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Richard Leakey
Richard Leakey
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Richard Leakey
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Legendary paleoanthropologist, environmentalist, and activist Richard Leakey has spent a lifetime proving that one person can make a difference. One of TIME's 100 Greatest Minds of the 20th Century, Leakey has built a career and a reputation by getting out into the field and standing on the front lines. His work in Africa and abroad, from digs in the Turkana Basin to his war on climate change and elephant and rhino poachers, has made him one of the world's most influential champions of life on Earth.

The son of Louis B. and Mary Leakey, Richard Leakey, the Founder and Chair of The Turkana Basin Institute, has more than lived up to his legacy. Adding to his family's collection of over 200 unearthed fossils, he has discovered the most intact early human skeleton, Homo Erectus, more commonly known as "Turkana Boy," in 1984. 

As the Director of Kenya Wildlife Services, Leakey spearheaded campaigns to end elephant poaching. Passing legislation against the hunting of endangered species, he sent a clear message to poachers in 1989, overseeing the public burning of over 12 tons of ivory. He, again, demonstrated his commitment to the fight, burning 100 tons of ivory in April 2016. Currently the Chair of KWS, Leakey continues to fight as his legend grows. Angelina Jolie announced that she will direct a biopic that focuses on his war against poaching.

Leakey founded WildlifeDirect in 2004. The service supports conservationists, dedicated to changing minds, behaviors, and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure.

Throughout his 45-year career,  Newsweek said he faced “several confrontations with mortality — all of which Leakey has shaken off with cavalier disdain.” Since 1980, he has had two kidney transplants and one liver transplant, and in 1993, he lost both legs in a plane crash, which many believe was an assassination attempt.

 Working with Daniel Libeskind, architect of the new World Trade Center, Leakey is planning a museum at Lake Turkana. Called ‘the cathedra,’ it will house and display some major fossils along with Leakey’s iconic scientific finds. Construction is set to begin by 2019. 

The author of over 100 articles and books, including Origins and Wildlife Wars. Leakey stressed humanity's negative impact on biodiversity and ecosystems in The Sixth Extinction.

A Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University and an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London, Leakey has convened the Stony Brook World Environmental Forum and the Human Evolution Symposiums and Workshops. At the 2016 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, Leakey was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Full Bio >
  • My Life in Conversation and How the Future Looks (2017)
  • Leakey's Promise: Kenya's Ivory Will Be Burned
  • Leakey on Climate Change (2014)
  • In Conversation: Leakey talks about his life and career
  • Royal Society Lecture: Leakey on climate change and extinction
  • Leakey discusses wildlife conservation and poaching (2014)
  • Leakey on Taking Risks and Establishing the Kenyan Wildlife Services (2011)
  • Leakeys discuss "Turkana Boy" on NOVA (2009)
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Speaking Topics
Climate Change and the Future of Life on Earth
Why Our Origins Matter
Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Elephants
An Evening with Richard Leakey: A Journey of Discovery and Activism
The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind
Surviving Catastrophic Changes in the 21st Century

Rapid climate change and natural catastrophes are major concerns as catastrophic events become more frequent and costly. A single event can disrupt a company’s workforce, impact its supply chain, and damage brand reputation. 
World-renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, named one of TIME’s 100 Greatest Minds of the 20th Century, will discuss the issue of climate change and its implications for business, our quality of life, and, ultimately, the survival of our species. What’s happening globally and why? What are the short and long-term risks? What can evolution and patterns of life over geological time tell us about our survival and the future of life on earth? What can business and political leaders do?  

