Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dian Fossey (January 16, 1932, San Francisco, California, United States - December 27, 1985, Ruhengeri , Rwanda) was an American ethologist interested in gorillas, completing an extended study of several gorilla groups, observing them daily for years in the mountain forests of Rwanda. Initially encouraged to work there by famous paleontologist Louis Leakey, her work is somewhat similar to Jane Goodall's with chimpanzees.
She earned her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from San Jose State College (currently known as San Jose State University) in 1954. She moved to Kentucky to work at a hospital, and at the invitation of a romantic beau, she began thinking about visiting Africa in 1957.
In 1963, she finally had secured the financing for her trip. While in Africa, she met Dr. Leakey and saw her first mountain gorilla. She created the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967. She then attended the University of Cambridge, where she received a Ph.D. in zoology in 1974.
She was found murdered in the Rwandan province of Ruhengeri in 1985. Current evidence suggests that her murder was masterminded by Protais Zigiranyirazo, former Governor of the Ruhengeri, who is also known for his creation of the death squads that resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 Rwandans in 1994.
Her memoir "Gorillas in the Mist" was turned into a film Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey starring Sigourney Weaver as Fossey. The film is based on Fossey's life and work in Africa. The written work covers her scientific career in much greater detail, and omits some material on her personal life, notably an affair with photographer Bob Campbell that was a major plot point of the movie.
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