Donald Johanson

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Donald Johanson
Donald Johanson (1).jpg
Born (1943-06-28) 28 June 1943 (age 72)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Paleoanthropology
Institutions Arizona State University
Alma mater University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Chicago
Known for Discovery of a new hominid, Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy")

Donald Carl Johanson (born June 28, 1943) is an American paleoanthropologist. He is known for discovering the fossil of a female hominid australopithecine known as "Lucy" in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia.


Early life and education[edit]

Johanson was born in Chicago, Illinois to Swedish parents, he is nephew to Ivar Johansson. He had earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1966. He earned his master's degree in 1970 and his PhD in 1974 from the University of Chicago. At the time of the discovery of Lucy, he was an assistant and associate professor of anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. Johanson also holds an honorary doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.[1] In 1981, he established the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, California which he later moved to Arizona State University in 1997. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Westfield State College in 2008.

Personal life[edit]

Johanson accepted the "Emperor Has No Clothes" award at the Freedom From Religion Foundation 37th annual convention on October 24, 2014.[2]


Lucy was discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia on November 24, 1974, when Johanson, coaxed away from his paperwork by graduate student Tom Gray for a spur-of-the-moment survey, caught the glint of a white fossilized bone out of the corner of his eye, and recognized it as hominid. Forty percent of the skeleton was eventually recovered, and later described as the first known member of Australopithecus afarensis. Pamela Alderman, a member of the expedition, suggested she be named "Lucy" after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which was played repeatedly during the night of the discovery. A biped, Lucy stood about three and a half feet tall, and added support to Raymond Dart's theory that australopithecines walked upright. Johanson and his team were also able to deduce from Lucy's ribs that she was vegetarian, and from her curved finger bones that she was probably at home in trees. Lucy herself was not at once recognized as a disparate species, but was considered an older member of Australopithecus africanus, and only the later discovery of skulls of A. afarensis convinced the general palaeontological world that Lucy represents a species called afarensis.[3]

Johanson and Maitland A. Edey won a 1982 U.S. National Book Award in Science[a] for the first popular book about this work, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind.[4]

"First Family"[edit]

AL 333, commonly referred to as the "First Family," is a collection of prehistoric hominid teeth and bones that were also discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia, by Johanson's team in 1975. Generally thought to be members of the species Australopithecus afarensis, they are estimated to be about 3.2 million years old and consist of the remains of at least thirteen individuals.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ This was the 1982 award for paperback Science.
    From 1980 to 1983 in National Book Awards history there were dual hardcover and paperback awards in most categories, and multiple nonfiction subcategories. Most of the paperback award-winners were reprints of books eligible for previous awards but the 1982 Science was original, Taking the Quantum Leap by Fred Alan Wolf.


  1. ^ "Honorary Degrees, CWRU 2009". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Donald C. Johanson (2009). Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins. Harmony Books. 
  4. ^ "National Book Awards – 1981". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-07.

External links[edit]