Read More >
Global Challenges: A View from Africa
Books & Other Works
  • Newsweek Cover Story: Leakey's Last Stand
  • Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Natural Treasures
  • The Origin of Humankind
  • The Sixth Extinction : Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind
  • Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human
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“Richard Leakey was fantastic. The hall was filled (650), and all eyes and ears were on him. What a brilliant man. His talk was eloquent, funny, insightful, inspirational. He touched so many bases, but concluded with the theme of compassion as being a characteristic, a most important characteristic, of human beings. Everyone loved him.”
Kenyon College
“Dr. Leakey was absolutely delightful and I am continuing to receive many compliments about last evening's presentation.”
World Affairs Council of Jacksonville
“The event was perfect. He was great. Everyone loved him. It really couldn't have been better. We got a lot of different people that we hadn't gotten before at our lectures and we also sold 200 books. It was terrific!”
Denver Museum of Natural History
“Phenomenal...exceeded our best expectations attracting a crowd of well over 2,000.”
Northern Michigan University
“The lecture provided by Dr. Leakey was excellent; the students, faculty, and staff in attendance were captivated by his combination of experience, delivery, and material. In addition, Dr. Leakey spent valuable time with our students, giving them a rare insight into a great life lived. Overall, a great evening for our students!”
Midwestern State University
“Richard Leakey was a dynamic and charming speaker.... He held our audiences on two successive nights absolutely rapt. We have not seen a speaker draw such large audiences to our campus for some time.... He moved many people to action on working to save the environment.”
Hanover College
“A charming man. He gives a great lecture. Amazingly enough, in this age of power point presentations and slide shows and razzle dazzle, it's a rare individual who can stand behind a podium, speak, and have everyone's attention riveted upon him and that is exactly what happened.”
East Carolina University
“It has been an honor to present Richard Leakey, a premier environmental crusader of the new century and a 1999 recipient of our Founders' Award for World Service. A constant champion for the environment, Richard Leakey has captivated and inspired our audiences with his deep knowledge and empathy on the absolute necessity of global social responsibility and environmental balance in ensuring a shared future for our planet. ”
The Field Museum
“...1100 in attendance ...he is an independent man with the willpower to send a powerful message, he is an inspiration.”
Cincinnati Zoo
“I am just getting home from Leakey's lecture and dinner. It was amazing. He was amazing. What a gracious gentleman.”
Syracuse University
“...Dr. Leakey's visit was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my nearly 20 years of lecture programming. He is a consummate professional; warm and charming, firm yet gracious. Rarely, if ever, have I heard a speaker impact such a vast body of knowledge without losing his audience for even a moment. Dr. Leakey is that remarkable gem of a speaker who entertains as well as he educates.”
College of Dupage
“...The lecture was truly enlightening and entertaining. Dr. Leakey is truly a remarkable man.”
Friends of the NC State Museum of Natural Sciences
“...There were people sitting in the last row or the second balcony of the concert hall who joined the sold-out audience in giving him a standing ovation at the end of the talk. Calls of congratulation began at 9 am. on Saturday and have continued daily...Members of OHSU when are we going to do an encore.”
Oregon Health Sciences University
“...He was gracious, accommodating and seemed sincerely interested in interacting with students. He filled our 1,600 seat auditorium to capacity and very few students left until the entire program was completed. I was astonished. His delivery was clear, concise, peppered with humor and quite informative.”
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
“His talk was fabulous, great turnout, great crowd afterwards for book signing.”
University of Minnesota
“...Thank you very much for being the guest of honor at our Museum benefit. The Gala was a tremendous success. You gave a wonderful speech, providing many people with a new perspective on the African elephant and wildlife conservation. Your passionate and eloquent appeal is one that cannot be heard often enough...I greatly appreciated your willingness to attend both the pre and post gala receptions. I know how grueling your schedule can be and I am always amazed by your stamina and unending graciousness.”
Dallas Museum of Natural History
“...Thank you so very much for providing us with a most stimulating talk...Mr. Leakey has a passion for knowledge not found in most people.”
92nd Street YM-YWHA
“...Thank you for the wonderful and insightful presentation at Northeastern Illinois University on Tuesday, October 8, 1997. Your lecture was thought-provoking and informative.”
Northeastern Illinois University
“...We had over 2,000 in attendance for his outstanding lecture. He was very enjoyable guest and was very well received by students, faculty, and the San Antonio community.”
Trinity University
“...what a fabulous visit we had with Richard Leakey, we were so impressed, he is just the nicest lowest maintenance person we've ever had....absoutely fabulous, really wowed people at the dinner last night. He was really good across the board, really outstanding.”
Helen Debolt-University of Oklahoma
“...Many thanks for coming to the National Press Club on October 6. Our members enjoyed your speech was both informative and shed light on some important issues.”
The National Press Club
Civic Engagement
Climate Change
Commencement Speakers
Developing World
Global Warming
Human Origin
Human Rights
Natural Resources
World Economic Forum