Sunday, November 30, 2008

Richard Leakey

When your are told that a Rock star is coming to campus, it evokes the images of many famous people. Who could it be? Madonna? NickelBack? Richard Leakey? Wait Richard Leakey? Who is Richard Leakey? And why is he a Rock Star?
According to, “Richard Erskine Leakey was born on December 19, 1944. At an early age, he decided he wanted nothing to do with paleoanthropology, and later dropped out of high school. In 1964, he led an expedition to a fossil site he had seen from the air and discovered that he enjoyed looking for fossils. He also discovered, to his dismay, that although he had technically led the expedition, all the glory went to the scientists who studied the specimens. So in 1965, he went to England to study for a degree. He spent 6 months catching up on two years of missed high school then returned home to resume his safaris, work at the National Museum of Kenya, and manage paleontological expeditions (he never did return to get his degree).”
"After working on a French/Kenyan/American joint expedition to Omo in Ethiopia, Richard realized once again that his lack of scientific qualifications hindered his progress, so he asked the National Geographic Society for funds to run his own excavation at a site he had found near Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana) in Kenya. In 1968, nimble political maneuvering led to him being appointed as the director of the National Museum of Kenya, and he commenced fossil hunting at Rudolf. The expedition was successful, finding large numbers of fossils, including hominids. The excavations continued in subsequent years, producing a steady stream of hominid fossils that dazzled the scientific world. Most spectacular were the fossils ER 1470, a Homo habilis skull found in 1972, and ER 3733, a Homo erectus skull found in 1975."

Now you might still be scratching your head as to why is he a Rock Star, well I should probably qualify it, he is considered a Rock Star to Anthropologist. So on a Cold and rainy night in the begining of October a multitude of people swarmed to come see him speak at Laxson Auditorium in Chico, California. He look much like he looks in the photo graph below, complete with podium, but minus the Stony Brook University sign. 
His lecture was humorous and elicited many laughs from the audience. He outlined his life, from dropping out of high school, to loosing his legs, to being part of the political workings of the Kenyan government. He briefly mentioned the skeletons that he has found that have contributed hugely to the fossil record. But mostly he tried to focus on conservation.
Dr. Leakey believes that our national parks are becoming islands, that if we don't do something soon the impact of climate change will hit these parks hard and we will loose many animals to extinction. He went on to say that it's not to late to make a difference, but that we have to try. We have to realize that global warming will probably affect us in our lifetime and not our children or our children's children. That if we just stop wasting, the whole world will be better off in the long run. He also believes that we need to educate and bring the standard of living up for all people of the planet. For people who have more education and a higher standard of living have less children, and at 6 Billion and growing the human population is far exceeding the resources of this planet.

As an anthropology student and a member of the human race, I found his talk inspiring and I was also in awe of the man, how he over came loosing both his legs in a airplane crash to lead a very successful life. I hope you all go out and find out more about Richard Leakey and all that he has giving to us as the human race.

Photos found at the following:
All info about Dr. Leakey's life found at:

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