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A Most Interesting Problem

February 13, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Virtual Event Virtual Event
Darwin sits on a turtle's back reading from a book on a beach

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Join The Leakey Foundation for a free virtual celebration of Darwin’s birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Descent of Man. This event brings together seven world-class scholars and science communicators to explore what Darwin got right and what he got wrong about the origin, history, and biological variation of humans.


In 1871, Charles Darwin published The Descent of Man, a companion to On The Origin of Species in which he attempted to explain human evolution, a topic he called “the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist.” This event explores how scientific ideas are tested and how evidence helps structure our narratives about human origins, showing how some of Darwin’s ideas have withstood more than a century of scrutiny while others have not.


About the Event


This event features six ten-minute presentations with viewer opportunities to submit questions to the scholars. The event concludes with a discussion led by award-winning science journalist Ann Gibbons.

Jeremy M. DeSilva is an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College and a Leakey Foundation grantee. He studies the origins and evolution of upright walking in the human lineage. DeSilva introduces the program and reflects on Darwin’s impact on science.

Janet Browne is the Aramont Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. She has written a two-volume biography of Charles Darwin—Darwin: Voyaging and Darwin: The Power of Place. In 2013, she wrote the introduction to a republishing of Darwin’s Descent of Man. Browne reflects on Darwin’s life and times.

Brian Hare is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. His interest in the evolution of social behavior has inspired research on humans’ closest ape relatives and humans’ best friend, the dog. Hare explores the Darwinian road to morality.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie is the Curator and Head of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and a Leakey Foundation grantee. He has made some of the most significant early human fossil discoveries in the history of paleoanthropology. Haile-Selassie reflects on the fossil evidence for human evolution.

Agustín Fuentes is a professor of anthropology at Princeton University. He is the author of Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being, The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional, and Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature. Fuentes reflects on race, racism, science, and hope.

Holly Dunsworth is a professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island and a Leakey Foundation grantee. Dunsworth challenges the traditional (often male-biased and Eurocentric) narratives of human evolution with exquisite clarity. She has contributed to NPR’s This I Believe series and her science blogs The Mermaid’s Tale and Origins. Dunsworth reflects on Darwin’s attempt to apply the principles of sexual selection to humans.

Ann Gibbons is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine and the author of The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors. She has taught science writing at Carnegie Mellon University and written about human evolution for National Geographic, Slate, Smithsonian magazine, and other publications. She was recently awarded the 2019 American Geophysical Union’s David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism. She reflects on Darwin in light of modern knowledge and leads the scholars in a discussion. 


This event is made possible by the generous support of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and Camilla and George Smith.


Register Today!


February 13, 2021
11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Event Category:

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 

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