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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Richard E. Leakey Quotes

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Richard E. Leakey
(19 Dec 1944 - )

Kenyan paleontologist and physical anthropologist who is the second of three sons of noted anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey.


Science Quotes by Richard E. Leakey (8 quotes)

A fossil hunter needs sharp eyes and a keen search image, a mental template that subconsciously evaluates everything he sees in his search for telltale clues. A kind of mental radar works even if he isn't concentrating hard. A fossil mollusk expert has a mollusk search image. A fossil antelope expert has an antelope search image. ... Yet even when one has a good internal radar, the search is incredibly more difficult than it sounds. Not only are fossils often the same color as the rocks among which they are found, so they blend in with the background; they are also usually broken into odd-shaped fragments. ... In our business, we don't expect to find a whole skull lying on the surface staring up at us. The typical find is a small piece of petrified bone. The fossil hunter's search therefore has to have an infinite number of dimensions, matching every conceivable angle of every shape of fragment of every bone on the human body.
Describing the skill of his co-worker, Kamoya Kimeu, who discovered the Turkana Boy, the most complete specimen of Homo erectus, on a slope covered with black lava pebbles.
— Richard E. Leakey
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (1992), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)  |  Paleontology (29)

An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal.
— Richard E. Leakey
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.
Science quotes on:  |  Accident (54)  |  Animal (309)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Existence (254)  |  Extinction (55)  |  Fossil (107)  |  History Of Earth (2)  |  Homo Sapiens (19)  |  Human (445)  |  Immortal (13)  |  Law (418)  |  Species (181)

For three million years we were hunter-gatherers, and it was through the evolutionary pressures of that way of life that a brain so adaptable and so creative eventually emerged. Today we stand with the brains of hunter-gatherers in our heads, looking out on a modern world made comfortable for some by the fruits of human inventiveness, and made miserable for others by the scandal of deprivation in the midst of plenty.
— Richard E. Leakey
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 249.
Science quotes on:  |  Adaptability (4)  |  Brain (181)  |  Creativity (66)  |  Deprivation (5)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Hunter-Gatherer (2)  |  Inventiveness (5)

If we are correct in understanding how evolution actually works, and provided we can survive the complications of war, environmental degradation, and possible contact with interstellar planetary travelers, we will look exactly the same as we do now. We won’t change at all. The species is now so widely dispersed that it is not going to evolve, except by gradualism.
— Richard E. Leakey
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 75.
Science quotes on:  |  Alien (25)  |  Complication (20)  |  Contact (24)  |  Degradation (12)  |  Environment (138)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Gradual (18)  |  Interstellar (4)  |  Planetary (5)  |  Survive (28)  |  Traveler (18)  |  Understand (189)  |  War (144)

In the early seventies my mother [Mary Leakey] returned to Laetoli, a site in Tanzania that my parents had discovered in the thirties. In 1976, she discovered footprints of ancient hominids. These three-and-a-half-million- year-old footprints provide evidence of bipedality.
— Richard E. Leakey
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 60.
Science quotes on:  |  Anthropology (51)  |  Bipedal (3)  |  Footprint (12)  |  Hominid (4)  |  Mary Douglas Leakey (2)

It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that a chimpanzee or a dog is an intelligent animal. Instead, it takes a bigoted human to suggest that it’s not.
— Richard E. Leakey
In The Omni Interviews (1984), 73.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (309)  |  Behavior (49)  |  Chimpanzee (12)  |  Dog (39)  |  Human (445)  |  Instead (12)  |  Intelligent (35)

The human species was born when one isolated group of bipedal apes got itself stuck and then speciated to get better survival value out of eating meat.
— Richard E. Leakey
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (39)  |  Bipedal (3)  |  Eat (38)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Human Species (6)  |  Isolated (12)  |  Meat (11)  |  Stuck (5)  |  Survival (49)  |  Value (180)

When out fossil hunting, it is very easy to forget that rather than telling you how the creatures lived, the remains you find indicate only where they became fossilized.
— Richard E. Leakey
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 96.
Science quotes on:  |  Fossil (107)  |  Paleontology (29)



Quotes by others about Richard E. Leakey (1)

[Richard Leakey is] a robust hero of a man, who actually lives up to the clichι, “a big man in every sense of the word.” Like other big men he is loved by many, feared by some, and not over-preoccupied with the judgments of any.
The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008), 190.


See also:
  • 19 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Leakey's birth.
  • Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human, by Richard E. Leakey. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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