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Mary Leakey's 100th Birthday: A Look at Her Human Achievements


Yesterday marks the 100th birthday of anthropologist Mary Leakey, whose extensive research in Africa's Rift Valley taught us that our ancestors had capabilities far beyond the image of the primitive, brutish Neanderthal (although the existence of Arnold Schwarzenegger could argue against it).

Born in 1913 in London, Mary Leakey showed little interest in her formal education and only found her calling once she discovered archaeology. She met her other famous half, archaeologist Louis Leakey, while illustrating his book, Adam's Ancestors, and in 1937, the pair married and became of the most famous science husband-wife teams (pictured above). (An interesting factoid to note: Louis mentored the likes ofJane GoodallDian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, who are now being referred to as Leakey's Angels.).



A believer of Charles Darwin's theory that the human species originated in Africa, Leakey took her work to the Dark Contient and in 1960 discovered Homo habilis (the "handy man"), a predecessor to the Neanderthal, who made tools for various purposes.

In 1975, Leakey and her team were credited for another explosive finding: They uncovered footprints, which were thought to be 3.5 million years old, leading scientists to believe that even before the tool makers, hominids were walking upright.

Leakey continued active fieldwork until 1983. Although she died in 1996 at the age of 83, her son Richard and her granddaughter Louise continue her work in Africa.

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