Born 1903 August 7
Name ID 334
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Extract Author: Brian M.Fagan
Page Number: L1
The British anthropologists Louis S. B. Leakey, born Aug 7, 1903, died Oct 1, 1972, his wife Mary, born Mary Nichol, Feb 6, 1913, and their son Richard, born Dec 19, 1944, have made major contributions to the study of human evolution. Louis and Mary Leakey investigated early human campsites at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and found important hominid fossils more than 1.75 million years old.
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Extract Author: Brian M.Fagan
Page Number: L2
The son of a missionary in Kenya, Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey studied archaeology at Cambridge University from 1922 to 1926. He then returned to Kenya, where he investigated Stone Age cultures in East Africa, then a pioneer field of research.
Morell, Virginia Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings
Page Number: 029
Extract Date: feb 1924
From an old family friend, C.W.Hobley, he [Louis Leakey] learned that the British Museum of Natural History was organizing a dinosaur fosil-collecting expedition to Tendagaru in Tanganyika Territory (now Tanzania). Tendaguru had been discovered in 1914 by German scientists, who had returned with a complete skeleton of Brachiosaurus, one of the largest land animals ever to have lived. Now after the British ruled Tanganyika (under a League of Nations mandate issued after the Germans lost the war), they, too, wanted a skeleton of one of these fabulous creatures. The museum had hired a dinosaur expert, William E. Cutler, but they needed someone with African experience to handle the logistics.
Louis landed the job, and on the last day of February 1924 he joined Cutler on board a steamer bound for Dar es Salaam. "My luck," Louis noted, "had certainly turned in a most unexpected manner."
Hanby, Jeannette & Bygott, David Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Page Number: 63
Extract Date: 1931
Leakey organised an expedition to Olduvai with Reck, and found stone tools within hours of arriving.
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Extract Author: Brian M.Fagan
Page Number: L3
From 1931 to 1959, Louis and his second wife, Mary, worked at Olduvai gorge, reconstructing a long sequence of Stone Age cultures dating from approximately 2 million to 100,000 years ago. They documented the early history of stone technology from simple stone-chopping tools and flakes to relatively sophisticated, multipurpose hand axes..
Cole, Sonia Leakey's Luck
Page Number: 113-114
Extract Date: 1935
Reck had been to Engaruka in 1913 and told Louis of burial mounds there, and in Arusha Louis had heard reports of a mysterious 'ruined city' capable of housing a million people; there were even rumours of 'inscriptions' (which in fact consist of some pecked lines and marks which mean nothing in any known language). When he was asked by the Tanganyika Government to make a report, therefore, he willingly agreed and set out full of curiosity and anticipation.
Engaruka is about forty miles from a village with a colourful market known as Mto wa Mbu, 'River of mosquitoes', where everyone stops on the way to Olduvai to buy tomatoes and bananas. Engaruka itself is in the middle of nowhere, on the floor of the Rift Valley between Lakes Manyara and Natron. There is a track of sorts leading to it, but even today it is one of the dustiest in East Africa, which is saying a good deal, and the only landmarks are the occasional magnificent baobab tree. When Louis and Mary went there in 1935 the track was almost invisible. Suddenly, with no apparent reason, in the middle of the bush there is a cluster of huts; but in fact there is a very good reason for their presence, for just behind them a glorious stream of clear water cascades down the scarp of the Rift, That is why a settlement existed at Engaruka in iron age times, and why there is one there today. On the slopes above the present village is a huge complex of stone walls, hut floors and cairns, now known to spread over ten square miles. By building a system of terraces and ditches, crops could be irrigated from the river (by damming the stream it is still possible to divert water along the ancient channels). Louis and Mary excavated a couple of cairns but were disappointed to find no burials in them.
They also dug beneath a hut floor, where they found only a few potsherds, beads and scraps of iron. In his estimate of the number of huts in the hill ruins, which he put at 6,000-7,000, Louis exaggerated. Allowing for five people per house this would give a population of some 30,000, with another 3,000 or so living in the valley ruins below. 'There is a vast job to be done here,' he concluded. 'The surveying alone would take one man about two years to do really properly,'" However, he decided that this was protohistory, not prehistory, and he was not the man to do it. It was another thirty years before anyone tackled Engaruka.
