ROYAL AFRICAN FELLOWS > DR RICHARD LEAKEY
Paleoanthropologist, politician, explorer and environmentalist, Richard Erskine Frere Leakey, son of Louis and Mary Leakey, 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). Together with his wife Meave, and a number of talented and experienced Kenyan fossil hunters, Richard’s team made an astounding number of significant finds throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including “Turkana Boy,” the extraordinary and nearly complete 1.6 million-year-old skeleton of a juvenile Homo erectus, and have provided the world with much of the evidence for human evolution.
In 1989 Richard left his museum position and fieldwork to head the newly-formed Kenya Wildlife Service. Despite the loss of his legs in 1993 resulting from a plane crash, Richard successfully fought elephant and rhino poaching and oversaw a reorganization of Kenya’s troubled national park system. Richard was nominated to Kenyan Parliament in 1998, and his political career culminated in 1999, when then-president Moi appointed him head of Kenya’s Civil Service. He stepped down from this position in 2001, announcing at that time that he was retiring from politics.
In 2005, Richard outlined to Stony Brook University his concept to develop the Turkana Basin Institute, which would provide permanent infrastructure to enable year-round research in the remote Turkana Basin region. This dream has since been realized, and at present, TBI has two state-of-the-art research facilities on the east and west shores of Lake Turkana, and plays a crucial role in facilitating scientific research in this tremendously important part of the world. He currently serves as chairman of TBI, and is a Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University. Additionally, Richard is Chairman of WildlifeDirect, Inc., and Transparency International Kenya, and is the recipient of a multitude of awards including over a dozen honorary doctorates from universities around the world. He also produces excellent wine at his vineyard near his home outside of Nairobi.