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About Us

The Leakey Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization on a quest to answer profound questions about what it means to be human. Our mission is to uncover the story of human evolution and share this knowledge with the world.

Who we are

The Leakey Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization on a quest to answer profound questions about what it means to be human. Our mission is to uncover the story of human evolution and share this knowledge with the world.

Founded around a kitchen table in 1968 by a small grassroots group of organizers, The Leakey Foundation has grown to become the leading nonprofit funder of human origins research.

Our mission

The mission of The Leakey Foundation is to increase scientific research, education, and public knowledge of human origins, evolution, behavior, and survival.

What we do

We’re a donor-supported nonprofit, committed to funding research and advancing public understanding of human origins. Our unique approach combines science and education to explore our shared past, understand our present, and inspire a better future. We invest in a global community of the best and brightest students and researchers, empowering them to ask new questions, explore new sites, develop new methods, and make groundbreaking new discoveries.

We believe that scientific work is not complete unless it is shared, so we work to share the human story through free and accessible educational programs.

Exploring our origins

Who are we? What makes us human? How did we become the creative, cooperative, and complex creatures we are today? Why is Homo sapiens the only surviving human species? What can our past tell us about our future? These big questions connect us as humans. They are at the heart of our mission and we’re committed to finding the answers.

The human story has unfolded over millions of years, and clues to our past can be found across the planet—not only in fossils but also in living apes and monkeys. Since our work began in 1968, Leakey Foundation-supported researchers have explored the world, discovered more than a dozen hominin species, sequenced the Neanderthal genome, and so much more. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Leakey-funded research has led to thousands of thrilling discoveries about the origins and evolution of our species. This knowledge has forever changed how we define ourselves as humans–and there’s so much more to discover.

Sharing our human story

The Leakey Foundation is committed to making our shared heritage accessible to all through engaging and relevant educational programs.

Our educational mission has never been more important, as many people still deny evolution and question scientific integrity. We’re working to change that by expanding public understanding of science. This will help foster critical thinking and cultivate an informed and engaged society.

50 Years of Discovery | Jane Goodall and The Leakey Foundation

Join the Quest

The Leakey Foundation is a unique organization where you can join the quest to discover our origins.

We know our goals are bold and ambitious. We know this work may take generations – but we also know that together, we can achieve great things.

We’re making new discoveries every day. We invite you to join us!

By the Numbers

Explore, discover, learn

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Be the Bedrock

Give monthly, and join a community invested in understanding humanity and our place in the natural world. 

Become a Fellow

Want to connect directly with top scientists and gain exclusive access to a world of exploration and discovery? Become a Fellow with a gift of $84 per month or a one-time donation of $1,000.

I [name], of [city, state ZIP], bequeath the sum of $[ ] or [ ] percent of my estate to L.S.B. Leakey Foundation for Research Related to Man’s Origins, Behavior & Survival, (dba The Leakey Foundation), a nonprofit organization with a business address of 1003B O’Reilly Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129 and a tax identification number 95-2536475 for its unrestricted use and purpose.

If you have questions, please contact Sharal Camisa Smith sharal at leakeyfoundation.org. 

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