Gillman, Clement An Annotated List of Ancient and Modern Indigenous Stone Structures in Eastern Africa
Page Number: 50
Extract Date: 1935
Hurrying to the site as quickly as possible, Dr. Leakey of Nairobi devoted a fortnight to its investigation, resulting in a preliminary report.
.... He estimates the number of the inhabitants as 'probably between thirty and forty thousand' and that of the houses, (exclusive of the cairns) in the main city and in the valley at seven thousand. As regards the age of the ruins, he considers them from three hundred to one hundred and fifty years old.
Dente, Jenny Mary Douglas Nicol Leakey 1913-1996
Page Number: 03
Extract Date: 1936
After numerous rejections, she finally received a letter of acceptance from Dorothy Liddell who was in charge of excavations at Windmill Hill, an important stone age site. Working as one of Miss Liddell's personal assistants, Mary dug regularly at the site and also sketched a number of the finds for publication. These sketches brought her to the notice of Dr. Gertrude Caton-Thompson in 1932-33 who asked Mary to draw the stone tools for her book, The Desert Fayoum.
A little while later, Caton-Thompson, who had become a close friend, invited Mary to a dinner party honoring the archaeologist Louis Leakey who was lecturing at the Royal Anthropological institute. Mary was always first to say that it was not love at first sight, but through the course of that evening, the two began talking with each other, and Louis asked Mary to do the drawings for his book, Adam's Ancestors.
Less than a year later, Louis left his wife, Frida, and two children, Priscilla and Colin. He headed for Tanzania in October 1934, where Mary joined him the following April. They were married Christmas Eve 1936 in Ware, England.
For several decades Laetoli had just missed as a hominid fossil site. Louis Leakey had a try there in 1935, but came up emptyhanded. He did not know that a tooth he had sent to the British Museum labeled as a baboon's was a hominid canine. Not only was it the first adult australopithecine tooth ever found, but it was the first of any kind since the discovery of the Taung Baby. Nevertheless, it lay unnoticed in the Museum collection until 1979, when it was spotted and properly identified by White.
Leakey, meanwhile, not realizing that he had had in his hand the oldest hominid fossil then known, packed up and moved to Olduvai. He was followed at Laetoli in 1938-1939 by a German named Kohl-Larsen, who recovered a bit of an upper jawbone with a couple of premolars in it, and a well-preserved alveolus - or socket - for a canine tooth.
The trouble with those early Laetoli finds was that they were far too old and far too primitive for anyone then to dream that they were not apes or monkeys; the imagination of the 1930s was simply not elastic enough to accommodate them, even though that same imagination was saying to itself, 'Look deeper into time for older ancestors.' This is an odd, schizophrenic view that still persists today.
By 1974, when Mary Leakey decided to have a go at Laetoli, her mind at least was ready to recognize and accept very old specimens of Homo. When one of the Leakey-trained Kenyan field experts, Karnoya Kimeu, took it upon himself to cut a road in to the deposits through the thicket and came out with a hominid, Mary Leakey moved in with a team of her own. In the next couple of years she or her workers found forty-two teeth, some of them associated with bits of jawbone. One in particular, LH-4 (Laetoli Hominid 4), was a fine specimen, a mandible with nine teeth in place.
But what sets Laetoli apart from every other site in the world is some footprints that have been found there, certainly one of the most extraordinary cases of preservation and discovery in all of paleoanthropology.
Laetoli has a nearby volcano, Sadiman, that is extinct today. Not quite four million years ago it was active. One day it spat out a cloud of carbonitite ash. This stuff has a consistency not unlike that of very fine beach sand, and it powdered down over the surrounding landscape in a layer that reached a thickness of about half an inch before the eruption stopped. This fall of superfine cinders must have been extremely unpleasant for the local animals and birds while it was coming down, but there is no evidence that it did more than make them uncomfortable, because they stayed in the area. That first puff of ash - probably not lasting more than a day - was followed by a rain. The ash became wet and, almost like a newly laid cement sidewalk, began taking clear impressions of everything that walked across it: elephants, giraffes, antelopes, hares, rhinos, pigs. There were also terrestrial birds like guinea fowl and ostriches, and even the small tracks of millipedes.
