Skip to comments.Famed Fossil Hunter and Conservationist Richard Leakey Dies at 77
Posted on 01/03/2022 5:26:10 PM PST by nickcarraway
Richard Leakey, the world-renowned paleoanthropologist-turned-conservationist, has died at 77.
The death of the native Kenyan was announced late Sunday by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
A cause of death was not given.
Leakey, whose famous parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, made profound contributions to the understanding of human evolution through key fossil finds of early hominids, also made important discoveries of his own in the field.
In 1981, he gained public notoriety as the presenter in a BBC television series called The Making of Mankind. By the late 1980s, however, he had shifted his focus, stepping in as head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, taking on poachers who threatened to wipe out the country's elephants and rhinos. He also helped bring international attention to the illicit ivory trade.
In 1993, while flying his small plane, it experienced a mechanical problem and crashed. He lost both of his legs below the knee due to his injuries. Leakey always suspected, but was never able to prove, sabotage by his political opponents.
Earlier, in 1979, he'd received the first of two kidney transplants — his brother Philip was the donor. Decades later, he was also the recipient of a liver transplant.
He briefly entered Kenyan politics, forming a new political party, and in the late '90s took up the post of head of Kenya's civil service with a determination to fight corruption.
"It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Dr. Richard Leakey," the nonprofit Leakey Foundation said in a tweet on Sunday. "He was a visionary whose great contributions to human origins and wildlife conservation will never be forgotten."
WildlifeDirect, which Leakey founded in 2004, said in a tribute on its website that he "stood for integrity, hard work and excellence in all areas — be it his work in paleontology, civil service, politics or wildlife conservation."
"He was a mentor to dozens of Africans in diverse fields and had played a key role in shaping the world's view on Africa's place in the human evolution story, on the development of multi-party democracy in Kenya, and on influencing climate change dialogue," the organization said, noting that he was "an icon and a national hero whose face graced Time magazine many times."
Speaking to NPR in 2011, Leakey described some of his important fossil finds nearly three decades before.
"It was enormously exciting because every day, practically, for the first six weeks, we were finding things that had never been seen before by modern humans," he said. "And we were the first to see them and realize that we had things in our hands that were going to answer questions that people have been worrying about for years."
National Geographic described Leakey as a "swashbuckling, pugnacious real-life Indiana Jones" who "managed to cheat death many times — a childhood skull fracture, kidney and liver failures that required transplants, public beatings, and a plane crash — before passing away in his home outside Nairobi."
At the time of his death, Leakey was serving as chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University in New York.
Great man, did wonderful work. RIP
I almost thought this thread was about Patrick Leahy.
[I almost thought this thread was about Patrick Leahy.]
The post was perfect but should have been pre-pended with:
Speaking of fossils, I almost thought this thread was about Patrick Leahy.
Does his skeleton go in the progressive chart of amoeba to fish to frog to lizard to ape to man?
Leahy wasn’t worthy to shine Leakey’s boots.
His Dad was one of my heroes when I was a kid. Of course The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was the TV highlight of my week.
From your lips…
I thought it was about Bruce Lietzke.
I think he was Jane Goodall’s mentor. Or perhaps it was his father.
Louis and Mary Leakey were undisputed pioneers in the field of humanoid fossils. R.I.P., Richard, but it seemed to me that he was at the forefront of a number of very speculative claims about human origins. I’m by no means a serious student of physical anthropology, but 25, 30 years ago, it always seemed like Richard and his peers were digging up various human skeleton remains, naming them “australopithecus whatever” and arguing, or even feuding, without much in the way of convincing proof, about whose bones were older and which bones were in the direct human line and which weren’t. I don’t want to say he was a pseudo-scientist per se, but kinda seemed like the particular field in which he was a leader flirts with pseudo-science.
Same here! When I was a little girl in grade school and asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered “a marine biologist” so my brother would good-naturedly tease me and say I wanted to be a marine, which he thought was funny because girls couldn’t be marines back then (dating myself here).
I did not become a marine biologist, but I did get to work on an archeaologigical dig in college.
Bury Leakey in Africa and in about 2 million years dig him up and hold up his skull and say hmm... primitive sub species.
Truly the loss of a brave man. Amazing that he survived for 42 years after his first kidney transplant, not to mention the other horrors. I think it was his father who inspired Jane Goodall. As a young woman fascinated by the idea of going into anthropology myself I was paying attention in those days. There has definitely been a split in the arguments for more and fewer branches on the evolutionary tree. Scientific argument is good, it eventually leads to more likely truth. I am currently reading the book Galileo’s Daughter. How hampering approved religion was in those days. Is it still hampering science today??? It certainly appears that the revelations of Big Pharma are having a big impact.
Will he be fossilized?........................
That and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom!.............
Possibly, but it’s not unlikely that no one will be around to see it.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.