Dr. Louis S. B. Leakey was one of the 20th century’s great anthropologists and a tireless promoter of science education and public outreach. It was during Dr. Leakey’s travels to the United States in the 1960′s, to lecture and raise money for his research, that he met a group of enthusiastic individuals who were intellectually curious about human evolution and our earliest ancestors and fascinated with his work. Inspired by Dr. Leakey’s interpretations of human evolution, a collective was formed to promote a multidisciplinary approach to explore human origins research. In 1968, several individuals founded The Leakey Foundation to support Louis and Mary Leakey’s fieldwork as well as encouraged the funding of young scientists and their groundbreaking research.
Within its first decade of existence, The Leakey Foundation provided grants to many of the seminal studies that inform our understanding of human prehistory, such as the field research and discoveries of Louis, Mary, and Richard Leakey; Don Johanson; Jane Goodall; Dian Fossey; and Birute Galdikas. Today, The Leakey Foundation continues to support the significant studies of researchers like: Zeresenay Alemseged; Jill Pruetz; Dan Lieberman; Frederick Grine; Sileshi Semaw; David Lordkipanidze; and many more.
Commitment to Scientific Inquiry and Data Sharing
In keeping with Louis Leakey’s philosophy, The Leakey Foundation promotes a multidisciplinary approach to exploring human origins. The Foundation awards more than $600,000 annually in field and laboratory grants for vital new research and long-term projects exploring human evolution. The Foundation is the only U.S. funding organization wholly committed to human origins research. Leakey Grantees study many facets of our early ancestors through a variety of scientific disciplines: paleoanthropology, primatology, geology, genetics and morphology.
Special encouragement is given to early career scientists asking new questions and offering innovative ways to answer questions about human evolution. Like venture capitalists, The Leakey Foundation understands that the greatest rewards come from taking the greatest risks.
The Leakey Foundation, like other funding agencies and journals, believes that transparency, openness and accountability are essential parts of the scientific process, and we expect results/data of projects funded by the Foundation to be published in a timely manner.
The Leakey Foundation also aims to promote the sharing of data in an appropriate manner consistent with the needs of our grantees, but with the recognition that different fields of study require different approaches to data sharing. It is recommended that each applicant provide a brief statement (no more than one paragraph) of how they intend to make the data resulting from their Leakey Foundation grant available to others.
Investing in the Future
Louis Leakey understood the importance of higher education, as demonstrated by his insistence that his protégé Jane Goodall, go to school and receive a Doctorate degree. The Foundation is proud to provide grants to young scientists to complete their dissertation research. In addition, the Baldwin Fellowship allows young scientists, from developing countries, to pursue higher degrees or specialized training. Since its inception in 1977, the Baldwin Fellowship program, has enabled more than 150 African scientists to complete their graduate work and pursue careers in human origins research.
Public Programs and Membership
The study of human evolution is itself an “evolving” endeavor. The Foundation recognize that science is stimulated and advanced by education and public outreach. Opportunities for the public to learn firsthand about scientific advances are available through public lectures, workshops, and symposia. The Leakey Learning Expeditions bring field scientists into high school classrooms to discuss careers in science and to encourage scientific curiosity. The relaunched Foundation website and publication of the newsletter, AnthroQuest, provide information on the latest fieldwork by Leakey Grantees, as well as in-depth articles by members of the scientific community.