Noted Paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey Speaks On Campus Today


CSU is once again bringing a piece of the world to the greater Columbus community by inviting paleoanthropologist and zoologist Meave Leakey as this year's Hunter Lecture series speaker on Thursday March 18 at 12:30 p.m. in Fine Arts Hall.

In anticipation of Leakey's presentation, CSU faculty will lead a forum titled Boning Up on Human Origins on Thursday, March 11 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Columbus Room of the Davidson Student Center.

Established by an annual endowment from Madge Hunter in memory of her husband James W. Hunter, a CSU supporter and advocate of innovative higher education, the Hunter Lecture Series attracts the most accomplished and esteemed international scholars to CSU.

'Dr. Leakey is not only at the top of her field, but she represents a tradition of first-rate scholarship that all students should see, hear, and even emulate,' said anthropology and archaeology professor Warren Church.

Leakey is recognized as the current leader in a family of paleoanthropologists who have dominated the field as a fossil-hunting dynasty for the last 50 years. Throughout her career, Leakey has led expeditions concentrating on sites around four million years old resulting in several significant discoveries of early human ancestors and ancient mammals.

'Dr. Leakey is in one of the finest areas for working on early human ancestry,' said paleontology professor David Schwimmer. 'East Africa is a hot bed for early human evolution.'

In 1999 Leakey was internationally acknowledged for her discovery of a 3.5-million-year-old fossil skull in Kenya named Kenyanthropus platyops, which could be connected to a new branch of early humans. Drawing international attention and a front-page story in the New York Times, her discovery has been heralded as a challenge to the fundamental belief that humans descended from a single line of evolution.

'She has either discovered a parallel branch of humans or it is a distorted specimen of a known species,' said Schwimmer. 'Either way, it shows us that mankind was more variable than today.'

She also is recognized for her 1994 discovery of a new species of hominid that began to walk upright four million years ago, which is a half a million years earlier than previously thought possible. Leakey has worked for the National Museums of Kenya since 1969 and in 1982, she became Head of the Division of Paleontology. She has written more than 50 scientific articles and books about her work and has been named a National Geographic explorer-in-residence while continuing her role as a significant contributor and prominent scientist in a highly competitive and male-dominated profession.

Besides an expert scientist, Leakey also is known as a masterful storyteller who conveys the importance of studying human origins through stunning images and personal accounts of her fieldwork in Africa.

'Dr. Leakey is famed as a gifted public speaker, and her talk is timely as she has just announced important new discoveries that are changing current theories on human origins,' said Church. 'Thanks to the Hunter Lecture Series, all who attend will be able to participate in the excitement of search, discovery and the process of theory-building.'