In the hot sun of Laetoli the wet ash layer quickly dried and hardened, preserving the footprints that crisscrossed it. Then, before it could rain again, Sadiman spoke a second time. Another cloud of ash drifted down, covering the first and sealing in the footprints. This happened a number of times over a period estimated to have been no longer than a month, producing a single volcanic tuff about eight inches thick. .But because of the periodic puffing of Sadiman and the periodic hardening of the ash that fell, the tuff is actually composed of between a dozen and two dozen distinct thin layers. Some of these layers have been exposed recently by erosion, and are visible here and there at Laetoli in the form of a gray substrate wherever the mat of coarse turf above them has been carried off.
One afternoon in 1976, some of the more boisterous members of Mary Leakey's field team were amusing themselves by throwing hunks of dried elephant dung at each other. This may seem a peculiar pastime, but recreational resources are limited on paleontological digs, and there are times when young spirits need to blow off steam. One who felt this urge was Andrew Hill, a paleontologist from the National Museum of Kenya, who, while ducking flying dung and looking for ammunition to fire back, found himself standing in a dry stream bed on some exposed ash layers. One of these had some unusual dents in it. When Hill paused to examine them, he concluded they probably were animal footprints. That diagnosis was confirmed when a larger area was surveyed and other prints found. But no serious effort was made to follow up this extraordinary discovery until the following year, 1977, when a number of large elephant tracks were found by Mary Leakey's son Philip and a co-worker, Peter Jones, and alongside them some tracks that looked suspiciously like human footprints.
The world heard about the footprints later that year when Mary Leakey came to the United States to report on them in a series of press conferences and interviews. To many it seemed almost inconceivable that anything so ephemeral as a footprint should have been preserved for so long. But Mary was positive about the hominid ones. She went on to describe the latter as having been made by a creature that was an imperfect walker; the prints indicated that it had shuffled. She also reported the probable presence at Laetoli of knuckle-walking apes and the existence of a water hole around which the animals and birds appeared to have clustered. She even saw some evidence of panic in the tracks, suggesting that the animals had been fleeing the eruption.
Those revelations by Mary Leakey electrified everybody who heard them. She resolved to devote much of the next season's effort at Laetoli to footprints, and asked the American footprint expert Louise Robbins to join her team. White went to the Laetoli site for the first time that year, and found three other young scientists there: Peter Jones, Paul Abell and Richard Hay. These men had some doubts about Mary's interpretation of the footprints. White questioned the presence of knuckle-walking apes; he had examined those prints and said that they had been made by large extinct baboons that walked flat-footed. Jones said there had been no panicky exodus from the area, because birds, which could have flown away easily and quickly, continued to walk about in the ash it was crisscrossed with their tracks. Hay could find no evidence of a water hole.
These disagreements made for a good many nights of heated argument in camp, during which the supposedly human footprints had their ups and downs. No one could agree on them. Then Paul Abell, prospecting alone one day, found a broken impression - but a much clearer one - that he said he was quite confident was a hominid print. White and Jones made some Polaroid shots of it and came back with a strong impression that Abell was right. They recommended that excavation in the area be started immediately. But Louise Robbins, the footprint expert, examined it and declared that it was the print of a bovid (a hoofed animal). She told Mary Leakey that further investigation would be a waste of time. The men objected.
By then Mary Leakey had become thoroughly exasperated by all the arguing that had been going on. She announced that there would be no excavation. Jones, now convinced that it was a hominid, continued to plead with her for permission to make an excavation. A very small one, he said, was all he asked. Mary was adamant. Louise Robbins, the authority, had spoken; there was too much incomplete excavation at the site already. If there was going to be any digging, let it be done by somebody who had nothing better to do. She pointed to Ndibo, the maintenance man, the man in camp with the least archeological training.
