Honorary Associates of Rationalist International

Dr. Richard Leakey (Kenya)

Dr. Richard Leakey

The fossil-hunting expeditions Leakey led to the shores surrounding Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolf) in northern Kenya resulted in the discovery of a large number of hominid fossils that inspired a dramatic revision of many theories of early human evolution. These finds included a number of skulls and other skeletal bones of very early representatives of the genus Homo (the genus of modern humans), and the earliest skull of a robust Australopithecus. Among the most spectacular finds was the almost complete skeleton of an adolescent boy, discovered in 1984 at Nariokotome, on the western shore of Lake Turkana. At 1.6 million years old, the "Turkana Boy" is the most complete skeleton dated from this early time. In 1983 Leakey was involved in another major discovery, that of the 17-million-year-old jaw, teeth, and skull fragments of an apelike creature, Sivapithecus, a possible ancestor of both humans and apes.

Richard Leakey established the Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory. He was director of the National Museums of Kenya from 1968 to 1989, when he was appointed director of the Wildlife Services of Kenya, a post he resigned in 1990. He has been active in conservation, attempting to balance the needs of local farmers with the preservation of Kenya's wildlife. He has led efforts to reduce elephant poaching and the sale of ivory on the black market. With science writer Roger Lewin, Leakey co-authored Origins (1977), People of the Lake (1978), and Origins Reconsidered (1992). He also wrote an autobiography, One Life (1984)). At present he is Permanent Secretary, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service - Office of the President, Republic of Kenya.