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Understanding Humans - Serendipity and Anthropology

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There is much that we do know about the human as a consequence of our curiosity about ourselves. The fossil record, the archaeological record and the broad fields of social and cultural studies give an insight about our species that is fairly comprehensive. One thing is clear and that is that there was and is no “inevitability” to our being now or at any time, past, present and future. From the perspective of origins, serendipity is evident and in this era of renewed religious fundamentalism, we must promote the scientific understanding of humans far more than has been the practice in recent times. The prehistory of humanity is an excellent starting point where serendipity rather than design has been so critical.


Richard Leakey has been responsible for some of the most significant discoveries in the study of human origins and evolution, carrying out research and excavation projects in east Africa throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Throughout this time he became increasingly active in conservation and politics in Kenya, and since the 1990s these have been his main focus. He has been Director of the National Museums of Kenya, Director of Kenya Wildlife Service, Permanent Secretary, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service of Kenya, and is involved with the managerial boards of over thirty organisations. He has received thirteen international awards for his various works, and Honorary Doctorates from eleven universities. His academic activities are currently focused around the Chairmanship of the Turkana Basin Institute and a Professorship of Anthropology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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