Ndibo, however, proved equal to the task. He returned to camp the next day and reported not one, but two footprints. One was very large. He held his hands up, about a foot apart.
'Those Africans are always exaggerating,' said Mary. But she did go out to have a look, and there they were. White was permitted to start an excavation.
The direction of the prints indicated that their maker had been walking north under some sections of turf that had not yet been eroded. Because of the dense tangle of roots at the bottom of the turf, the task of exposing a clear ash surface without destroying it - not to mention the exact ash out of a dozen or more thin layers of it turned out to be extraordinarily difficult. But Tim is an extraordinarily patient and determined man. He found another print, and then another. He proceeded to protect the prints by hardening them with a preservative, which he poured into them in very small amounts, letting the material dry and then strengthening it by adding more. Working with agonising slowness, he inched his way farther and farther into the turf and discovered that the trail consisted of the tracks of two hominids.
Now he had the riveted attention of the entire camp. Others joined the work and ultimately were able to reveal more than fifty prints covering a distance of seventy-seven feet. Louise Robbins, her interest in the footprints suddenly rekindled, issued another opinion: indeed there were two hominids; they were probably walking together; one (with slightly larger prints) was a male; the other, possibly pregnant she said, was a female; on the evidence of the prints, this type of hominid had been an erect walker for at least a million years.
These are entertaining speculations. There is no way of telling what sex the makers of the footprints were, if one was pregnant, or how long their ancestors had walked erect. The hard truth is that 3.7 million years ago erect hominids of indeterminate sex did walk through fresh-fallen ash at Laetoli and leave an imperishable record of their passing. After seventy-seven feet their trails disappeared under the overlying ash; the particular layer that marked it has been washed away. Tim's work on the footprints stopped at that point, which also marked the end of the season. But he felt strongly that the trail could be picked up again a little farther along and that it would yield more prints if proper excavation were carried out. Work in that direction was done in 1979 by Ron Clarke, and the trail picked up again.
Tim was not a party to this further work. His arguments with Louise Robbins over interpretation of the footprints have made him as unwelcome now at Laetoli as he is at Lake Turkana - a pity, because in each instance he was only trying to help the proprietors.
Tim's concern today is that as more prints are found, they be handled with the utmost care. They are supremely fragile, and the slightest mistake in excavating them can destroy them completely. Some have already been damaged. They are not like fossils, those rocklike models of durability. They are only spaces, mere shapes in a relatively soft and frangible matrix. If that matrix is nudged incorrectly, it will crumble - and the footprints will be gone.
But, by a wildly improbable linkage of random events, they are there. Sadiman had to blow out a particular kind of ash. Rain had to fall on it almost immediately. Hominids had to follow on the heels of the rain. The sun had to come out promptly and harden their footprints. Then another blast from Sadiman had to cover and preserve them before another obliterating shower came along.
All this had to happen over a period of only a few days. And the volcano had to synchronise its activity with that of the seasons. If its bursts had not come just when they did - at the beginning of the rains - the footprints would not have been preserved. A month or two earlier, during the dry season, the ash would not have had the consistency to take a sharp imprint. It would have been a hopelessly blurry one, a mere dent, like the one a passerby today makes in the dry sand on the upper margin of a beach. If it had come later, at the height of the rainy season, it is overwhelmingly likely that there would have' been too much rain; the footprints would have been washed away before they could have been baked hard by the sun. Indeed, there had to be just what the beginning of a rainy season produces: sporadic showers interspersed with intervals of hot sun.
All things considered, the preservation and recovery of the Laetoli footprints are nothing short of a miracle. They confirm without a shadow of a doubt what Lucy confirmed at Hadar: that hominids were fully erect walkers at three million B.C. and earlier. At Hadar the evidence is in the fossils, in the shape of leg and foot bones. But at Laetoli, where the fossil remains - some extremely scrappy and enigmatic postcranial bits, jaw parts, and some teeth - are of very poor quality, there is no way without the footprints of deducing how those hominids got around.
