Famous Female Anthropologists

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to learn a bit about the work of some of the world's most famous female anthropologists: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Mary Leakey.

What Is Anthropology?

When people asked you what you'd like to study in college, you may have said something like computer science, medicine, art, business, or something else along those lines. But how many people have said that they'd like to study humans? If you were one of them, that's probably because you were interested in studying anthropology, the science and study of humankind and all that it encompasses, from social customs and culture to our origins and biological aspects.

This lesson goes over some famous female anthropologists, women who excelled in the field of anthropology.

Jane Goodall

One of the most important female anthropologists is none other than Jane Goodall. Goodall's first serious experience with the field of anthropology began under the tutelage of another very famous anthropologist, Louis Leakey. Thanks to Leakey's prompting and support, she established a camp where she could study the behavior of chimpanzees.

Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall

This led her to a life of trailblazing work with chimpanzees. Her work deciphered important aspects of primate social structure, diet, behavior, as well as the making and use of tools and weapons. As a result, we not only understand more about these magnificent animals, we are able to get a glimpse of how early humans may have evolved as well.

Dian Fossey

Jane Goodall wasn't the only person lucky enough to have worked with Louis Leakey. Another very important female anthropologist met him early on in her career as well. Her name was Dian Fossey. Leakey persuaded her to study primates to further understand them and us. But instead of studying chimpanzees, Fossey was encouraged to work with mountain gorillas.

Like Goodall, Fossey established her own camp. Her camp was located in one of the last remaining strongholds of mountain gorillas in the wild. She was able to gain the trust of these gorillas and consequently gain critically important clues to the way they communicate, their habits, and how they structure their groups.

Fossey was also incredibly brave. She was working under constant threat from violent poachers, who had killed some of the gorillas she studied. On December 26, 1985, her body was found near her camp. No one has ever been brought to justice, but it's almost certain she was killed by a team of poachers who were fed up with her protection of these endangered creatures. Her death was a big blow to the study of these animals and of ourselves.

Mary Leakey

As you just learned, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were influenced and supported by famed anthropologist Louis Leakey. Louis Leakey was married to another very prominent and equally important female anthropologist, Mary Leakey.

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