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Richard Erskine Frere Leakey's parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, introduced him to paleoanthropology, the study of fossilized remains of extinct humanlike creatures called hominids. The elder Leakeys, whose discoveries at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania revolutionized theories of early Human Evolution, often took Richard with them on their fossil-hunting expeditions. Leakey left Nairobi's Duke of York School at the age of seventeen to start a business leading wildlife photography safaris.

Although he had no formal training, Leakey began fossil-hunting when he was only nineteen. His most famous discoveries were made in the area around Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf) in northern Kenya where he uncovered more than 200 fossils of early hominids These include an almost complete skeleton of an adolescent boy found at Nariokotome on the western shore The 1 6 million year old Turkana Boy is the most complete skeleton ever found from that period of ...