'Make no mistake about it.' says Tim. 'Thev are like modern footprints. If one were left in the sand of a California beach today, and a four-year-old were asked what it was, he would instantly say that somebody had walked there. He wouldn't be able to tell it from a hundred other prints on the beach, nor would you. The external morphology is the same. There is a well-shaped modern heel with a strong arch and a good ball of the foot in front of it. The big toe is straight in line. It doesn't stick out to the side like an ape toe, or like the big toe in so many drawings you see of australopithecines in books.
I don't mean to say that there may not have been some slight differences in the foot bones; that's to be expected. But to all intents and purposes, those Laetoli hominids walked like you and me, and not in a shuffling run, as so many people have claimed for so long. Owen Lovejoy deduced all that from studying the Hadar bones. Now the footprints prove him right. I think they rank with the most wonderful and illuminating discoveries in decades. Although it didn't end too happily for me, I'm still grateful that. I was lucky enough to have participated in the work on them.'
1953 Publishes: Ylla (photographs) and L. S. B. Leakey (Text) Animals in Africa
Cole, Sonia Leakey's Luck
Page Number: 215
Louis dipped into his almost unlimited store of animal knowledge to write the text of Animals in Africa (1953) to accompany photographs taken by the incomparable Ylla - the pen name of Ylla Koffler. Even today, when so many lavishly illustrated coffee table books on animals are produced, few can rival her art with the camera of twenty years ago. Ylla of the bright eyes and infectious laugh will long be remembered by those who knew her all over the world, for she was truly international. Ylla had a bird-like quality, perching briefly in New York, Paris or London before flying off on photographic safaris to East Africa or India, where she was killed falling out of a jeep.
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Extract Author: Brian M.Fagan
Page Number: L4
In 1959 the Leakeys discovered the skull of Australopithecus boisei (a species of the prehuman genus Australopithecus). This skull was later dated at about 1.75 million years of age, using potassium argon-dating. The Leakeys also excavated another skull of a less robust individual in somewhat lower levels.
Extract Author: Robin McKie
Extract Date: 1999 September 26
Her studies have redefined mankind's image of itself and our relationship to the ape. She is in an academic class of her own, yet never took a degree. Now her new book reveals how she fell in love... with chimpanzees
It was October 1960, and the rainy season had come to Gombe, in Tanzania, covering the reserve in a soft, green carpet of new grass. A slight, blonde young woman was tramping through the forest. She had been searching - in vain - for chimpanzees to study until she encountered a single male squatting beside the red mound of a termite nest. The young primatologist watched carefully until, in front of her astonished eyes, the chimp - christened David Greybeard because of his white-tufted chin - took a twig, bent it, shaped it, and then carefully stuck it into the nest from which he began to spoon termites into his mouth.
It was one of the defining moments of modern science. Jane Goodall had observed a creature, other than man, in the act not just of using tools, but of making one. 'It was hard for me to believe,' she recalls in her autobiography, Reason for Hope, which is to be published by Warner Books next week. 'It had long been thought that we were the only creatures on Earth that used and made tools.' Now mankind knew differently.
Goodall telegrammed her boss, the renowned fossil-hunter Louis Leakey (father of Richard), with the news. He responded, in triumph: 'We must now redefine man, redefine tools, or accept chimpanzees as humans.' In fact, Goodall had done all three, though it is really the first on this list that she will always be remembered for. Thanks to her endeavours, science has had to completely reappraise our ideas about human nature - 'one of the great achievements of twentieth-century scholarship', as Stephen Jay Gould puts it. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable because it is the handiwork of a person who lacked any academic training, who had grown up in middle-class gentility in the Thirties when women were expected to be wives and little else, and who was armed only with a fierce certainty that she wanted to study animals.
Nonetheless, over the past four decades, Goodall - who was 65 this year - has produced a body of work that has permanently changed our self-image. Every piece of behaviour thought to be the exclusive, exalted prerogative of humans has since been observed by Goodall in the chimpanzee: tool-making, cannibalism, imperialism, political chicanery, adolescence, strong mother-child bonding and even genocide. Good and evil are not aspects of the soul, but are bits of behavioural baggage that we have carried with us for the past five million years, back to the days when we shared a common, ape-like ancestor with the chimpanzee.
