Meave Leakey seems to have the philosophy that if we can understand our past, we should be in a better position to understand our future. Such a view might not be the only reason for looking backward for what we can find out about ourselves today, but most would agree that it is a good one. She has practiced her philosophy by becoming one of the most renowned paleoanthropologists of this day.
Leakey’s professionalism should not be too much of a surprise considering her background. She comes from a family that has had a distinguished reputation for digging out the facts that help to explain human evolution. The efforts of her family paid off handsomely due to their numerous and important findings. She has followed in the family tradition with her own professional accomplishments, and evidence suggests that she could make additional ones in the future.
Leakey received her B.S. in zoology and her Ph.D. in zoology and marine zoology from the University of North Wales. In 1968, she worked with Richard Leakey when he was conducting his research near a lake in Kenya, and the experience provided her with the opportunity to engage in beneficial research activities. Certainly one of her most notable professional accomplishments occurred in 1999, when her research team found a skull and jaw suggesting that there had been a newly discovered branch of an early human family. It also suggested that there existed in the past a type of species of which present-day researchers were unaware. Her discovery also contradicted the current view at the time, namely that humans evolved from just one branch. This important finding understandably brought her national and international attention and contributed greatly to her high stature in the profession.
In addition to her impressive research accomplishments, Leakey has authored a number of professional scientific articles that should be of great help to those interested in her specialty. Likely because of her many contributions in her chosen area of inquiry, Leakey was named “explorer in residence” by the National Geographic Society. It seems likely that Leakey will continue to be fruitful in her research and other professional endeavors, thereby demonstrating her worthiness as a recipient of this distinguished award.
- Leakey, M. (1988). Guide to Koobi Fora: The East Turkana fossil sites. Nairobi: National Museums of Kenya.
- Morell, V. (1995). Ancestral passions: The Leakey family and the quest for humankind’s beginnings. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Poynter, M. (1997). The Leakeys: Uncovering the origins of humankind. Springfield, NJ: Enslow.
- Willis, D. (1992). The Leakey family: Leaders in the search for human origins. New York: Facts on File.