Today’s Google Doodle is for Mary Leaky’s 100th birthday.
Some of you may ask “who is Mary Leaky?”
In 1925 at the age of 12 Mary’s first spark of interest in the past came while staying with her family at Les Eyzies in southern France at a time when Elie Peyrony was excavating one of the caves there, after gaining permission to go through his dump site she started a collection of points, scrapers and blades. Further interest came from touring the Pech Merle caves in Cabrerets.
After returning to London Mary had a tumultuous education in Catholic convent schools, being expelled the first time for refusing to recite poetry and expelled from another school for causing an explosion in the chemistry lab. Two home tutors were also unsuccessful with Mary. Mary’s mother contacted a professor at Oxford University about a possible admission but due to her academic record she was told that it would not even be worth her time applying. After her family moved to Kensington she began attending unregistered to lectures in archaeology and related subjects at University College London and the London Museum, where she studied under Mortimer Wheeler.
She applied to a number of excavations to be held in the summer. Wheeler was the first to accept her for a dig at St. Albans at the Roman site of Verulamium. Mary’s second dig was at Hembury, a Neolithic site, under Dorothy Liddell, who coached her for four years. Mary’s illustrations of tools for Dorothy drew the attention of Gertrude Caton-Thompson, and in late 1932 she entered the field as an illustrator for Caton-Thompson’s book, The Desert Fayoum
Through Gertrude Mary met British archaeologist and naturalist Louis Leakey. In 1936, after becoming romantically attached while working with him on his book Adam’s Ancestors the two married. Between 1940 and 1949 they had 3 sons and the family spent the majority of their time on anthropological sites. Whenever possible the Leakeys explored and excavated as a family.
In 1951, despite the fact she was told as a teenager that applying would be a waste of her time, Mary was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Oxford University.
In 1960 Mary became director of excavations at Olduvai gorge.
In 1971 Mary’s husband died, carrying on her work she became a powerful and respected figure in the world of palaeoanthropology.
Books by Mary Leakey:
- Excavations at Njoro River Cave, 1950, with Louis.
- Olduvai Gorge: Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960-1963, 1971.
- Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man, 1979
- Africa’s Vanishing Art: The Rock Paintings of Tanzania, 1983
355 Notes/ Hide
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