Mary Nicol Leakey

(1913 – 1996)

Portrait of Mary Nicol Leakey by Jack Kamen

Jack Kamen Artwork

Mary Leakey was an English-born paleontologist and archaeologist who spent her life studying fossils of extinct apes in Africa. Her findings helped develop our modern understanding of the origins of the human species. She often worked alongside her husband, Louis Leakey.

Recognition of Contributions

In the 1960s, the Leakeys discovered a fossil skull of Homo Habilis, a new species of humans, and helped popularize the search for human origins in Africa. The couple worked together for over thirty years, but Mary’s work was often overshadowed by her outspoken husband. After his death, Mary emerged in her own right, independently making several groundbreaking fossil discoveries that changed our interpretation of human evolution.

Explore Additional Portraits in the Collection

James Clerk Maxwell
Galileo Galilei

These portraits were commissioned by Dean Kamen for the SEE Science Center.  The artist is Jack Kamen (1920-2008), an American graphic artist and Dean’s father. The series was created to inspire children through the stories of scientists and engineers whose work changed the world.  While many of the pieces represent men, the duo worked hard to identify female scientists.  Had Jack not passed, their goal was to continue to increase representation within the collection.  The original artwork is on display at the SEE Science Center in the Jack Kamen Portrait Gallery.