Lake Natron Archaeologist Richard Leakey Dies

The Last of the famous Leakey’s paleoanthropologists line, Richard Leakey has died in Nairobi in the second day of the year.

Known as Richard Erskine Frere Leakey, the scientist and politician who was born on the 19th of December 1944, passed away in the afternoon of the 2nd of January 2022.

He was the second son of Louis and Mary, Leakey and participated in his parent’s field expeditions at Olduvai Gorge as well as Laetoli Sites in Ngorongoro, Tanzania from early age.

He automatically inherited the two scientists’ legacy, becoming a renowned archaeologist himself who carried out series of fosil excavations and discoveries around Lake Natron area, at the foot of the active Volacano Oldonyo L’engai.

Richard reportedly made his first fossil discovery when he was only six.

He found a part of an extinct giant pig, but despite this achievement, Richard initially resisted to follow his parents’ career path. He dropped out of high school to lead photo safaris in the early 1960s.

However by 1963 Richard will be back in the trade, leading a team to excavation in Tanganyika (Tanzania), where they made important findings in Ngorongoro. He joined and led several more expeditions and by 1964 while working around Lake Natron he met Margaret Cropper, a fellow fossil-hunter.

They eventually married but the couple later divorced in 1970.

Richard worked for the Center for Prehistory and Paleontology which his father had established in Nairobi.

Apart from his paleoanthropological efforts, that involved extensive field research and discoveries, Richard Leakey also worked, for many years, as the director of the National Museums of Kenya. 

Richard is also credited with the formation of the Kenya Museum Associates (now Kenya Museum Society)

In 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Leakey to serve as the Board Chairman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Richard is essentially the product of Louis Leakey and Mary Leakey, scientists who pioneered research on the origins of humans in East Africa.

The name Leakey became synonimous with research on human evolution and they proved that humans first appeared in Africa. Louis and Mary Leakey traced the origins of the human lineage for a period spanning 18 million years to learn more about the ape-like ancestors of Homo sapiens.