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Profile of the Day: Louis Leakey

Profile of the Day: Louis Leakey

Louis and Mary Leakey

On this day in 1903, renowned paleoanthropologist and archaeologist Louis Leakey was born. Remembered for his fossil discoveries in Africa, Leakey’s paleoanthropological work would significantly impact our understanding of human evolution.

Leakey was born Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey on August 7, 1903 in what is today Kenya. He was the son of British missionaries and grew up among the Kikuyu people. Growing up in Africa, Leakey had a lifelong passion for the study of human evolution. He was a strong believer in Charles Darwin’s assertion that humanity originated in Africa, which defied the conventional belief at the time that humanity originated in Asia or Europe.

In 1951, Leakey began extensive research at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. It was there that Leakey and his wife, Mary Douglas Leakey, would make some of the most important discoveries in early human evolution. Amongst some of the most significant fossil discoveries made by the team was the discovery of early hominid fossils, including what they identified as Homo habilis. Leakey’s findings were significant in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa.

Leakey was also a strong proponent in the study of primates in their natural habitats and was instrumental in encouraging Jane Goodall to undertake her long-term study of chimpanzees. On October 1, 1972, Leakey suffered a heart attack in Goodall’s apartment and died at the age of 69.

How are you related to Louis Leakey? Explore his family tree on Geni and share your connection to the prominent paleoanthropologist.

View Louis Leakey’s Geni Profile


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Image: Smithsonian Institution, Flickr


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