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Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  253 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
“Lucy is a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution. She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged.”From Lucy’s Legacy

In his New York Times bestseller, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, renowned paleoanthropologist Donal
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Jan 11, 2015 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, but with a definite problem. The first 3 pages are a first person description by the author of how he discovered the fossil remains of Lucy, perhaps the most famous fossil in the world. The next 100 pages are then autobiographical about the author's background and training and reads like "my excellent adventure in Africa." This material had almost nothing to do with the science of paleoanthropology, which was my only reason for reading the book.
So I was skimming this persona
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
I am a big fan of Don Johanson's, and of his books Lucy and Lucy's Child. However, this one is very uneven. The first third, with its detailed descriptions of the difficulties of doing fieldwork in Ethiopia, seems like it was written for wholly political reasons that are largely irrelevant to the subject matter (advances in paleoanthropology over the last 35 years).

I understand that Dr. Johanson has to maintain a strong relationship with the Ethiopian gov't in order to continue his work, but I
Leslie Stein
Very slow start with lots of examples of the difficulty working in Ethipia. The last couple of sections adressing current controversies surrounding homo sapiens origins are more interesting. I may try another of his earlier books. The subject interests me but this was a slow go.
Kevin Pedersen
A good overview of modern hominid research (though already slightly dated in the science, since it came out before the Neandertal DNA was fully sequenced).

What is probably less interesting to scientists but actually more timeless as new data arrives is the first half of the book, which describes the challenges of doing an expedition to Ethiopia after the fall of Haile Selassie, at which point the political and military situation of the country started to fall apart. It's also nice to see a few d
Last Ranger
Oct 05, 2016 Last Ranger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Trimming the Family Tree:

Where did we come from? How did we get here? Where are we going in the future? The are the questions that Paleoanthropologist hope to answer by studying the fossil remains of ancient Hominids and the plants and animals that shared their world for thousands, if not millions, of years. In 1974 co-author Donald C. Johanson made an astounding find in the badlands of Ethiopia: a fossil Hominid that showed some human characteristics and was more ancient than all previous finds
Alex Telander
While the Leakeys are know in the anthropological world for their great work at Olduvai Gorge, another important name to remember is Donald C. Johanson. Apart from being the author of Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, winner of the American Book Award, and founder of the Institute of Human Origins, he is also the guy who while walking back to his car in 1974, along a barren stretch of Ethiopia, spotted something bone-like in the ground. With further excavation, he would be named as the discover ...more
Nov 28, 2014 Rossdavidh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black
Donald Johanson was the leader of the expedition that discovered “Lucy”, perhaps the most famous hominid fossil in the world. I have read books of his before, but it has been quite a few years, so who knows, perhaps my memory is faulty. My impression, subjective as it is, nonetheless must be said for this to be an honest review: this guy is not nearly so arrogant as he used to be.

I mean, I enjoyed his writing when I read his books in the past (otherwise why would I have bought another one), but
Elysha Smith
Dec 30, 2013 Elysha Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-2013
Overall this was a really good book covering the majority of the important paleoanthropological finds since Lucy's discovery. The book only touches on the discovery of Lucy so if you are looking for a more in depth description of this I would suggest looking elsewhere. This book rather focuses on the other discoveries since than and Lucy's context within them. It is a nice summary of the recent finds in the field with Johanson's opinions on the finds interspersed.

With any conflicts he describes
Aug 23, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
The latest book by the discoverer of Lucy is a thorough review of the paleoanthropological record. Johanson explains the discoveries, their significance, and competing theories. He also explained the science that's available now for dating and analyzing fossils, including DNA evidence. It was great to read about all the discoveries that have been made since I left school in '95. The book had plenty of new information for me, a fairly knowledgeable, if out-of-date, reader.

The middle section dragg
Dec 20, 2009 Scotchneat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Written by Donald Johanson (who discovered Lucy - THE Lucy when he was still pretty wet behind the ears, fieldwork-wise), the book chronicles Johanson's work in the field, alongside other research and discoveries that have helped to fill in the humanoid chart.

