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Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins Paperback – June 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Johanson (Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind), the paleoanthropologist who in 1974 discovered the famed 3.2-million-year-old hominid named Lucy, and Scientific American editor Wong delve deeply into the significance of Lucy, her probable ancestors and her probable successors, including modern humans. The authors capture the curiosity, passion and excitement that Johanson and his colleagues bring to their research, as well as the mundane, backbreaking aspects of fieldwork. Wong and Johanson are also expert at framing the science that informs judgments about what defines a hominid species, such as brain size, the ability to walk upright and facial structure. They probe the equally important question of what drove human evolution, examining three major approaches: a social model, a dietary model and an environmental model. Johanson is adept at framing the debates within his famously contentious discipline, ranging from fundamental questions about the fossil record to theories of early human migration, the fate of the Neanderthals and the controversy over the highly publicized recent discovery of fossil "hobbits" on the Indonesian archipelago. The writing is accessible, especially considering the challenging nature of the science that shapes our understanding of human evolution. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Johanson’s fourth book trading on the Beatles-derived name he gave the famous fossil he found in 1974 well complements the second edition of From Lucy to Language (2006), in particular. That book was 50 percent different from its 10-years-older original state because of the further revolutionary changes wrought in hominid paleontology by several very recent discoveries that Johanson devotes most of the latter two-thirds of this book to explaining. The first third recounts his return to Ethiopia’s Hadar region in 1980 after a hiatus necessitated by political turmoil in the East African nation. Very engaging, thanks perhaps to popular scientific journalist Wong, it communicates the poignancy of Johanson’s occasionally nerve-racking return to the birthplace of his career with something of the verve and suspense of an Indiana Jones movie. Hooked by that adventurous beginning, and introduced to many of the figures whose work preoccupies what follows, many will continue with the book’s real meat, which implicatively but not literally argues that far from there being no missing link between apes and humans, there are several, complicatedly related, with more being found and likely to be found in the foreseeable future. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307396401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307396402
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The author, Don Johanson, is the founder of "Lucy",the 4.2 million year old hominid that revolutionized the study of human evolution. This book tells again the story of his find, and of his extensive research and findings since that time. He also covers the ground of other discoveries in the field. And the pace of discovery in this field in the last 35 years is truly astonishing.
But his writing can be kind of stiff. If you want a sense of where the field of human evolution is today, much of the same ground is more vividly and completely told in "The First Human" by Ann Gibbon, which I recommend highly . If you are looking specifically for the story of "Lucy" and Johanson's work since, then "Lucy's Legacy" is for you.
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Format: Hardcover
Once again, Dr. Johanson has written a book for those of us with a passion for human evolution, but not a PhD in it! Lucy's Legacy is an exciting, suspenseful, action-packed adventure that goes behind the scenes... here for the first time we learn what really happens before - and after - an important discovery is made. Some of it isn't pretty! Also includes up-to-date information about all the latest finds, amazing photographs, and a ton of delicious personal anecdotes.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was a pleasant surprise. I enjoy reading about the sciences yet I had neglected a topic that has everything to do about me and us, from which all things human flow. This book is both a memoir and an informative update, but more, a reality check as this subject has been so badly misconstrued while rightly turned on its head by amazing new discoveries. Johanson's adventures are a good read and keep things exciting, but this book is not just about Lucy; each chapter serves as a great overview of important topics in human evolution. I was surprised at just how riveted I became, both humbled and elevated with my place on Earth.
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Format: Paperback
"Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins" by Donald Johanson and Kate Wong serves as a non-technical introduction to the advances in modern paleoanthrolopogy told through the perspective of Dr. Johanson's career at the Institute of Human Origins (IHO). The text is broken into three sections which describe the discovery of the Lucy skeleton, the contemporary and ancestral hominid species to Lucy, and the evolution of hominid species since Lucy. Each section serves only as an overview of the topic, and more detailed, scientific discussions of each are available elsewhere.

The strength of the book is in its moderate use of technical terms and attention to telling as complete of a story as possible in this rapidly changing field. After reading the book, one has a basic understanding of paleoanthropology from initial field research through the laboratory to the conference podium. Likewise, the discussion on hominid evolution goes to lengths to introduce a multitude of theories for the reader to consider (although the author is quick to point out which theories he disagrees with and why).

Unfortunately, the book suffers from several areas of vague writing. The first section of the text, an autobiographical account of the discovery of Lucy, wanders throughout the author's career with little structured direction. While it sets up the further sections of the book, it could do so in either shorter length or with more structured detail. Throughout the text, the author references field research methods and terminology with little explanation of what the practices are or why they are important.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lucy' Legacy brings back all the exitement and wonder that I felt when she was discovered. Lucy started it all for me, she opened a whole new world to me and I have watched with awe the discoveries that have been made over the years. This book was not only extremely readable and very informative, I was also unable to put it down until I had finished......and then I wanted more.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lucy's Legacy was written by the paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson who was involved in the discovery of the Lucy female skeleton. Kate Wong is listed as a co-author. Lucy is of the Australopithecus afarensis species. This species is dated to about 3.2 million years ago.

Johanson provides an in depth narrative of the events that led up to the discovery of this specimen, and I found this narrative to be quite interesting. The first eight chapters are devoted to this story, but it is more than this. In these chapters, you will learn what it is like first hand to be a paleoanthropologist working in the field. It certainly does not seem to be a bed of roses. There is a lot of hard work, searing temperatures endured in tropical African areas, and many dangers encountered from rival ethnic clans engaged in constant fighting for whatever reasons they fight. While reading this account, you will also learn a bit about the lingo used in the field.

The next section covers the dawn of humankind and some of the other early hominids prevalent in this same period such as, A. anamensis, the Robust australopithecines, Kenyanthropus platyops, and Australopithecus garhi. The front and back inside covers of the book display a nice chronological chart of all the hominid species and their relations. I found myself referring time and again to this chart as I read the book - a nice touch.

The final section of the book discusses the homo genus including Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo ergaster. We learn about the population at Dmanisi (an area populated by hominids that left Africa), the hobbits of Flores (H. floresiensis) and the mysteries surrounding them, and, of course, no discussion of the subject is complete without talking about the Neandertals (H. neanderthalensis).
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