Kenyan conservationist found oldest near-complete human skeleton in 1984, dating from 1.5m years ago
Leakey was born in Nairobi on 19 December 1944 – and it was perhaps inevitable that he would become a fossil hunter given his parents were Louis and Mary Leakey, perhaps the world’s most famous discoverers of ancestral hominids.
Although Leakey initially tried his hand at safari guiding, aged 23 – and with having no formal archaeological training – he won a research grant to dig on the shores of northern Kenya’s Lake Turkana.
During the 1970s he led expeditions that shed new light on the scientific understanding of human evolution, with the discovery of the skulls of Homo habilis (1.9m years old) in 1972 and Homo erectus (1.6m years old) in 1975.
He made the cover of Time magazine posing with a Homo habilis mock-up, under the headline How Man Became Man.