Dian Fossey’s 82nd birthday receives Google Doodle treatment

16 Jan 2014

The Google Doodle in honour of Dian Fossey

Internet search giant Google is marking the 82nd anniversary of the birth of American zoologist Dian Fossey with a jungle-themed Google Doodle on its homepage today.

The stylised Google logo features artwork of gorillas – the subject of Fossey’s study – including one touching the side of her head as she makes notes.

Fossey’s studies took her to Congo and the mountain forests of Rwanda, where she studied gorillas in depth over 18 years and her work provided the scientific community with greater understanding of the creatures.

Dian Fossey

Zoologist Dian Fossey, November 1984. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

She was born on 16 January 1932 in San Francisco, California. At the age of about 19, she enrolled in a pre-veterinary course in biology at the University of California, Davis, but then transferred to San Jose State College to study occupational therapy, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1954.

In 1963 Fossey took a leave of absence from her job as an occupational therapist at a children’s hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, to travel to Africa for seven weeks. In Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Fossey met paleoanthropologist and archaeologist Louis Leakey, who spoke to her about the work of primatologist Jane Goodall and the study of great apes. Thus Fossey’s research on gorillas began.

Fossey is also known as the author of the book Gorillas in the Mist, which details her research in Rwanda, and was turned into a film in 1988. Fossey’s work also detailed the lifestyle, habitats, behaviour and social structure of primates.

She also worked to end poaching of the animals, and it is believed locals killed her in her apartment in Rwanda over her anti-poaching stance on 26 December 1985. She was 53.

In her lifetime, Fossey had also created The Digit Fund to finance her anti-poaching patrols. After her death, the fund was renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, whose projects continue to protect gorillas in Africa from poaching to this day.

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Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic