MITNG reviews Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey and Birute Galdikas


My memories of these three women are few and far between for me, the reason being, I was kinda young during their hay-days. That being said, the memories I do have are mostly of Jane Goodall and watching her on reruns of National Geographic (not to be confused with Nat-Geo and their God awful programming), she was the first to be contracted by the famous anthropologist Louise Leaky to go to Gombe, Africa and study chimpanzees. Her amazing interactions with the chimps brought my family together on Sunday afternoons.  Next to be contracted by Louise Leaky was Diane Fossey who dedicated her life to the research of Gorilla’s in the Congo, but her love for the gorilla’s was trumped by her hatred for poachers and her plight became more about stopping them toward the end of her career. Her life also inspired the film Gorillas In The Mist starring Sigourney Weaver. Then there’s Birute Galdikas, a name and face I’m completely unfamiliar with, but whose research with orangutans in Indonesia has been at the forefront of our understanding of these mysterious and benevolent creatures.

Done in a bedtime story sorta way, Primates is a cliff-noted version of these three women’s lives and how famed anthropologist Louis Leaky literally helped changed the face of women’s lib in the seventies. His undying faith in these women and his insistence that women make better researchers, led to some of the most groundbreaking discoveries in the twentieth century. The books author Jim Ottaviani makes no apologies about the books fragmented and sometimes fictional glimpse, but explains the reasoning for his approach by saying this:

“We did study their lives, read a lot about primates and tried to get all the significant details right. That’s not to say that every single detail isn’t important in science, but we wanted to tell a story and not make a textbook. So we had to pick and choose whether and when to leave something out or compress a weeks (or a month’s or a year’s) worth of their hard work down to something you could read in much less than a week or a month or a year. To do this I put together detailed timelines and look for parts where events discoveries-and just as important-themes and ideas complimented each other.”-Jim Ottaviani

I, personally, don’t’ have any problems with Jim’s method of chronicling their  lives in a short read, partly because I’m lazy and partly, he left enough of the good moments in so that if you felt the hankering you could followup. He’s also gone as far as to note the books that he used for the making of Primates. Alright he’s obligated by law to do that, I’m just saying.

Look, everyone remembers reading a book like this in elementary school, whether it was on Abraham Lincoln or Neil Armstrong, it was one of those books that you couldn’t put down, it might’ve even inspired you to become who you are. No way you’d been able to really absorb the accomplishments these people made had it “really” been laid out, especially  not at ten or twelve or maybe you would, if you were a genius. Don’t get me wrong , I’m not saying that this book is child’s-play cause I thoroughly enjoyed the read, what I’m saying is  life comes at you fast and sometimes it just needs to be effortless.

About the storytellers: Cartoonist Maris Wicks = awesome. In addition to drawing comics for Adhouse Books, Tugboat Press, and Spongebob Comics, she’s a program educator for the New England Aquarium.
In addition to being the author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller Feynman, all of Jim Ottaviani’s books have been nominated for multiple awards, including Eisners & ALA Popular Paperback of the Year. They also receive critical praise in publications ranging (widely!) from The New York Review of Books to The Comics Journal to Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover Magazine.

Published by Jeffrey Lamar

I’m an actor,musician and writer who's blended his love for all three into this blog.

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