“Africa: The Human Cradle: An International Conference Paying Tribute to Richard E. Leakey” from June 5 – 9, 2023
STONY BROOK, NY — May 18, 2023 — Stony Brook University will honor the life and legacy of eminent paleoanthropologist, conservationist and politician Richard E. Leakey by hosting “Africa: The Human Cradle: An International Conference Paying Tribute to Richard E. Leakey” from June 5 – 9, 2023 at the university’s Charles B. Wang Center. The Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) and Stony Brook are hosting the conference, in partnership with the National Geographic Society. Thought leaders from around the world will celebrate the immeasurable, life-long contributions by Leakey to furthering the appreciation of Africa’s centrality in the narrative of human evolution.
Stony Brook, which served as Leakey’s academic home for the last twenty years of his life, will bring together over 40 scientists from seven nations who will present papers on topics ranging from interpreting the fossil, archaeological and palaeoecological records to recent advances in geology, geochronology, and genomic research. Please find the program here as well as a list of speakers who will be presenting at the conference.
After joining the Stony Brook faculty part time in September 2002, Leakey later co-founded the Turkana Basin Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, in an academic partnership with Stony Brook in 2005, where he was an anthropology professor. The Institute provides permanent infrastructure at two field campuses on the East and West shores of Lake Turkana to enable year-round research in the remote area of sub-Saharan Africa. Leakey served as the chair of the Turkana Basin Institute until his death in January of 2022. Leakey also worked from the Stony Brook campus on Long Island, New York, as a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology, where his wife, Dr. Meave Leakey and daughter Dr. Louise Leakey are both professors.
Dr. Louise Leakey will be among the dozens of speakers at the conference. She will discuss Six Decades – The Search for Fossils at Lake Turkana, which will touch on the discoveries and expeditions of the Koobi Fora Research Project in the Turkana Basin. The free lecture that is open to the public is on Monday, June 5 at 5pm, ET at the university’s Staller Center.
During the five-day conference, researchers will present newly published findings.
About Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey was the son of world-renowned paleontologist Louis and archaeologist Mary Leakey who made revolutionary discoveries at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania including finding a fossil cranium Paranthropus boisei and a lower jaw fossil which provided the first evidence of the species Homo habilis. By age 23, Richard Leakey had already made his own discovery in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia of Homo sapiens skulls that helped demonstrate that East Africa is the birthplace of modern humans. Leakey made many paleontological discoveries of lasting significance and brought animal poaching to the world’s attention. His fossil finds at Koobi Fora on the shores of Lake Turkana, Kenya, transformed the world’s understanding of the diversity of human ancestors. He directed Kenya’s national museum, reorganized the country’s wildlife services and headed Kenya’s civil service. He made huge strides in conservation by empowering organizations and constantly questioning and confronting the status quo. Through the years, he mentored young scholars, conservationists and artists, both in Kenya and at Stony Brook, who are now leaders in their fields.
“Richard Leakey’s discovery of fossil sediments at Koobi Fora has probably been responsible for producing close to half of the world’s evidence for human evolution,” said Lawrence Martin, Director of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook. “He influenced so much in so many different ways including the impactful careers he pursued. Scientists and researchers were inspired by him to enter this field of study. That he chose to spend the last twenty years of his academic career affiliated with Stony Brook University is such an honor and we want to celebrate his legacy, vision and venerate the extraordinary life he led.”
“It is a privilege for Stony Brook to host this conference honoring the life and achievements of Richard Leakey,” said President Maurie McInnis. “I cannot think of a scholar more reverent of life, dedicated as he was both to the understanding of the origins of humans and the conservation of wildlife. To bring together this caliber of scientists at this conference will give us innumerable insights into the origins and evolution of humanity. We celebrate this transformational scholar — a man who changed the way we think about ourselves and, for us, contributed so much to Stony Brook University. Richard’s impact as a mentor—and inspiration to the next generation of paleontologists and anthropologists—can be felt across our campus, and across the world.”
Part of Richard Leakey’s legacy at Stony Brook is reflected in how TBI is moving forward. He sought to bring other university departments including the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences to TBI in order to integrate faculty and student expertise to help study the area as well as bring positive changes to the region. His level of service to humanity will continue through the university’s mission to advance knowledge and have world-wide significance.
# # #
About Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University — New York’s flagship university and No. 1 public university — is going far beyond the expectations of today’s public universities. It is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. With more than 24,000 students, more than 2,800 faculty members, more than 200,000 alumni, a premier academic healthcare system and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs, Stony Brook is a research-intensive distinguished center of innovation dedicated to addressing the world’s biggest challenges. The university embraces its mission to provide comprehensive undergraduate, graduate and professional education of the highest quality, and is ranked among the top 35 public universities by Forbes and one of the top 80 universities in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges listing. Fostering a commitment to academic research and intellectual endeavors, Stony Brook’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places it among the top 65 research institutions in North America. The university’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. Stony Brook has the responsibility of co-managing Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy — one of only eight universities with a role in running a national laboratory. Providing economic growth for neighboring communities and the wider geographic region, the university totals an impressive $7.23 billion in increased economic output on Long Island. Follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/