The Leakey family
When Louis Leakey and Mary Nicol first met, he asked her to help with illustrations for his upcoming (1934) book Adam's Ancestors: An Up-to-Date Outline of What is Known aboutthe Origin of Man. Within a few years they were married. They and their children (especially Richard and his wife Meave) became known as the first family of paleontology.
Louis Leakey was born in 1903in Kenya, where his English parents were missionaries. He learned the Kikuyu language and customs, and while searching for birds as a young man often found prehistoric stone tools in the riverbeds.These early influences would shape his career. After World War I, he went to secondary school and university in England, but took a year off to recover from a sports injury. In his year off, he joined afossil-finding expedition to what is now Tanzania, which opened his eyes to the field and to the question of human origins. He graduated in 1926, not long after Raymond Dart first found very earlyhuman remains in South Africa.
In 1931, Leakey made his first trip to the Olduvai Gorge, in what is now Tanzania -- the site of some of his most important finds. Though he found a few things ofinterest, he didn't return for a serious excavation until the 1950s.
Mary Douglas Nicols was born in 1913 to a family of artists and archaeologists. Early influences also encouraged her to study geology andarcheology, and to plan a career in it, an unusual step for a woman at the time. Her specialty was in the early Stone Age and she was expert at drawing early tools and other artifacts.
Louis andMary met on a dig in England, and both worked briefly at the Olduvai Gorge before being married in England. It was Leakey's second marriage. They returned to Kenya in 1937 and had three children.
Theirson Richard, born in Kenya in 1944, made his first fossil find at age six -- a part of an extinct giant pig. He resisted following his parents' career, feeling he didn't want to ride on their coat...
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