In 1974, Johanson found the fossilized remains of a female hominid that came to be known as Lucy. This discovery startled the scientific community, for it changed the theory behind human origins forever.

Donald Johanson was born in Chicago in 1943. Interested in science at a young age, he started his schooling at Illinois State University at Champaign-Urbana. Determined to become an anthropologist, He transferred to the University of Chicago, where many scholars in that field, studied and taught. He earned his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. at that same school.

He became a Professor of Anthropology, first at Case Western, then Kent State, and finally at Stanford. But it was his fieldwork in the Afar region of Ethiopia where He would make his name. Until Lucy, paleoanthopologists had only fragments of our pre-human ancestors, but over 40 percent of Lucy had been preserved. Previously, it was believed that primates with larger brains had become capable of making tools, and began walking upright to free their hands. But, Lucy's brain was barely larger than a chimpanzee's, and no stone tools were found in association with "her". Yet, Lucy's anatomical fragments gave every indication that "she" was walking upright much earlier.

At first Lucy was lumped in with Australopithecus africanus, but in 1978 Johanson asserted that Lucy was from a distinct and much older genus and species known as Austalopithecus afarensis. By 1990, with much further research, most critics agreed with Johanson, in that afarensis is the ancestor to both Australopithecus africanus and modern man, Homo sapiens.

Donald Johanson is now President of the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, California, an institution he founded in 1981.

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