Leakey, Louis Seymour Bazett

Leakey, Louis Seymour Bazett băzˈət, lēˈkē [key], 1903–72, British archaeologist and anthropologist of E Africa, b. Kabete, Kenya; father of Richard Leakey. His fossil discoveries in E Africa demonstrated that humans were far older than had previously been suspected. Leakey, the son of missionary parents, grew up among the Kikuyu people of Kenya. After studying at Cambridge, he began his archaeological research in E Africa in 1924. Leakey was curator of the Coryndon Museum of Nairobi (1945–61), after which he did research and taught in Africa, England, and the United States. In 1959, Mary Leakey, his wife, discovered in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, a hominin fossil (Paranthropus, originally classified as Zinjanthropus) believed to be 1,750,000 years old. In 1961 Leakey unearthed another fossil (Homo habilis) at Olduvai, which he believed to be a more direct ancestor of Homo sapiens. His writings include The Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony (1931), Mau Mau and the Kikuyu (1952), and Adam's Ancestors (4th ed. 1953; repr. 1960).

See V. Morell, Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings (1995).

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