Yves Coppens, the most illustrious of French paleontologists, is dead

Yves Coppens, the most illustrious of French paleontologists, is dead

This world-renowned academic is one of three co-discoverers of the fossil of Lucy, the Australopithecus that redefined human paleontology.

France has just lost a very great scientist in the person of Yves Coppens, who died at the age of 87. He leaves behind an enormous scientific heritage.

After having cut his teeth on the side of Chad, where he found his very first hominid in 1961. A discovery which greatly contributed to his notoriety. But he is best known for his fundamental contribution to the discovery of the very first relatively complete Australopithecus fossil to have been exhumed. The body was named Lucy, in honor of the Beatles song that played at the dig site at the time.

This is a grand and very important discovery in scientific terms. Indeed, it was largely thanks to Lucy that researchers were able to confirm that Australopithecines were already bipeds. This information has redefined our knowledge of the evolutionary origins of our species. Lucy’s discovery is therefore considered a major milestone in paleontology.

A great academician recognized worldwide

She also cemented her place among the giants of the discipline. Coppens will not only be remembered as the co-discoverer of Lucy; the scientific community has lost a highly respected ambassador, emeritus member and holder of the chair of paleoanthropology and prehistory at the Collège de France.

His erudition and notoriety also enabled him to direct the famous Musée de l’homme and to join the teaching staff of the National Museum of Natural History. He was also elected to the French Academy of Sciences, and was a member of a dozen other very prestigious academies around the world.

In addition to his invaluable scientific contributions, he was also known among his peers for his elephant-like memory and oratorical skills. He also regularly put them at the service of many popularization works… which was apparently a great source of pride for the person concerned. “Vulcanology had Haroun Tazieff, oceanography had Jacques-Yves Cousteau, paleontology had me”, quotes the Point in his obituary.

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