Louis Leakey Biography
Louis Leakey (Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey) was born on August 7, 1903 at Kabete Nairobi, Kenya. He was a kenyan paleoanthropologist and archaeologist. His work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa, particularly through discoveries made at Olduvai Gorge with his wife, fellow paleontologist Mary Leakey.
Louis Leakey Career
At 13, after discovering stone tools, he was seized with a passion for prehistory and decided that he would learn about the people who made them. In 1922 he started studies at Cambridge, but a rugby accident the following year left him unable to study, and he left to help manage a paleontological expedition to Africa. He returned in 1925 to resume his studies, and graduated brilliantly in anthropology and archaeology in 1926.
Leakey was married to Mary Douglas Nicol in 1936. Mary Leakey shared her husband’s enthusiasm and drive to find fossil evidence of our human past. She became an indispensable partner in Leakey’s field research endeavors and was personally responsible for many of the spectacular finds credited to the Leakey team.He was later aided by his second wife, the archaeologist Mary Douglas Leakey (née Nicol), and their sons. He held various appointments at major British and American universities and was curator of the Coryndon Memorial Museum in Nairobi from 1945 to 1961.
He and Mary continued to excavate at many sites during the 1950s, especially Olduvai Gorge in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Although the discovery of an important Miocene ape fossil in 1948 had given them some attention and led to more funding, money constraints always limited the amount of work they could do. Nevertheless, they continued to make significant discoveries.
The Louis Leakey first important African discovery (in 1948) was the skull of a Miocene hominoid, which Louis named Proconsul africanus. It is now believed that this ape-like creature lived from approximately 23 to 14 million years ago and was likely a common ancestor of both humans and other primate species.
In 1959 Mary Leakey uncovered a fossil hominin (member of the human lineage) that was given the name Zinjanthropus (now generally regarded as a form of Paranthropus, similar to Australopithecus ) and was believed to be about 1.7 million years old. Leakey later theorized that Zinjanthropus was not a direct ancestor of modern man; he claimed this distinction for other hominin fossil remains that his team discovered at Olduvai Gorge in 1960–63 and that Leakey named Homo habilis .
Many of the Leakey’s most famous discoveries were found in northern Tanzania, at Olduvai Gorge. Because of its unique geological history, this area is particularly rich in fossil remains. In addition to evidence of human origins, Leakey excavations uncovered over 100 different forms of extict animal life at Olduvai Gorge.
Among the other important finds made by Leakey’s team was the discovery in 1948 at Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, Kenya, of the remains of Proconsul africanus, a common ancestor of both humans and apes that lived about 25 million years ago. At Fort Ternan (east of Lake Victoria) in 1962, Leakey’s team discovered the remains of Kenyapithecus, another link between apes and early man that lived about 14 million years ago.
A few days before his death, his son Richard had shown him the just-discovered fossil skull ER 1470, which seemed to support Louis’ long-held contention that the genus Homo had a long history and had not descended from australopithecines. It also led to a reconciliation between Louis and Richard, who had been clashing personally and professionally for some years. Louis’ last few years had been very difficult, but these developments must, at least, have brightened his final days.
Louis Leakey Publications
- Adam’s Ancestors (1934)
- Stone Age Africa (1936)
- White African (1937)
- Olduvai Gorge (1951)
- Mau Mau and the Kikuyu (1952)
- Olduvai Gorge(1965)
- Unveiling Man’s Origins (1969)
- Animals of East Africa (1969).
Louis Leakey Family
Louis Leakey parents were Harry (1868-1940) and Mary (May) Bazett Leakey (died 1948). They were Church of England missionaries in British East Africa (now Kenya).
Harry Leakey was assigned to an established post of the Church Mission Society among the Kikuyu at Kabete, in the highlands north of Nairobi. Harry was working on a translation of the Bible into the Gikuyu language. He had a distinguished career in the CMS, becoming canon of the station.
Louis Leakey had a younger brother, Douglas, and two older sisters, Gladys and Julia.
Louis Leakey was married to Mary Douglas Nicol in 1936. Mary Leakey shared her husband’s enthusiasm and drive to find fossil evidence of our human past. She became an indispensable partner in Leakey’s field research endeavors and was personally responsible for many of the spectacular finds credited to the Leakey team.He was later aided by his second wife, the archaeologist Mary Douglas Leakey (née Nicol), and their sons. He held various appointments at major British and American universities and was curator of the Coryndon Memorial Museum in Nairobi from 1945 to 1961.
Louis Leakey Death
Louis Leakey died of a heart attack in London on October 1, 1972.He left behind his wife and son. Both went on to carry the Leakey name, continuing to make discoveries supporting Louis Leakey’s theory of man’s origin in Africa.