The Washington Post has uncovered evidence of plagiarism in a new book by Jane Goodall, perhaps the world's most well-known primatologist.
Co-authored with Gail Hudson, Goodall's Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants is centered around plants, so the Post asked a botany expert to review it. That person reportedly declined, stating that the book featured material that had appeared elsewhere.
According to the Post, passages were lifted from websites including Wikipedia, Choice Organic Teas, and others.
Goodall responded to the paper with the following email:
“This was a long and well researched book,” she wrote, “and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies. I hope it is obvious that my only objective was to learn as much as I could so that I could provide straightforward factual information distilled from a wide range of reliable sources.”
Goodall has long been praised and respected for her extensive study of chimpanzees. She has had multiple books published about primates and conservation-related issues over the years.
But the internet has made it increasingly easy for even esteemed authors and journalists to pull material from others -- unwittingly or intentionally -- and pass it off as their own.
The Washington Post's own Sari Horowitz, a winner of two Pulitzer prizes, was found to have plagiarized from two Arizona Republic articles in 2011.
Last year, Jonah Lehrer's "Imagine" was removed from shelves after another journalist discovered that the author had made up quotes and attributed them to Bob Dylan. That news surfaced not long after Lehrer admitted to plagiarizing his own work by writing material for one publication and reusing it in others.
Earlier this month, Lehrer's "How We Decide" was also pulled from shelves following an internal review by its publisher.
While some authors argue that they lifted material by mistake -- as Goodall seems to imply in her response to the Post -- others confess to buckling under pressure.
After novelist Quentin Rowan was caught plagiarizing passages from other spy novels, he explained to author Jeremy Duns that he never thought his own work could live up to the expectations people had of him.
"I just didn't feel capable of writing the kinds of scenes and situations that were asked of me in the time allotted and rather than saying I couldn't do it, or wasn't capable, I started stealing again. I didn't want to be seen as anything other than a writing machine, I guess," Rowan reportedly admitted.