Mary Leakey, the famed archaeologist and paleoanthropologist, was born 100 years ago today.
The Google homepage today depicts a woman in a sun hat, trowel in hand, kneeling in front of an excavation site – in the background, the Google logo is written out in teetering spires of sand.
The image is an homage to the eminent British archaeologist and paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who was responsible for one of the greatest discoveries of the last century: a 1.75 million year-old hominid skull unearthed in Africa.
As the New York Times noted in 1996, the year Leakey died, this discovery and others "awakened the world to Africa's primary place in human origins with their spectacular discoveries and increasingly pushed back the time of those origins much earlier than had been thought. Until then, many scientists still believed the human birthplace would be found in Asia."
Leakey was born in London a century ago today, to Cecilia Marion Nicol and Erskine Edward Nicol, a landscape painter. According to the website of the Leakey Foundation, she showed artistic talent from an early age. She also traveled with her family across Europe and to sites such as the caves Pech Merl in Dordogne, in Southwest France. By the time she was 17, the Leakey Foundation reports, she was already working as an illustrator on digs in the UK.