Richard Leakey, the Kenyan paleoanthropologist who discovered key evidence that Africa was the birthplace of humankind, has died at age 77. An esteemed fossil hunter and conservationist, Leakey was the son of paleontology legends Louis and Mary Leakey. From the New York Times:
One of his most celebrated finds came in 1984 when he helped unearth "Turkana Boy," a 1.6-million-year-old skeleton of a young male Homo erectus. The other was a skull called "1470," found in 1972, that extended the world's knowledge of the Homo erectus species several million years deeper into the past.
"He was a mentor to dozens of Africans in diverse fields and had played a key role in shaping the world's view on Africa's place in the human evolution story," WildlifeDirect, the organization he founded, said in a statement on Sunday.
"He had equally impactful careers in so many different areas," [Lawrence Martin, director of Stony Brook University's Turkana Basin Institute, which Leakey founded,] said, adding that Mr. Leakey "has probably been responsible for producing close to half of the world's evidence for human evolution."
Mr. Leakey was also a passionate conservationist with a fiery personality. In 1989, he drew international attention when he took a stand against the ivory trade by helping to burn the country's stockpile of 12 tons of ivory. The process was repeated in 2016.