Dian Fossey


Dian Fossey : biography

January 16, 1932 – December 26, 1985


On the night of Fossey’s murder, a metal sheeting from her bedroom was removed at the only place of the bedroom where it would not have been obstructed by her furniture, which supports the case that the murder was committed by someone who was familiar with the cabin and her day-to-day activities. The sheeting of her cabin, which was normally securely locked at night, might also have been removed after the murder to make it appear as if the killing was the work of outsiders.

Woman in the Mists Conspiracy to Murder

Many of the organizations that opposed Fossey, including ORTPN (the Rwandan tourism office) and other wildlife organizations, used and continue to use her name for their financial gain up to this day. Weeks before her death, ORTPN refused to renew her visa, and pressure on Fossey was mounting. However, Fossey managed to obtain a special two-year visa through Augustin Nduwayezu, a benevolent Secretary-General in charge of immigration. Mowat believes that the extension of her visa amounted to a de facto death warrant.

Life and career

Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California to George E. Fossey III, an insurance agent, and Kathryn "Kitty" (Kidd) Fossey, a fashion model. Her father was a US Navy sailor. Her parents divorced when Dian was aged 6. Her mother remarried the following year, to businessman Richard Price. Her father tried to keep in contact, but her mother discouraged it, and all contact was subsequently lost. Dian’s stepfather, Richard Price, never took in Dian as his own child. He would not allow Dian to sit at the dining room table with him or Dian’s mother during dinner meals.Mowat, Farley. Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa. New York, NY: Warner, 1987. Print. A man adhering to strict discipline, Richard Price offered Dian little to no emotional support.Washam, Cynthia. "Fossey, Dian." Environmental Encyclopedia. 4th ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 701-703. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Struggling with personal insecurity, Dian turned to animals as a way to gain acceptance."Fossey, Dian." The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold Markoe. Vol. 1: 1981-1985. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1998. 294-296. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. Her love for animals began with her first pet goldfish and continued throughout her entire life. At age six, she began horse riding, earning a letter from her school; by her graduation in 1954, Fossey had established herself as an equestrienne.


Educated at Lowell High School, following the guidance of her stepfather she enrolled in a business course at the College of Marin. However, a summer on a ranch in Montana at age 19 rekindled her love of animals, and she enrolled in a pre-veterinary course in biology at the University of California, Davis. In defiance to her stepfather’s wishes that she attend a business school, Dian desired to spend her professional life working with animals. As a consequence, Dian’s parents failed to give her any substantial amount of financial support throughout her adult life. She supported herself by working as a clerk at White Front (a department store), doing other clerking and laboratory work, and working as a machinist in a factory. Although Fossey had always been an exemplary student, she had difficulties with base sciences including chemistry and physics, and failed her second year of the program. She transferred to San Jose State College to study occupational therapy, receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1954. Initially following her college major, Fossey began a career in occupational therapy. She interned at various hospitals in California and worked with tuberculosis patients. Dian Fossey spent the beginning part of her career as an occupational therapist at Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky in 1956. She directed the occupational therapy department there. Her shy and reserved personality allowed her to work well with the children at the hospital. The more she continued to work there another worker allowed her to live and be part of their family. She lived on a farm in and worked with the livestock on a daily basis. While there she received a family atmosphere that was missing for most of her life through the Henry family who owned the farm. During her free time she would pursue her love of horses. She originally was a prizewinning equestrian which is what drew her to Kentucky in 1955 and it was about a year later when she started her job at Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital. In 1963 she took a leave of absence to travel to Africa for seven weeks. In 1966 she quit her job once Louis Leakey confirmed that she would receive funding for her research with the Mountain Gorillas.The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives|year=1998|publisher=Charles Scribner’s Sons|location=New York|pages=294-296|editor=Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold Markoe