1964 | Jane Goodall & Flint

On 14 July 1960, 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived by boat to the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania. Born in London, she was fascinated by the natural world from an early age, and aged 23, she moved to East Africa — at first Kenya, then Tanzania — and found work as an assistant to the great paleontologist Louis Leakey.

Formerly a secretarial student without an undergraduate degree in science, she lacked formal training but Leakey sensed her deep love of animals and encouraged her to begin a study of the chimpanzees around Gombe, Lake Tanganyika, in northern Tanzania.

In 1964, Goodall married a Dutch wildlife photographer, Baron Hugo van Lawick, who documented many of her interactions with her subjects. In them, Goodall bonds with Flint, the first chimp to be born at Gombe after Goodall’s arrival. Unprecedented and controversial for its time, Goodall would defy convention by giving her chimps names instead of numbers. Flint would be the first infant chimp whose development Goodall was able to follow up close until its death in 1968.

Hugo van Lawick took thousands of photographs of Gombe and Goodall, and filmed over 65 hours of Goodall studying the chimpanzees. Goodall disliked being photographed but tolerated it for the sake of her research. The photo above of Goodall with Flint became an enduring image. Goodall remembered:

It was couple of months or more before there was a safe way to send exposed rolls to the [National] Geographic for processing, and then another wait while they sent the prints back to Kigoma. When I saw it, though I did not realise it would become iconic, it did make me think of Michelangelo’s painting of God reaching out to Man.

It reminds me of a magical time when I knew each individual chimpanzee as well as members of my family. I watched Flint’s development from a tiny infant to a spoilt brat, always supported by his older sister or one of his older brothers if another youngster accidentally (or sometimes deliberately!) hurt him. The image makes me think of those best days of my life.

The photo was first published in National Geographic magazine in December 1965. Another photo of Goodall studying the Gombe chimpanzees was on the cover and accompanied by van Lawick’s photo series, “New Discoveries Among Africa’s Chimpanzees”. Other documentaries followed: Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees and van Lawick’s People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe, through which the world came to know members of Gombe’s “F” family: Flo, Fifi, and Flint, as well as a number of their other immediate relations. All in all, the baron would go on to create a visual record spanning over twenty years and documenting the lives of three generations of chimpanzees.


Goodall’s work led her into plane crashes, malaria, hardships, rivers of crocodiles, and the worst of all, the 1975 kidnapping of four of her Cambridge/Stanford students in Tanzania by the rebels from Congo coming over the lake. Goodall agreed with the Tanzanian officials who refused to negotiate their return, noting that a ransom would only embolden the terrorists. Finally, a release was arranged (the details vary), but the controversy dogged her for next few years.

Critics questioned her actions during the incident, and for a brief period, her grants were put on hold, but this led to Princess Genevieve di San Faustino funding the creation of the Jane Goodall Institute. Surprising, the kidnapping incident was not mentioned on wikipedia entries of either Goodall or her institute.


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