Peter Matthiessen was born in Manhattan, New York on May 22, 1927. He served in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He graduated with a degree in English from Yale University in 1950. It was around this time that he was recruited by the CIA and traveled to Paris, where he became acquainted with several young expatriate American writers. In the postwar years the CIA covertly financed magazines and cultural programs to counter the spread of Communism. While in Paris, he helped found The Paris Review in 1953. After returning to the United States, he worked as a commercial fisherman and the captain of a charter fishing boat. His first novel, Race Rock, was published in 1954. His other fiction works include Partisans, Raditzer, Far Tortuga, and In Paradise. His novel, Shadow Country, won a National Book Award. His novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was made into a movie. He started writing nonfiction after divorcing his first wife. An assignment for Sports Illustrated to report on American endangered species led to the book Wildlife in America, which was published in 1959. His travels took him to Asia, Australia, South America, Africa, New Guinea, the Florida swamps, and beneath the ocean. These travels led to articles in The New Yorker as well as numerous nonfiction books including The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness, Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons of Stone Age New Guinea, Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark, The Tree Where Man Was Born, and Men's Lives. The Snow Leopard won the 1979 National Book Award for nonfiction. He died from leukemia on April 5, 2014 at the age of 86.
Jane Goodall, 1934 - Jane Goodall, a well-respected English zoologist, is famous for her fieldwork with chimpanzees in Africa. An early interest in African wild animals and the opportunity, at age 18, to stay on a friend's farm in Kenya, led her to Dr. Louis Leakey; then curator of the National Museum of Natural History in Nairobi. Almost immediately Leakey hired Goodall as his assistant secretary, and she was soon accompanying Leakey and his wife on their expeditions. Following Leakey's suggestion that a field study of some of the higher primates would be a major contribution to the understanding of animal behavior, she began studying the chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1960. Although she had no undergraduate degree, Goodall earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1965, based on her first five years of research at the Gombe Center. After more than 20 years of extensive study and direct contact with wild chimpanzees in their natural habitat, Goodall continues to research, teach, and write about primate behavior today.