I liked finding out more about the different people in the very small world of paleoanthropology. Also interesting to read about how geopolitical strife in areas of Africa has such an impact on research and digs. He also touches on discover
Mar 10, 2011 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks
Johanson and Wong bring us up to date on the finds of Australopithecus fossils and associated artifacts. Johsnson does have an agenda, however. Since, in his first publications about Lucy, he claimed she was a predecessor to Homo sapiens, he proseletyzes that relationship here although he admits that others make a case for Homo habilis and erectus being of another branch to which Australopithecus is not ancestral. Aside from his plunking for an Australopithecus past for hominins, this is a very ...more
Jun 08, 2012 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I like this book. It was filled with great information in easy to understand language with passion that is written into the sentences. However, I was less impressed with the organization of the books and the general writing style. The first half of the book was choppy, to say the least. Chapter and even paragraph transitions were just not there, and, to me, that was a bit annoying. However, the information within the chapters made up for it. I really enjoyed reading about Lucy and the p ...more
Zoe L
Jun 03, 2015 Zoe L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an exciting book overall! Ever since I was a kid I was interested in fossils, skeletons, history, artifacts, etc... I never knew what to call it but finally I have the correct term for what truly interests me, paleoanthropology. Such a large, complex word, somewhat intimidating. This autobiography really showed me what my experiences would be like if I was in an archaeological dig site. It showed me the burdens and excitements of the paleoathropology life. Sometimes the book began to bore m ...more
Jul 24, 2010 Richelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution
I first became interested in human evolution and origins after reading two books by Spencer Wells, "The Human Journey" and "Deep Ancestry." It seemed only logical to read Johanson's newest book on the importance of his find, Lucy. This was a fascinating book, bursting with information about our evolutionary past. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the hobbits of Flores and the true nature of Neandertals. It is just mind-boggling to me that all of this knowledge has been obtained merely by di ...more
Leigh Bale
Sep 27, 2011 Leigh Bale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Johanson in Reno last month. He's a witty, engaging gentleman and passionate about the past. I left his lecture feeling uplifted and rearing to pursue my own personal goals. In addition to discussing his science of paleoanthropology, Dr. Johanson also discussed never giving up on your dreams. Being willing to work hard to make your goals happen. And he expressed his love for Ethiopia and what a great country it is. This is what shines through in h ...more
Jul 26, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
A fascinating and easy to read summary of human evolution. This book is written by the archaeologist that discovered "Lucy," a pre-human ancestor from 3.5 million years ago. It has chapters on the "Hobbits," a species of pre-human, the Neanderthals, and all the other species on the human family tree.

Interesting quote from the book: "Sometime around 140,000 years ago, the founding population of modern humans underwent a catastrophic event that slashed their numbers from 12,800 breeding individua
David Ward
Lucy's Legacy: The Quest For Human Origins by Donald C. Johanson (Harmony Books 2009) (569.9) is a great book for beginners about paleoarchaelogy by the man who found the skeleton known as "Lucy" in Ethiopia. The book also contains insightful chapters about a couple of Lucy's possible descendants: The "Hobbits" of Flores (Indonesia) and Neandertals (Europe et al.). My rating: 7/10, finished 3/12/12.
Kathleen Spearman
Jun 25, 2010 Kathleen Spearman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating stuff for those so inclined. After reading all about "Ardi" and watching documentaries on the archeological finds of early man, this added to my knowledge. The other fascinating book I read recently is "The Link" about a well preserved fossil that may be a link between primates and other mammals in early evolutionary history. As usual, there are new unanswered questions these discoveries uncover. Some questions are of the ethics of all this, in addition to scientific ones.
LaShana Claude
Apr 27, 2016 LaShana Claude rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books. I fell in love with Lucy and the idea of our origins being Ethiopia after reading this book. Her scientific name is Austalopithecus afarensis. When I pull up her name, they show the ape which tends to deter religious people. But all they have is bones so I'm not completely sold on the fact that she looked like that. They gave her a human name so I just envision a little girl. Anyhow it's a good read if you're interested in anthropology and evolution.
John Branney
Lucy in the Sky...I was expecting Indiana Jones and I got Charles Darwin. I was expecting drama and I got a documentary. I was expecting something written for a wider audience and I got a book written for peers of paleoanthropology. This is probably a great book for those who have a larger interest in genus and species, but for me it was a boring read.

One thumb up.
Aug 05, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book will inspire you to find a job that you will fall in love with just like Donald Johanson has. His drive to figure out the story our evolution is admiable. It also has made me add, travel to Ethiopia to my bucket list. The down fall is that once you have reached the middle of the book the ethusium dies down and for me i lost interest. Of course i finished it but i wish it was shorter.
May 03, 2009 PastAllReason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, read-2009
Very strongly written and accessible book by paleoanthropologist Johanson, the discoverer of Lucy together with Wong, a writer with Scientific American.

The book offers glimpses both into human origins, and also into the life and world of the paleoanthropologist. Both are fascinating.
David Chivers
The author, Don Johanson, is the founder of "Lucy",the 4.2 million year old hominid that revolutionized the study of human evolution. However, the same story is more vividly told and more comepletely told "The First Human" by Ann Gibbon, which I recommend highly.
Jun 03, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating read from the paleoanthropologist who discovered "Lucy" in the 1970s. It it well written, exciting and at times funny. I find myself wondering why I didn't study paleoanthropology myself in college and entered this thrilling scientific field!
Jun 25, 2009 Harvey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating study of the last three decades of research into the origins of our species. Interesting to those of us who believe in Evolution, probably anathema to a Fundamentalist/Creationist/Intelligent Design believer.
Jan 03, 2015 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readable but lacking the overarching story of the first book. Although the science was explained clearly, it was harder to get into it when there wasn't a story to follow.
Sep 03, 2012 Danar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far well written. I was happy at how detailed the author is, but does so in layman's terms. Fascinating to hear how this research is done.
Alm Melson
Mar 06, 2009 Alm Melson marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Heard Johanson on NPR today. He's a very articulate and understandable speaker. Can't wait to read this book, which is actually called Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins. ;-)
Jul 13, 2012 Darvish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want a high level understanding and appreciation for human origins, this is a great book for that purpose.
Amanda Markham
Aug 18, 2012 Amanda Markham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An excellent and readable overview of developments in palaeoanthropology over the past thirty years.
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Donald Carl Johanson is an American paleoanthropologist. He is known for discovering the fossil of a female hominin australopithecine known as "Lucy" in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia.
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