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Pieces of Eight


Richard Leakey to Deliver ECU Lecture

World-renowned paleoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey will present “On the Origins and Future of Humanity,” Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in Wright Auditorium, as part of the newly announced Harriot Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series.

A visiting professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University, Leakey is known for his work in early human origins, particularly his expeditions to the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.

As director of the National Museums of Kenya, Leakey and and his teams unearthed early stone age tools dating back 1.9 million years and more than 200 fossils relevant to the emergence of the early man in Africa. Among his team’s findings was “Turkana Boy,” at 1.6 million years old, one of the most complete skeletons ever found.


He has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific articles and books including “The Origins of Humankind,” “Origins Reconsidered,” and “The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Mankind.” He has appeared in numerous films and documentaries including the seven-part BBC program, “The Making of Mankind, which he presented and narrated.

Leaky is internationally known for his wildlife conservation efforts. As head of Kenya Wildlife Service, he launched a controversial campaign to protect the country’s natural resources. Combating elephant and rhinocerous poaching set him against internal corruption and a dangerous criminal element.

Despite opposition, his efforts drew international support for a ban on the ivory trade, raising more than $150 million for wildlife conservation. His latest book, “Wildlife Wars,” chronicles his work to save the African elephant.

In 1993 Leaky lost both legs below the knee in an airplane crash. The following year, he resigned from the Wildlife Service.

In 1995 Leakey continued his crusade against government corruption by forming Safina, an opposition party. He served as secretary general of that party and was eventually named to the Kenyan parliament.

In 1999, he was appointed head of Kenya’s Civil Service and Secretary of the Cabinet, a position in which he continued to tackle corruption in the country’s government. He retired from that position in 2001.

Leakey and his wife, Maeve, have continued a legacy of work handed down from his famed parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, who sought archaeological evidence of man’s origin through study in Tanzania, an east African nation just south of Kenya. Time magazine has declared the Leakey family one of the 100 most influential of the 20th century for their work in shaping modern understanding of human origin.

“Without the groundbreaking – and backbreaking – efforts of Louis, Mary and Richard, the story of how we evolved would still be largely untold,” the magazine stated.

Leakey was honored in June with an honorary doctorate in science presented by Cambridge University. He was inducted into the Fellowship of the Royal Society at Cambridge. He holds numerous honors and awards including the Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society, the Gold Medals of both the Scottish Geographical Society and Royal Geographical Society, the Companion of the Golden Ark and Order of the Burning Spear from Kenya.

Leakey maintains his commitment to the study of human origins and wildlife conservation, sharing his experience with the public through grassroots projects and public lectures. Tickets to his ECU presentation are available through the ECU ticket office. ECU students and faculty will be admitted without charge.

The Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series is sponsored through contributions from the Dean’s Advancement Council for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the ECU Alumni Association.

For additional details on the Leakey presentation or other lectures in the series, contact series director John Tucker (History) at


This page originally appeared in the September 21, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at