Donald Johanson

Archaeologist, Paleontologist

One of the most accomplished scholars in the field of human origins, Donald Johanson is best known for his 1974 groundbreaking discovery of the 3.2 million- year-old skeleton known as Lucy. He and co-author Maitland Edey won the National Book Award in Science for their 1981 book Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, which described the new species, Australopithecus afarensis. Today, A. afarensis occupies a pivotal place on the human family tree as the last common ancestor to later Australopithecines and to our own genus, Homo. The founding director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, Donald has authored several books, appeared on numerous documentaries, co-created an award-winning science website (becominghuman.org), and hosted an Emmy nominated three-part NOVA series on PBS. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Siena Academy of Sciences in Italy. As an honorary board member of the Explorer’s Club, he was awarded their highest honor, “The Explorers Club Medal,” in 2010. In 1991, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry awarded Johanson the “In Praise of Reason” award, and he was recently notified by NASA that the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s asteroids will launch in 2021. "The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called 'Lucy' by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution," wrote NASA of the mission. "Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system." The first target on this mission will be the Donald Johanson Asteroid.