The “Trimates,” The Founding Mothers of Primatology

The Human Evolution Blog

Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birutė Galdikas Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birutė Galdikas

Science moves so fast in our modern era that we forget how young some scientific disciplines really are. Darwin founded evolutionary biology just over 150 years ago. Mendel did the same for modern genetics around the same time, although his work didn’t blossom (pardon the pun) until several decades later.

The scientific study of animal behavior didn’t really begin until well into the 20th century with the pioneering work of Ivan Pavlov, Konrad Lorenz, John Watson, and B.F. Skinner.

Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner

However, while those pioneers were mostly studying animals in laboratory conditions, others began to argue that to fully understand animal behavior, one must observe them in the wild, and over a great length of time, not just weeks or months. In the 1950s and 60s, as scientists began to patiently observe various animal species in their native environment and natural social context, they were overwhelmed…

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