Dr. Richard Leakey
Dr. Richard Leakey's details
- Country: Kenya
- Studies: Professor
- University: Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University
- Dr. Richard Leakey's presentations
Professor, Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), Stony Brook University, Richard Erskine Frere Leakey, son of Louis and Mary, was born on December 19, 1944. He participated in his parents’ field expeditions from an early age and was therefore well-placed to inherit their legacy. His career in paleoanthropology involved not only field research and discoveries, but also many years serving as the director of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK). His work in the Turkana Basin region of northern Kenya began after a chance landing in the area led Leakey to believe that the area held a wealth of fossil deposits. Together with a team from the NMK, Leakey led the first expedition to Koobi Fora in 1968. Between 1968 and 1989 he coordinated the NMK field expeditions to the eastern and western shores of Lake Turkana. Assisted by a team of talented and experienced fossil hunters, many watershed finds were made, including 1.9 million-year-old early stone age tools, and evidence of early members of the genus Homo, including the extraordinary discovery of the nearly complete 1.6 million year old skeleton of “Turkana Boy”, a juvenile Homo erectus.
As head of the KWS, Leakey successfully fought elephant and rhino poaching and oversaw a reorganization of Kenya’s troubled national park system. In 1993, he lost both legs below the knee when the plane he was flying crashed. The following year, after leaving the KWS, he became more involved in Kenyan politics, serving as Secretary General of Kenyan opposition party Safina. In December 1997, he was elected to an opposition seat in the Kenyan parliament.
Leakey’s political career culminated in 1999 When then-president Moi appointed him head of Kenya’s Civil Service and of a so-called “Dream Team” of technocrats assembled from various fields and backgrounds to tackle management, corruption, and reorganization issues within the Kenyan government. He stepped down from this position in 2001, announcing at that time that he was retiring from politics.
In 2005, Leakey outlined to Stony Brook University his concept to develop the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) to provide permanent infrastructure to enable year round research in the remote Lake Turkana Basin region where so many important discoveries have been made. This dream has since been realized, and present, TBI has constructed one state-of-the-art research facility on the west side of the lake, and a second facility, on the east side, will be completed by the end of 2012. The initial focus of scientific work in the Turkana Basin has been on the sciences of prehistory, but TBI plans to expand this focus to include research in meteorology, ecology, climate studies, alternative energy, linguistics and more. In addition to groundbreaking scientific work, TBI also strives to improve the quality of life for communities in this region in areas of education, health, and employment, and has also instituted graduate and postdoctoral fellowship programs to create opportunities for scientists in developing African nations.
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