Family of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists known for their discoveries of hominin and other fossil remains in eastern Africa. Louis S.B. Leakey (b. 1903d. 1972), born of British missionary parents, grew up in Kenya, was educated at Cambridge University, and eventually (1931) began field research at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. He was joined there by his wife, Mary D. Leakey (b. 1913d. 1996), who in 1959 uncovered remains of a form of Australopithecus. The couple later uncovered the first known remains of Homo habilis, as well as those of Kenyapithecus, a possible common ancestor of humans and apes that lived c. 14 million years ago. L.S.B. Leakey commissioned Jane Goodall, Biruté Galdikas, and Dian Fossey to undertake pioneering studies of chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas, respectively. Mary Leakey continued to make important discoveries, including the Laetoli footprints, after her husband's death. Their son, Richard Leakey (b. 1944), is known for his work at the Koobi Fora site on the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya, where he uncovered evidence of H. habilis dated as early as 2.5 million years ago. His wife, zoologist Meave Leakey (b. 1942), discovered two new hominin species.
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