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Leakey, Louis (Seymour Bazett)

east british africa tanganyika

(1895–1972) British–Kenyan archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist: discovered several hominids.

The son of a British missionary working in British East Africa (now Kenya), Leakey became interested in Stone Age man while he was young. He studied anthropology at Cambridge, reading French and Kikuyu (the language of the Kenyans among whom he had been brought up) and taking part in a British Museum expedition to Tanganyika in his second year. Between 1926 and 1935 he organized a series of archaeological and palaeontological expeditions to East Africa, the later ones visiting Olduvai Gorge, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where a German lepidopterist had found fossils in 1911. During expeditions there he found hominid skulls and stone tools, which he believed to represent an early ancestor of man. Further discoveries followed, including in 1960 the remains of Homo habilis , a tool-making hominid with a relatively large brain. Leakey’s findings established East Africa as the possible birthplace of man and traced his ancestry further back than had been possible previously. His son Richard (1944– ) is also a noted East African palaeoanthropologist.

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