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Famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey to speak at Tarleton
Dr. Richard Leakey

Tarleton State University

Thursday, March 20, 2014

STEPHENVILLE, Texas—The mystery of man’s origin and evolution continues to unfold as scientists unearth new evidence of our earliest existence. Dr. Richard Leakey, a renowned paleoanthropologist, political advisor and environmentalist, will speak on his 40-plus years of human prehistory research on Tuesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center auditorium.

His speaking engagement, “An Evening with Richard Leakey: Exploring a Life of Discovery,” is part of the university’s Speaker Symposium Lecture Series. Admission to the event is free and the public is invited to attend.

Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Greatest Minds of the 20th Century,” Leakey has been a key voice behind wildlife conservation and preservation for nearly a half-century. Born in 1944 as the son of famed fossil-hunters Louis B. and Mary Leakey, Leakey and his family have been credited with some of the most significant fossil discoveries in history.

For more than 40 years, Leakey has made international headlines for his work in Kenya. As former director of the National Museums of Kenya and of the Kenya Wildlife Service, he has used his influence to raise money for the preservation of Kenyan wildlife and culture. In 1995, he took a stand against the growing corruption in Kenya’s government by forming Safina, an opposition party.

Through the years, he and a team of paleoanthropologists known as “The Hominid Gang” unearthed more than 200 fossils. Many were of high quality, and the most famous, “Turkana Boy” discovered in 1984, a Homo erectus some 1.6 million years old, was one of the most complete skeletons ever found. His wife, primate zoologist Meave Epps Leakey, today continues the research on human origins. In 1995, she discovered fossils indicating that humans walked upright 4 million years ago—500,000 years earlier than had been previously thought.

In 1989, Leakey became director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. In 1993, he lost both legs in a plane crash and resigned from the Wildlife Service. In 1999, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi appointed Leakey head of the Civil Service and Secretary of the Cabinet, a post he held until 2001. During that time, he worked closely on a number of national issues, including the fight to end institutionalized corruption in Kenya.

Though no longer active in fieldwork, Leakey remains one of the foremost authorities on wildlife and nature conservation. As the author of more than 100 articles and books, Leakey examined the five great catastrophic extinctions in the history of the planet in his book, The Sixth Extinction. Written in 1995, the book stressed how human beings are dangerously reducing biodiversity, damaging eco-systems and possibly precipitating the next major mass extinction, which could affect humans. His other books include Origins, Origins Reconsidered, The Origins of Humankind, and Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa’s Natural Treasures.

Now a professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University on Long Island and an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London, Leakey has convened the Stony Brook World Environmental Forum and the Human Evolution Symposiums and Workshops. He is chair of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook and Transparency International-Kenya and spends most of his time in Kenya.

“This is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students and the entire community to hear and meet one of the best anthropologists of the 20th century,” said Dr. Marcy Tanter, chair of the Speaker Symposium committee. “We’re very lucky to be hosting Dr. Leakey.”


Tarleton State University
A member of The Texas A&M University System

Contact: Dr. Marcy Tanter

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Dr. Richard Leakey