Leakey Meave Gillian

Leakey Meave Gillian was elected as an AAS Fellow in 2012. As a fellow, Leakey Meave Gillian contributes to the development of the Academy’s strategic direction through participation in AAS activities and governance structures. . This gears the Academys vision of transforming african lives through science.

Year elected
Cultural Sciences, Humanities & Social Sciences

Meave Leakey is one of the world’s foremost authorities on African fossil monkeys and, more recently onhominins through her leadership of the KoobiFora Research Project, the longest continuously running field-based research project concentrating on human origins. This project has led to the discovery, study and publication of hundreds of fossils and other remains that have deeply illuminated the period of deep human ancestry. Since 1989, Meave has led the annual field expeditions to Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, which has resulted in the discovery of numerous new vertebrate species. Of particular importance are the spectacular fossil hominin discoveries, which have increased our understanding of our own evolutionary past prior to the emergence of Homo sapiens. In the mid eighties she described three new genera and species of early Miocene apes, Afropithecusturkanensis, Turkanapithecuskalakolensis and Simiolusenjiessi, as well as new specimensof early monkeys. These discoveries increased the complexity of the Miocene early primate record. In 1995 she described a new species of early hominin, Australopithecus anamensis that walked on two legs 4.1 myr ago. A. anamensisprovides the earliest secure evidence of bipedality, and is the oldest known widely accepted member of the human lineage. In 2001 she described another new species of early hominin, Kenyanthropusplatyops, that lived 3.5 myrago and that documents a much greater complexity in early human evolution than previously known or anticipated. In 2007, she described a new cranium of Homo erectus, which, with other fossils, confirmed the distinctiveness of Homo erectus and Homo habilis, and suggested that these two species lived broadly sympatrically in the same lake basin for almost half a million years. And in 2012, she described new fossils that included a face and a complete mandible that confirm that, in addition to Homo erectus, two species of early Homo lived contemporaneously in East Africa in the early Pleistocene. Meave Leakey has an exceptional record of fieldwork and world class scholarship on Cenozoic mammalian evolution, with emphasis on primate and human evolution, over the last 25 million years. She has published articles and monographs describing faunal assemblages recovered from many paleontological sites in the Turkana Basin dating between 24 and1 myr. She holds a faculty position in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University and is a Director of the Turkana Basin Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of London.