Louis Leakey was born on August 7, 1903, in Kenya, and, with wife Mary Leakey, created an excavation site at Olduvai Gorge to find fossils. Leakey, an enthusiastic lecturer and writer who also worked in primatology, expired on October 1, 1972. In 1921, he travelled to England to be taught in anthropology and archaeology at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, finally earning his doctorate in African prehistory. He held fast to Charles Darwin’s belief that mankind had originated from Africa, defying traditional beliefs the species’ sources were from Asia or Europe.
Leakey returned to the continent of his arrival to take up Eastern archaeological expeditions in the mid-1920s, after releasing work on his hominid discoveries. Leakey made his first excursion to Olduvai Gorge, located in modern day Tanzania, in 1931. The site would finally become one he was renowned for. Leakey wed Mary Nicol in 1937. The two had worked together on Leakey’s 1934 novel Adam’s Ancestors, for which Nicol supplied archaeological example. Leakey again defied the traditions of his day by divorcing his first wife, with whom he had had two kids. Louis and Mary moved to Kenya and would have three kids in their very own.
After the Second World War, Louis Leakey became curator of the Coryndon Memorial Museum in Nairobi, and worked with other organizations that focused on ancient research and inquiry. In 1948, at Rusinga Island, Mary Leakey found the fossil remains of Proconsul africanus, an ancestor of apes and people that existed more than 18 million years past.
After having done preceding excavation work at Olduvai, unearthing early instruments and animal fossils, in 1959 the Leakeys started leading excavations in the site. That year, within a period when Louis had the influenza, Mary found a human fossil dubbed Zinjanthropus bosei that could be estimated to be around 2 million years of age.
Then in 1960, their son Jonathan as well as the Leakey team made another important fossil find, that of Homo habilis, mankind’s first found ancestor thus far. Louis Leakey, who also chanced upon a Homo erectus skull in the site, after theorized that H. habilis and Z. bosei symbolized independent, coexisting hominid lineages, a claim met with initial skepticism from peers. (After findings would support Leakey in his declaration.)
The Olduvai discoveries were a sense, significantly illuminating mankind’s sources. Mary and Louis Leakey apparently had a strained relationship throughout the later years of the union, exacerbated by professional and private pressures. Louis Leakey expired on October 1, 1972, in London, England.