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Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings (A Touchstone book) Paperback – 1 Mar 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684824701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684824703
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 4.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,449,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

VIRGINIA MORELL is the author of Ancestral Passions, Blue Nile, and Wildlife Wars, which she co-authored with Richard Leakey. She is contributing correspondent for Science and a regular contributor to National Geographic Magazine. Her 2008 NGM article, “Minds of Their Own,” was the kernel of her forthcoming book, How We Know Animals Think. MARY ROACH is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. PETER MILLER is the author of The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done. He is a senior editor at National Geographic and has served as a writer and editor at the magazine for more than 25 years.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Morell's astounding level of research reveals the Leakeys individually, as a family, and as dogged searchers for the truth about man's origins--and as living, breathing humans. Through letters, diaries, journals, personal interviews, and family archives, they speak to the reader with unprecedented candor about their personal travails, but more importantly, about their early struggles for funding, their fossil discoveries in remote desert locations, their constant surprise by the historical record, and their uncertainty, to this day, about modern man's exact lineage.
Some Leakey peccadilloes, never secret, are fully documented here: Louis's constant womanizing and his "adoption" of young female researchers, such as Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas; Mary's scotch-drinking, her cigar-smoking, and her intolerance of those on her Stinker List, some of them other researchers; and Richard's boyish brashness and arrogance, along with his health problems and dislike of Donald Johanson. Less appreciated, however, is the fact that before Louis's work and significant discoveries, people still believed that early man was from China or Europe, not Africa. Mary Leakey was the first person ever to excavate a Paleolithic site, and her meticulous care about documenting the tools and animals found in the same stratae as her hominid fossils, told here in detail, revolutionized the way fossils were recovered and catalogued. Richard found as many hominid fossils in two years (1971 and 1972) as Mary and Louis found in 36 years, and his level of dedication to research since finding his first hominid fossil at age 6, his mentoring of young researchers, and his creation of museums and foundations in Nairobi have perhaps received less attention than they deserve.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.8 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced 2 Aug. 2016
By Ralph M.Cox - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read a number of the popular press books on early Homo sapiens discoveries. This is a comprehensive, balanced review of the Leakey family members life's work and discoveries, thankfully leaving out most of the non-constructive tension with others in the anthropology community.
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, I'm a paleontology nut 22 April 2013
By Pat Goodwin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps one needs to be a paleontology nut to get all the way through this long book. For those interested, it is worth the time. The intrigues, controversies, stunning finds, personal lives - there're all here. Much is said about Tim White and Donald Johanson (the Lucy finders) and Johanson's ambition to "outdo" the Leakey family. Apparently Johanson wasn't quite as straight forward as he seemed and took every opportunity to steal the limelight from and shed doubt on even the matriarch, Mary Leakey.

While Richard Leakey certainly has earned his detractors, his accomplishments are worthy as is his devotion to his native country of Kenya. There is much good to be said of a man who traveled and gave lectures and used the money earned to pay the way for native Kenyans to advance their educations abroad.

I highly recommend this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat tedious being bogged down in paleontology controversies but ultimately absorbing ... 11 Oct. 2016
By Margaret D. Harrill - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Somewhat tedious being bogged down in paleontology controversies but ultimately absorbing stories of the lives & scientific contributions of the Leakey family.
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and balanced chronology. 15 Sept. 2014
By Kass A. Demeter - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Detailed chronology includes a good balance of alternating between the fascinating digs, with all the enthusiasm of the diggers, and the competitors and sometimes distressing human relationships. Engaging throughout.
5.0 out of 5 stars 5stars 8 Feb. 2017
By Jodo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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