Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mary Leakey's 100th birthday reminder by Google

Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist, who discovered the first fossilized Proconsul skull, an extinct ape now believed to be ancestral to humans, and also discovered the robust Zinjanthropus skull at Olduvai Gorge.Wikipedia
BornFebruary 6, 1913, London
DiedDecember 9, 1996, Nairobi
SpouseLouis Leakey (m. 1936–1972)

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Mary Douglas Leakey

Basically, I have been compelled by curiosity. – Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey discovered the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania.
Mary Leakey with the Laetoli footprints.
Mary Douglas Leakey (b. 1913, d. 1996) was one of the world’s most renowned hunters of early human fossils, credited with many discoveries that have changed the way scientists conceive human evolution. Together with her husband, Louis Leakey, she is considered to be a preeminent contributor to the field of human origins.
Born Mary Douglas Nicol, on February 6, 1913, she spent her early childhood traveling throughout Europe. During her travels she was exposed to prehistoric sites, such as the caves at Pech Merl in Dordogne, which influenced her to plan a career in geology and archeology; not a typical path for a woman at the time. She also showed artistic ability, and worked as an illustrator at the Hembury Dig in Devon, England at the age of seventeen. For two years she worked at the dig illustrating the archaeological progress. She had a special interest in the Stone Age, and she did expert illustrations of Stone Age tools and other artifacts. In 1937 she married Louis Leakey, whom she met through his request to illustrate a text of his. In 1948 Mary found her first truly important fossil of her long career as an archeologist, Proconsul africanus. The fossil consisted of half the skull, the upper and lower jaws, and all the teeth.

Honor Mary on her 100th birthday with a $100 donation!

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  • A special gift of our Valet Key Ring
  • Annual subscriptions to AnthroQuest andEvolutionary Anthropology
  • Discounts on tickets to lectures and events
Mary Douglas Leakey

In 1959, Mary discovered a hominid skull (which she reconstructed from hundreds of fragments) that her husband Louis named Zinjanthropus bosei (later reclassifiedAustralopithecus boisei), which first showed the great antiquity of hominids in Africa. Zinjanthropus bosei was dated to 1.75 million years ago, and that radically changed the concept of the timeline of human evolution. This find was also fortuitous for the Leakey’s, in that it drew attention and funding from the National Geographic Society, thus ensuring their continuing research.
Mary and Louis Leakey with the skull of Zinjanthropus boisei.
Mary and Louis Leakey inspecting the fossil found by Mary, 'Zinjanthropus boisei'.
In 1961 Mary found remains of a large brained hominid living at the same time as the Australopithecine, but belonging to the genus homo, called Homo habilis, the first tool user. After the death of her husband Louis in 1972, Mary went on in 1976 – 1977 to make what she considered the most exciting find of her career. About 30 miles south of the Olduvai Gorge at a site called Laetoli, Mary and her team found amazingly well-preserved hominid footprints in volcanic beds, known as tuffs. The footprints seemed to match the fossils found in the same area, belonging to the species Australopithecus afarensis (2.9 to 3.5 million years ago).
During this same time period, Mary and her team also found remains of 25 early hominids and an array of 15 new animal species, one of the most plentiful lot of fossil finds ever. Mary continued her interest and contributions to the field of paleontology well into her retirement. She passed away in 1996 at the age of 83.

Suggested Readings:

  • Leakey, Mary. Disclosing the Past: An Autobiography (1984)
  • Leakey, Mary. Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man (1979)
  • Leakey, Mary. Africa’s Vanishing Art: The Rock Paintings of Tanzania (1983)
  • Morell, Virginia. Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind’s Beginnings(1995)
  • Poynter, Margaret. The Leakeys: Uncovering the Origins of Humankind (1997) Children’s book
  • Willis, Delta. The Leakey Family: Leaders in the Search for Human Origins (1992)
  • Poynter, Margaret. The Leakeys: Uncovering the Origins of Humankind (1997) Children’s book
  • Willis, Delta. The Leakey Family: Leaders in the Search for Human Origins (1992)

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