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- October 24, 1977
- Vol. 8
- No. 17
Jane Goodall & Derek Bryceson Share a Marriage and a Love of the African Wilds
A Royal Air Force veteran who helped Tanzania win its independence in 1964, Bryceson, 54, does not remember much of that first encounter with Goodall, now 43. "But I distinctly recall when Jane came to parliament later to show her film on the chimpanzees," says Bryceson, who is a member of Tanzania's National Assembly as well as parks director. "She made a very definite impression."
Goodall's myth-shattering work with chimps has had the same impact on the world scientific community. Born in London to a middle-class family, she was working as a secretary when she traveled to Kenya and persuaded famed paleontologist Louis Leakey to hire her as his assistant. He was then digging in east Africa's Olduvai Gorge for evidence of early man. Fascinated by man's Darwinian link to the apes, Goodall later set up her own camp to study primate behavior in Gombe on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. She earned a doctorate in ethology (the study of animal behavior) at Cambridge University in 1965.
What she discovered in the 1960s radically altered some widely accepted notions. She found that chimpanzees—contrary to popular opinion at the time—were highly intelligent and social creatures who used tools, formed close and enduring attachments and communicated through gestures, sounds and facial expressions. (In 1972 she made another discovery, she says rather remorsefully: "That chimpanzees can be cannibals.")
In 1964 Goodall married Dutch photographer Hugo van Lawick, whose pictures of Jane and her chimpanzees appeared in The National Geographic and LIFE. They had a son, Hugo Jr., nicknamed Grub, and Jane relied on some of her observations about apes in raising him. "The chimpanzees have an extremely close bond between mother and child," she explains. "The mother is constantly with the child, and I raised Grub this way. I never left him for a full day until he was 3 years old." Today Grub—whose first sentence was "That big lion out there eat me"—is a self-assured 11-year-old.
Like Goodall, Bryceson was inexorably drawn to Africa. Shot down in his fighter plane over Egypt during World War II, he was told that he would never walk again. But after three years of struggle he managed to get around with the aid of a cane (which he still uses). "It was an act of great courage," his wife says.
Bryceson earned a degree in agriculture at Cambridge in 1947 and went to Africa because he "wanted to farm, and the opportunities for that were in Tanganyika." He subsequently played a key role in the evolution of the British mandate—along with the island of Zanzibar—into the Republic of Tanzania.
His main goal as a politician these days, he says, is to protect the ever-dwindling African bush from further encroachments by civilization—a shared concern that ignited their relationship, both Bryceson and Goodall acknowledge. By that time her marriage to van Lawick was disintegrating. "Hugo and I had drifted apart," she says of their 1974 divorce. "But we still remain the closest of friends. We see each other often, and when I go to England I stay at his flat." Grub lives with his mother and Bryceson but at present is at boarding school in England.
Bryceson's 1974 divorce from his first wife was anything but amicable. His son, Ian, a 25-year-old marine biologist who teaches at the University of Dar es Salaam, has not spoken to his father since.
Like his son, Bryceson is interested in marine life. Whenever he and his wife are in Dar es Salaam, where they own an oceanfront home next door to Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, they stroll the beach collecting specimens.
Much of their time, however, is spent doing field work in Gombe, visiting England or lecturing in the U.S. Goodall's favorite theme is child-rearing, chimp-style. "People who don't have time to raise their own children shouldn't have them," she declares. "Maybe the current ways like day care are correct. But I feel that leaving a baby for hours without its mother is bound to affect the way it relates to people. I preferred the chimp way, so I cuddled Grub lots."
Not surprisingly, Goodall's and Bryceson's careers leave them with few evenings open for political or diplomatic socializing. "What we enjoy most is dining alone," says Jane. "The ideal life," Derek interjects wistfully, "would be to stay all year at Gombe, by the clear lake—far away from the city."
January 26, 2015
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