Famed Paleoanthropologist, Richard Leakey Dies

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Famed Paleoanthropologist and Wildlife Conservationist Richard Leakey Dies at 77

by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com

Richard Leakey, a world-renowned paleoanthropologist and conservationist who uncovered evidence that supports human origins and evolution in Africa, died at 77 on January 2, reports Arnaud Siad for CNN.

The announcement was made late Sunday evening by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement, but a cause of death was not stated, reports Scott Neuman for NPR.



On December 19, 1944, Leakey was born in Nairobi to notable parents Louis and Mary Leakey, who made many profound discoveries in human evolution, per NPR.

At first determined to evade his parents’ field, Richard Leakey would eventually follow in their footsteps with a few key fossil finds himself, report Alyssa Lukpat and Christine Chung for the New York Times. After a brief stint as a safari guide, he finally caved in to fossil fever and began pursing anthropology. After running out of money before he could support his degree in London, he returned to Kenya to learn about anthropology firsthand, according to an archived article published by the New York Times in 1979.

While he never completed formal schooling, Leakey began exploring the eastern shore of Kenya’s Lake Turkana in 1967, where he and his “Hominid Gang” discovered a treasure trove of fossils that changed how the world understood human evolution, per the New York Times. Read More:

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