Saturday, May 7, 2011

Richard Leakey Reflects On Human Past—And Future

Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey talks about what several generations of fossil finds reveal about human origins, and how modern Homo sapiens are threatening the future of life around the globe. Evolutionary biologist Quentin Atkinson joins to discuss the origins of language, which, like hominids, he's traced to Africa.



You're listening to SCIFRI. I'm Ira Flatow. If you've even remotely - if you're ever even remotely interested in anthropology and human origins, chances are you've heard about the name Leakey, a dynasty of fossil-hunters in East Africa of whom my next guest is a member.

His father and his mother, Louis and Mary Leakey, contributed volumes to our understanding of human evolution with the fossils they uncovered at the Olduvai Gorge, along with Mary Leakey's later discovery of a long trail of footprints left by bipedal hominids three and a half million years ago in Tanzania.

My next guest added to the human family tree with many finds of his own, including the nearly complete skeleton of Turkana Boy, a Homo erectus. He also has served as the head of the Kenya Wildlife Service in his time there, sparing many elephants and rhinos from being poached for their ivory.

And he's spent a fair amount of time in Kenyan politics too. So he's sort of led three different lives, and he's here with us to talk about it. Richard Leakey is founder of the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya, where he lives. He's a professor at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. And he's here in our New York studios. It's my pleasure to welcome you to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

To read the transcript or hear the rest of the interview, go to the NPR site.


NPR. 2011. "Richard Leakey Reflects On Human Past—And Future". NPR. Posted: April 15, 2011. Available online:

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