Mary Douglas Leakey

In London, England, on February 6, 1913, Mary Douglas Leakey was born. Her original name was Mary Douglas Nicol. She had no siblings and two parents who were Erskine Nicol, a scenery painter, and Cecilia Frere Nicol. Due to her father’s work, the family moved frequently. Quite a bit of her initial adolescence was gone through voyaging abroad with her parents through mostly Europe and some parts of Africa. This made her develop a dedication both for prehistory and drawing. Mary’s powerful fondness for animals was a significant part her life. It was introduced, when her and her family spent time in the home of her mother’s aunt and grandmother, during World War I. When the War ended the Leakey family proceeded with its yearly cycle of European travel.
From a young age, Mary had the opportunity to experience life in many towns and countries, including Italy, Switzerland, and France. While living in France, she was exposed to archaeology and Paleolithic archaeology. She was also exposed to prehistoric sites, such as the caves. This influenced her to plan a career in geology and archaeology. At the time this was something unusual for females. Mary’s early education was mostly unofficial because of all the travelling, but her father gave her education to the best of his abilities. He helped her to write, read, do some mathematics and shared his interest in archaeology. Tragically among their stay in France, in 1926 Mary’s father, at the age of 58 died rather unexpectedly. The injury of the occasion, added extra changes as Mary and her mother returned to London. This presented a time of defiance that brought about her expulsion from two different Catholic schools in Kensington and Wimbledon.
Since university admission had been incomprehensible with her academic record, in 1930 at the age of eighteen, she began to work on archaeological digs. Mary Leakey began to review and attended University lectures in archaeology, prehistory, and geology, at a University and Museum of London. Even though she never had a full formal education, she worked as a scientific illustrator. Her drawings for The Desert Fayoum, a book by a friend and anthropologist, made her encounter Louis Leakey in 1933 at Cambridge. Mary accepted Louis’s request in wanting her to do, the drawings for his book, Adam’s Ancestors. After that she started an affair with him, although Louis had a child and a wife who was pregnant. Mary went to Africa with Louis on his next trip, and when they returned, she lived with him. Following his divorce in early 1963, from the affair, Mary and Louis were married in the late 1936. A few years later, they had three children and every one of them got to be involved in fossil science.
Shortly after being married, Mary went to Kenya with Louis and decided to work with him in East Africa. This became the central location of their work. Tools as two million years ago were discovered by Mary, in 1942. These tools were called Oldowan stone tools. In 1948, she found a preserved skull of a hominoid which was perfectly intact. It was called Proconsul Africanus, and is about 16 million years old, which was found in Tanzania. In 1959, she discovered another hominid fossil, Zinjanthropus boisei. It is the first of a new group of an Australopithecus boisei, which was also found in Tanzania. The remains were about 1.8-million-year-old. After this discovery, the Leakey became famous, because some had the idea that, the disclosure may be the missing connection between people and primates. Mary worked many other sites such as the Olorgesailie. After being a widowed in 1972, she went travelling to give lectures, and raise funds.
She uncovered two footprints of two hominids, called Laetoli, found in 1978. The remains indicated that humans began to walk upright much early than scientists predicted. Her several most important archaeological discoveries were generally overshadowed by her husband. Her finds were interpreted and publicized by her husband although she was the real finder of the archaeological evidence.
Mary retired in 1983 from dynamic hands-on work. She moved to Nairobi from Olduvai Gorge where she had resided for almost 20 years. In retirement, she proceeded with her curiosity, contributions, and commitments to science, composing and publishing articles about her lifetime of unbelievable and amazing breakthroughs. She passed away on December 9, 1996 at the age of eighty-three in Nairobi, Kenya. Although her husband Louis Leakey was the better-known figure, she became a famous scientist. Even though she never earned a degree, she received other awards and many honours from institutions around the world. Mary Leakey was a careful, persistent, and tolerant scientist. Her large achievements in archaeology made her knowledgeable, acquainted and properly educated within the area and well known. Currently, Mary Leakey’s work proceeds through both the Leakey Foundation as well as the young ages of the Leakey family. Who are Richard Leakey, his wife, Maeve, as well as their daughter, Louise, who plays an active position in carrying on the family legacy and heritage.

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