Mary Leakey Has Google Doodle

The Google Doodle for February 6th honours Mary Leakey, an English palaeoanthropologist who with her husband Louis Leakey made important fossil discoveries helping to piece together the evolution of hominids.  Together, this husband and wife team proved that the cradle of human evolution was centred around eastern Africa and that the human family tree was much older than had been previously thought.

Google Commemorates what would have been Mary Leakey’s 100th Birthday

100th anniversary of the birth of Mary Leakey.

100th anniversary of the birth of Mary Leakey.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Google

The image marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mary Leakey.  It is always gratifying to see such organisations honour the contribution made by scientists and we at Everything Dinosaur, keen to promote the role of women in science are delighted to see Mary honoured in this way.  The picture shows Mary working on hominid footprints (trace fossils) with her faithful dalmation dogs which she often had as company on her excavations.  These trace fossils, we suspect are the famous Laetoli footprints.  These hominid footprints (two adults and a juvenile) were discovered in 1978 by Mary Leakey.

In 1959, Mary discovered a 1.7 million year old fossil hominid, a type of Australopithecine.  Mary along with her husband Louis (Mary was Louis’s second wife), discovered fossils of Homo habilis and went on to help re-write the evolutionary story of our own species.

The Leakey family are still very much involved in early hominid fossils.  Mary died in 1998, but Richard Leakey her son, and Richard’s wife Dr. Meave Leakey have made important discoveries in their own right and have helped to support the development of a number of scientific research projects in eastern Africa.

To read an article on the continuing work of the Leakey family: More Discoveries from Lake Turkana

It is important that the contribution of scientists such as Mary Leakey are honoured.  Mary was a pioneer in Africa, a woman working alongside her male colleagues to help increase our understanding of the evolution of hominids and their radiation out from east Africa across the rest of the continent.  It is thanks in part to the work of the Leakey family that we today have a much better understanding of the evolution and development of our own species.  Mary’s work in places such as the famous Olduvai Gorge region of Tanzania provided inspiration for other women who wished to pursue an academic career in the sciences.  Fossils found by Mary and her husband have formed the basis of a number of extensive research programmes with the aim of plotting and clarifying the evolutionary path that led to the eventual evolution of our own hominid species – Homo sapiens.

Happy anniversary Mary!

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