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date: 15 July 2020

Leakey, Louis locked

1903–1972 British paleoanthropologist, noted for his discoveries of fossil remains that greatly advanced the study of human evolution.
  • Robert Fay

Extract

Louis Leakey was born in Kabete, Kenya, to British missionaries working in colonial Kenya. Even before he received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Cambridge in England, Leakey was convinced that human evolution began in Africa, not in Asia as was commonly believed among his contemporaries. To prove his theory, Leakey focused his archaeological research on expeditions to Olduvai, a river gorge in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He found important fossils and Stone Age tools, but until 1959 Leakey had not found definitive evidence that Africa was the cradle of human evolution.

On an expedition to Olduvai in 1959, his wife, Mary Douglas Leakey, with whom he had worked since 1933, discovered the partial remains of a 1.75-million-year-old fossil hominid. Louis Leakey classified it as Zinjanthropus (later classified as Australopithecus boisei). From 1960 to 1963 the Leakeys unearthed other important remains including another fossil hominid ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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