, in the Department of Psychology, also at UPenn,.

Birute Galdikas researches orangutans, primarily in Borneo, and is considered the world's leading authority ont hese endangered animals. Like Jane Goodall, she was originally a protege of Louis Leakey. In addition to research, she is known for her efforts in conservation .