Richard Leakey, the author and paleoanthropologist known for his discovery of fossil evidence of the evolution of the human race in Africa, has died aged 77. New York Times reports

Leakey, who wrote several books on the origin of mankind, was born in Kenya to paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey. After suffering a near-fatal fall from a horse as a child, he worked as a safari guide before becoming a fossil hunter, having learned the skill from his parents.

Leakey’s expeditions led to the discovery of skeletal remains of Homo erectus and Homo rudolfensis, two ancestors of modern humans. The fossils led to new insights into how humanity evolved, a topic Leakey wrote about in books like: Origin, people of the lakeand Origins reconsideredall co-authored with science writer Roger Lewin.

Leakey’s most recent book, an autobiography entitled Wildlife Wars: My Struggle to Save Africa’s Natural Treasuresco-written with Virgina Morell, it was published in 2001. A reviewer for Kirkus said the book combined Leakey’s “passion for Kenya and all the living creatures of that country — poachers excepted — with a lucid, humanistic appreciation of what both need to survive.” to survive.”

Those who paid tribute to Leakey included Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who: wrote on Twitter: “I was very sad to hear of Richard Leakey’s death. He was an inspirational [and] brave conservationist and I had the privilege of meeting him. He transformed the Kenyan Wildlife Service [and] bravely took the lead in the fight against elephant poaching. Conservation has lost a true visionary.”

And Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta posted a rack on his website: “On behalf of the people of Kenya, my family and myself, I extend my deepest condolences and condolences to Dr. Richard Leakey’s family, friends and associates during this difficult time of grief.”

Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.