Even more remarkable is the fact that these revelations were made in extraordinarily primitive conditions. Just to follow her 'prey', Goodall has had to scrabble over forbidding terrain, fight off tsetse flies, and survive the occasional enraged attentions of top-ranking male chimps. One of her students was killed in a cliff fall, and another four were kidnapped - though later released - by local gunmen. Only an individual driven by blind ambition, perhaps to exorcise the ghosts of childhood insecurities, would surely endure such privations?
Yet Goodall's past seems to have blissfully happy, having been spent at Birches, a large, nineteenth-century house in Bournemouth, the household firstly being ruled by her maternal grandmother, and then her mother, Vanne - the only note of discord being the latter's divorce from Goodall's father, a man she had hardly seen during the war years. She was clearly an intelligent girl, and did well at school, but found university fees prohibitive. So Goodall went to London where she trained as a secretary, read poetry and took classes in theosophy. (Her writing still has an intense, spiritual and religious leaning.) Then an invitation to visit an old friend in Kenya provided a crucial catalyst.
In Nairobi, she met Louis Leakey, the scientist whose palaeontological discoveries had finally proved mankind's roots were African, not Asian, as had previously been supposed. Leakey was now looking for a woman to study chimpanzees in the wild and to find evidence of their close ancestry to humanity. Goodall fitted his requirements precisely. As a woman, she was blessed, he believed, with a more empathetic nature than a man, and would be more acceptable to wild chimpanzees. In addition, she perfectly fitted another requirement: she came 'with a mind uncluttered and unbiased by theory', as Goodall states herself.
But there was more, as Goodall most certainly does not state. The sight of this lithe, pretty, hazel-eyed, 23-year-old stirred the Leakey loins in no uncertain manner, and the old roué - although married with three children - bombarded the young Goodall with protestations of his love. She was horrified, rejected all his advances and has since made little mention of them. By contrast, Virginia Morell's official biography of the Leakey clan makes much of the relationship and even notes that Louis - having failed with the daughter - then turned his attention's Goodall's mother, staying with her when he was in England and accompanying her to concerts. This liaison led to the rumour that still has wide currency in the world of fossil science: that Jane was really Leakey's daughter, and is therefore the half-sister of Richard Leakey. It's not true, but it does show that scientists at least enjoy as good a gossip as the rest of us.
Not long after she set up her research camp at Gombe, Goodall was visited by a young National Geographic photographer Hugo van Lawick. They fell in love and married in 1964, producing their son, Hugo, in 1967. van Lawick came from old European aristocratic lineage and the marriage was probably doomed from the start. Birute Galdikas, another of Leakey's monkey ladies (she lived with and studied orang-utans in Borneo) recalls visiting the Goodalls and finding 'the baron' to be 'distant, aloof and pre-occupied', although always 'poised and elegant' like a true aristocrat. By contrast, Goodall would wear a parka jacket to official functions, and put Grub (as Hugo junior has always been known) and chimpanzees before all else. (Galdikas also recalls that Goodall told her she had learned a lot about child-raising from mother chimpanzees, who do not punish errant offspring, but merely try to distract them.) Goodall eventually divorced van Lawick and remarried, to Derek Bryceson, a former fighter pilot and by then director of Tanzania's national parks. A calm, good-humoured and rather glamorous figure, he was clearly the love of Goodall's life, and his painful death in 1978 - from cancer - left her devastated.
It was during all these tribulations that Goodall made her great observations of chimpanzee behaviour, though her work was not without criticism: the way she christened each of her primate subjects - Greybeard, Flo, Passion, Figan, Goliath and, of course, Leakey - enraged scientific purists who accused Goodall of the heinous crime of anthropomorphism. In other words, in giving chimps human names, she was by implication also giving them human attributes.
