The photo, taken in 1964, was first published in National Geographic magazine in December 1965. Another photo of Goodall studying the Gombe chimpanzees was on the front cover and published as part of van Lawick’s photo series titled “New Discoveries Among Africa’s Chimpanzees”. That same year, National Geographic released Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, the first of many documentaries showing Goodall’s research.
The photo, along with van Lawick’s documentary film People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe, “forced science to abandon the idea that humans were the only sentient beings with personalities, minds and emotions” says Goodall, adding that she was taught this as a student at Cambridge University in 1962. “Thus [this image] opened up a whole new way of understanding who animals are and showed that we humans are a part of and not separated from the rest of the animal kingdom.”
Goodall was the first person to notice that the chimpanzees were stripping down stiff blades of grass, then sticking them into holes in termite mounds to catch and eat these insects. Until then, a tool use like this was believed to distinguish humans from all other animals.
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Mark Wright, director of science at conservation charity WWF, says Goodall was “a real trailblazer” in many ways. But this photograph helped people recognize the importance of a female perspective within the scientific research community, he says. “She was a young woman saying that women are equally well-placed to do really first class research in the field.
“Until then, it had been a pretty male-dominated environment. Then there was a succession of high-profile women doing this sort of work.”
Gilbert M Grosvenor, former chair of the National Geographic Society, has likewise argued that “Goodall’s trailblazing path for other women primatologists is arguably her greatest legacy”.
“During the last third of the 20th Century, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas, Cheryl Knott, Penny Patterson, and many more women have followed her,” he wrote in the Jane Goodall Institute’s biography of the primatologist.”Indeed, women now dominate long -term primate behavioral studies worldwide.” (Read more: The woman who redefined mankind).