Kenyan archaeologist and anthropologist whose fossil discoveries in East Africa proved that human beings were far older than had previously been believed and that human evolution was centered in Africa, rather than in Asia, as earlier discoveries had suggested. Leakey was also noted for his controversial interpretations of these archaeological finds.
Born of British missionary parents, Leakey spent his youth with the Kikuyu people of Kenya, about whom he later wrote. He was educated at the University of Cambridge and began his archaeological research in East Africa in 1924; he was later aided by his second wife, the archaeologist Mary Douglas Leakey (née Nicol), and their sons. He held various appointments at major British and American universities and was curator of the Coryndon Memorial Museum in Nairobi from 1945 to 1961.