Public Release: 

Louis Leakey Centennial Tribute

Leakey Foundation in collaboration with Chicago's Field Museum

Field Museum

CHICAGO - Who are we and where did we come from? In the quest to answer these fundamental questions about human origins, no one has had a greater or more lasting impact than Louis Leakey (1903-1972). In the 1930s, the patriarch of the renowned fossil-hunting family launched an intensive search for human ancestors in Africa and spearheaded the interdisciplinary approach to studying the birth and development of the human species.

Now, dozens of the world's leading anthropologists, geologists, biologists and evolutionary scientists - including Meave and Louise Leakey - will mark the 100th anniversary of Louis Leakey's birth at a two-day Centennial Tribute presented by The Leakey Foundation and held at The Field Museum Oct. 10-11. As well as tracing the Leakey legacy, this remarkable weekend will also review the latest discoveries and current thinking in the dynamic field of human origins.

"This two-day meeting will bring together so many leading authorities in the field of human origins that it is definitely the most impressive line-up that I have seen in my entire career," says Robert D. Martin, PhD, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at The Field Museum. "The program will provide a fitting tribute to the outstanding achievements of Louis Leakey and his wife Mary, while at the same time providing a unique overview of current developments across the board. I am delighted that Meave and Louise will be participating to underscore the major contributions made by the entire Leakey family."

In conjunction with the Centennial Tribute, some of the participating scientists will visit Chicago area schools to discuss careers in science, fieldwork, research methods and conservation. True to Louis Leakey's wide-ranging approach to studying human origins - which combined his interest and expertise in fossils, art, animal behavior, ethnography and conservation - the Centennial Tribute will gather experts in a variety of fields, including paleoanthropology, archaeology, primatology and evolutionary ecology, that have contributed to discovering what we know about our earliest ancestors.

"There has never been a more dynamic time in the study of human prehistory," says Bob Lasher, Executive Director of the Leakey Foundation. "Dramatic fossil finds, new insights into ape behavior, and DNA analysis are transforming our understanding of what it means to be human. I think Louis Leakey would be just as interested in the questions that remain as those that have been answered." The Field Museum has long been an international leader in evolutionary biology, paleontology, archaeology and ethnography.

The San Francisco-based Leakey Foundation is the leading private supporter of human origins research worldwide. Named for Louis Leakey, the Foundation has underwritten many seminal studies that inform our knowledge of the human past including the research of Richard Leakey, Jane Goodall, and Dian Fossey. Its mission is to increase scientific knowledge and public understanding of human origins and evolution.

The program is presented with generous support from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Fluid Inc., Chicago Public Radio, and Robert Mondavi Winery. For more information visit; to register call 312/665-7400. Admission for the entire weekend is $250. Admission for Saturday only is $35 for members of the Leakey Foundation or The Field Museum; $40 for nonmembers; and $35 for students or educators.

All programs take place at The Field Museum, a museum in the Chicago Parks located at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. For general museum information, call 312-922-9410 or visit our website at

Program Highlights
Friday, Oct. 10
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Behind-the-Scenes Tours:
Explore The Field Museum in the expert company of curators and staff. (Limited space).

Highlights Tours:
Encounter the timeless treasurers of Field Museum collections on this guided tour.

Research Roundtables:
Join scientific experts as they discuss important issues in human origins research.

6:30 p.m.
Feature Presentation:
"Discovering our Earliest Ancestors"
Meave and Louise Leakey will reflect on their experiences as members of the Leakey family and explore the implications of their most recent fossil finds.

8:00 p.m.
Chairmen's Reception:
Join The Founders' Council of The Field Museum and The Leakey Foundation Fellows for a private reception with the Leakeys and other scientists in historic Stanley Field Hall. Hosted by Gordon Getty and Marshall Field.

Saturday, Oct. 11
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Survey the course of human evolution with the leading experts of our time. With a nod to the lasting influence of Louis and Mary Leakey, scientists from around the world will share their own news-making discoveries. Guests may choose from an impressive range of illustrated talks, hands-on demonstrations, and other activities that explore such topics as the earliest human technology, migration out of Africa, a Neanderthal's diet, and the evolutionary significance of mothers and grandmothers.


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