Back Cover Blurb1
- Don Johanson discovered Lucy, the most famous and one of the most complete of hominid remains, in 1974. His controversial interpretation of the remains as representing an ancestor to all subsequent hominid species, including our own, and his bestselling book "Lucy - the Beginnings of Humankind" established him as the most famous living palaeontologist, his one rival being Richard Leakey, whose views of human evolution remain entirely opposed to Johanson's.
- In this book, Johanson weaves together the story of his return to Africa in 1986, and the discovery of another extraordinary hominid specimen, with a history of the search for human origins and of his bitter disagreements with Leakey.
Amazon Customer Review
- Donald Carl Johanson (born 1943) is an American paleoanthropologist; he has also written “Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind”, “From Lucy to Language”, “Ancestors: In Search of Human Origins”, and “Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins”.
- He wrote in the first chapter of this 1989 book, "the celebrity Lucy brought me had a bitter side as well. Along the way, I would also be called a prima donna, a slick operator, a publicity hound. I lost friends, including some of my closest colleagues in the field, whose interpretations of humanity's origins were thrown into serious doubt by Lucy and her Hadar companions. My hopes for a return to Ethiopia to complete the work we had started there would be frustrated again and again. Other field expeditions yielded nothing. Slowly I would come to doubt my famous luck. Eventually I would find myself... wondering whether I was finished as a practicing scientist." (Pg. 23)
- He says about his relation with Richard and Mary Leakey, "'I think Don was right about the Hadar fossils the first time,' Richard said at the symposium... He believed that there were at least two species at Hadar, one of them 'some kind of primitive Homo.' His arguments, though, were exactly the ones I had used initially ... so I was prepared to counter them. I even offered to review the fossils with him, point by point, Richard declined... Mary Leakey attacked us in 'Science' only on formal, nomenclatural grounds, offering a thin handful of objections to our choice of name... In his public talks, Richard would only give a sprinkling of statements about afarensis, always unsupported, implying that Tim [White] and I were mistaken, and that more fossils were needed before anything would be further clarified. I felt I was fencing with a phantom." (Pg. 118)
- Of an unplanned "debate" he had with Leakey on a Walter Cronkite program, he observed, "As soon as the taping was finished Richard got up and hurriedly left the set. I was told... that he refused to sign a release on his way out, declaring that he would not allow the show to be broadcast. Leakey's lawyers called and threatened to sue if the tape went on the air... When I next saw Richard, he looked right past me. That was four years ago. We haven't spoken since. In public, he has continued to insist that our 'rivalry' is largely the media's creation, and that beneath the hype there lie nothing more than minor professional disagreements. I wish it were that painless." (Pg. 120-121)
- He states, "People love to hear about breakthroughs, about sudden transformations in understanding that turn ignorance to knowledge... Science is rarely so dramatic.... I can easily reconstruct the trail of clues that the hominid left for us, and when we came to solve them. It is all duly recorded in my journal. But what the journal lacks is the one entry you would most expect to find" 'Eureka! Today we solved the mystery of the hominid!' That entry isn't there because it didn't happen that way... There was no grand turning point. The evidence kept dribbling in, and through hard labor and some dogged thinking we DID solve the puzzle... though a sort of absorption, just below the level of explicit consciousness." (Pg. 203)
- He observes, "From what we can see in the fossil record, by six million years ago most of the dozens of hominid species which once inhabited the rain forest had ... [gone] out of existence... whatever the prime motivation for bipedalism, the fragmentation of this forest gave this novel trait room to establish itself: evolutionary innovation of a small group of prehominids, tucked away out of reach of their four-legged ancestral stock. There is not fossil I would rather find than one plucked from that population of transitional bipeds. But the chances of that wish coming true are vanishingly remote." (Pg. 256)
- He cautions, "I have warned against the dangers of drawing conclusions about human origins by thinking backward from modern humans. It would be easy to dismiss this harshly expedient view of the evolution of humanity as just another narrative told with its conclusion already in mind---Raymond Dart's killer ape again, warmed up with some sociological motivation and granted a scheming mind to go with his bone bludgeon." (Pg. 279)
- This book goes far beyond Johanson's "Lucy" book, and will be of great interest to anyone studying human evolution.
In-Page Footnotes ("Johanson (Donald) & Shreeve (James) - Lucy's Child: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor")
- From the 1991 Penguin First Edition, curtesy of Amazon.
William Morrow & Co. Ltd, New York, 1989
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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