Listen to Episode 132 on PodBean, YouTube, Spotify, or your podcast-player of choice!
They are two of the biggest names in the history of paleoanthropology and human evolution, and they’re one of history’s most impressive scientific duos. This episode, we discuss the science and stories of Mary and Louis Leakey.
Our guest this episode is Meredith Johnson, Communications Director at the Leakey Foundation and host of Origin Stories! Learn more here!
In the news
Can artificial intelligence help us examine dinosaur skulls? Maybe!
The molecular secrets behind convergent evolution of colorful nectar.
Cambrian arthropods with evidence of early nervous systems.
Homo erectus might not have been quite the carnivore we thought.
The Laudable Leakeys
Mary and Louis Leakey were paleoanthropologists and archeologists and pioneers in the study of human evolution. During their careers, they made numerous groundbreaking discoveries about the history of hominins, particularly in Africa.
Mary was born in 1913 in England. Early in her life, she developed an interest in geology and archaeology (an uncommon path for women of her time) and she became a skilled illustrator. In fact, she first met Louis when he asked her to provide illustrations to accompany his work; the two married in 1937. Beyond her illustrations, Mary excelled at identifying and recovering ancient tools and fossils. Her discoveries include some of the most famous finds in the study of human evolution, such as the early ape Proconsul, the early human Homo habilus, the famous skull of Paranthropus boisei (originally named Zinjanthropus by Louis), and the extraordinary hominin footprints of Laetoli.
Louis was born to English parents in Kenya in 1903. He, too, developed an early fascination for archaeology, and he went on to lead expeditions to Africa in search of human ancestors. Louis was a champion of the idea that humans originated in Africa, which was controversial at the time but is widely accepted today, thanks largely to the discoveries that Louis and Mary made there. Louis was an avid writer and speaker, scientifically describing many of the couple’s findings, discussing human evolution on lecture tours, and supporting up-and-coming primatologists such as the now-famous Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas.
Mary and Louis aren’t the only Leakeys of scientific renown; a number of their children and children-in-law became scientists as well. Notable amongst them is Richard Leakey; he and his wife Maeve have made significant contributions of their own to paleoanthropology. Richard passed away shortly before we recorded this episode.
The Leakey legacy lives on today, not only in their descendants and in ongoing investigations into human evolution in Africa, but also in the work of organizations like the Leakey Foundation, a United States-based organization committed to supporting the study of human origins through research grants, education, and public outreach. Our guest for this episode, Meredith Johnson, is Communications Director for the Leakey Foundation and host of their podcast, Origin Stories.
If you enjoyed this topic and want more like it, check out these related episodes:
- Episode 18 – Human Evolution
- Episode 56 – Evolution of Evolutionary Theory
- Episode 28 – Charles Darwin
- Episode 54 – Alfred Russell Wallace
We also invite you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, buy merch at our Zazzle store, join our Discord server, or consider supporting us with a one-time PayPal donation or on Patreon to get bonus recordings and other goodies!
Please feel free to contact us with comments, questions, or topic suggestions, and to rate and review us on iTunes