Fossey, Dian

Fossey, Dian fôˈsē, fŏsˈē [key], 1932–85, American zoologist, b. San Francisco, who lived and worked with the mountain gorillas of central Africa, adding immeasurably to the understanding of their behavior. She received a bachelor's degree from San Jose State College (now San Jose State Univ.) in 1954 and worked for a short time as an occupational therapist before traveling to Africa to meet Louis Leakey. He encouraged her, and she began her field studies in the Congo in 1966. Arrested and forced to leave during a military uprising, she moved to Rwanda and set up the Karisoke Research Center, which she directed from 1967 to 1980. Living a solitary life for many years, she observed the gorillas' habits and gradually gained their acceptance. Concerned with threats to the gorillas from loss of habitat and from poachers, she wrote Gorillas in the Mist (1983) to acquaint the public with their plight. She was found murdered at her camp in 1985.

See F. Mowat, Woman in the Mists (1987); H. Hayes, The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey (1990); S. Montgomery, Walking with the Great Apes (1991).

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