In fact, her observations revealed key differences, as well as similarities, between ourselves and chimps. The latter do not form strong male-female pair bonds like men and women, for example. Nevertheless, Goodall's books, In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window, paint vivid, poignant portraits of creatures that are tantalisingly close to ourselves but, lacking the human attribute of complex language, are forever 'trapped within themselves' and who are now at the mercy of modern man. Human predations - in particularly the environmental devastation we cause through the spread of farming and which so seriously threatens the last few of enclaves of chimpanzees in the world - are now Goodall's prime concern, and her work is dedicated to reversing this damage and in trying to protect the creatures with whom her name is irrevocably linked.
They are, after all, our closest kin, a relationship that we now understand in a way that was never dreamt of before the arrival of Jane Goodall.
Born: 3 April 1934, London
Family: Married (twice): to Hugo van Lawick (one son, Hugo), and Derek Bryceson
Subject: Chimpanzees (aka Pantroglodytes schweinfurthii)
Hon degree: Ethology (Cambridge)
Books: Reason for Hope: A Spritiual Journey (with Phillip Berman), Through a Window, Chimpanzees of Gombe
Favourite read: Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books
Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 339
Extract Date: 1963
Alexander set up his safari operation at his home near Nanyuki. John was flexible enough to tailor safaris exactly to the needs and pockets of his clients. One of his clients was near stone broke Dian Fossey, who much later attained recognition as a gorilla expert. In 1963 Dian Fossey was staying at the Mount Kenya Safari Club at Nanyuki, and she introduced herself to one of the owners of the club, William Holden. Fossey told Holden she was looking for a white hunter to take her on a private safari through East Africa. Was there someone he might recommend? Holden knew a man on the mountain he thought might be suitable named John Alexander. Fossey talked John into a you-bring-the-coffee, I'll-bring-the-sandwiches low-budget outing. When starry-eyed Fossey first met Alexander, then fortyish, she was the ultimate naive greenhorn in the wilds of Africa.
John, his complexion now ruddy from years in the sun, and his fair hair by now receding, had always had an eye for the ladies. Recently divorced, he was not inclined to turn down any safari work. Even with Fossey's limited budget Alexander nevertheless consented to take her on a tour, and guided her on what is generally regarded as the East African "milk run," an easy route taken by package tourists on their first trip to Africa. John took Dian to see Tsavo park, Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti Plains, and Olduvai Gorge, where he introduced her to anthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey.
Alexander later recalled Fossey with considerable distaste, not just because she was a heavy smoker and drinker, which he considered none of his business, but because he thought Fossey "moody" and a "bit neurotic." Alexander claimed that at the time of their meeting Fossey had never before even heard of mountain gorillas'
Still, Alexander agreed to take Fossey on another safari, this time through Uganda and into the Congo to the Albert national park (now the Muhuavura national park). In neighboring Rwanda over this period, two tribes, the WaTutsi and the BaHutu, were killing each other in the thousands; the first years of genocide were barely reported to the international press. Zaire was also far from safe, with murderous soldiers roaming the countryside.
Despite the tribal unrest and general chaos then prevalent in Zaire, Alexander and Fossey continued with their safari into the eastern part of the country. At the village of Rumangabo they had hoped to pick up park rangers to act as guides. The only accommodation available was an old shed and it was here Fossey propositioned Alexander. "Here we've been three weeks on safari," she said. "We could have shacked up together and had a hell of a good time. "
Alexander apologetically turned her down explaining that he was already engaged. After being rebuffed Fossey despised Alexander, according to Harold T. P. Hayes, her biographer. Behind his back she began referring to John as "The Great White.""
Fosbrooke, Henry Ngorongoro: The Eighth Wonder
Page Number: 018
Extract Date: 1968
of the East African Institute of Paleontology
Hanby, Jeannette & Bygott, David Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Page Number: 63
Extract Date: 1972
Dente, Jenny Mary Douglas Nicol Leakey 1913-1996
Page Number: 12
Extract Date: 1972 Oct 1
Beginning around 1968, Mary and Louis were seldom together; she worked at Olduvai while he constantly traveled. During this period, both Louis's health and the Leakey marriage were fast deteriorating. On October 1, 1972, Louis finally died of a heart attack after years of painful infirmity. Mary, no longer working in her husband's shadow, went on to excavate one of the most important sites of her life.