And what I wanted to do was, I wanted to explore problems and areas where we didn't have answers. In fact, where we didn't even know the right questions to ask.
I realized immediately that this was a terribly important discovery, but I didn't realize how important it would be until we had spent a lot of time in the laboratory studying it.
In our case, finding a Lucy is unique. No one will ever find another Lucy. You can't order one from a biological supply house. It's a unique discovery, a unique specimen.
I think that many of my ideas are correct, but I'll bet you, before my death other discoveries will be made that will prompt me to alter various ideas I have about human evolution.
Most achievers I know are people who have made a strong and deep dedication to pursuing a particular goal. That dedication took a tremendous amount of effort.
When the first fossils began to be found in eastern Africa, in the late 1950s, I thought, what a wonderful marriage this was, biology and anthropology. I was around 16 years old when I made this particular choice of academic pursuit.
Scientists are very afraid of being proven wrong.
But it really wasn't until three to four years later, when we had an opportunity in the lab to make very detailed observations, and comparisons with other fossil discoveries, that we realized she was a new species of human ancestor.
I was very intellectually oriented, very early on.
My real father died when I was two years old, so I never knew him. He was a barber in Chicago.
This was the most important discovery I had ever made in my life. It was a discovery which has irrevocably changed my whole life's direction. It immediately elevated me to the status of one of the world's leading anthropologists.
Lucy brought with her an image of our human ancestors that you don't get when you find a jaw or an arm bone or a leg bone. Here was 40 percent of a single skeleton.
I was aware of it, but I grew up in a very a-religious family. My mother never went to church, she never had any religious training or background. It was never a part of our social interaction.
Normally, we are happy to find a fragment of jaw, a few isolated teeth, a bit of an arm, a bit of a skull. But to find associated body parts is extremely rare.
When I realized, in 1978, that Lucy did represent a new species of human ancestor, and that I had an opportunity to name this new species, I realized this was a revolutionary step in understanding human origins.
But what really excited me was the idea that humans had a tremendous pre-history that went back millions of years. I wanted to go to Africa to find some of these creatures.
One has to devote oneself to a particular pursuit. To be successful at anything, you have to make a total commitment to it.
There have been some friendships lost over this. That's the most difficult for me. I find it very uncomfortable to know that I was at one time close friends with someone, and because of jealousies and misunderstandings and so on, these friendships have dissolved.
As an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to go on a number of archeological digs. So I had experience excavating, digging up remains of ancient Indian villages in the Midwest and in the Southwest.
More Donald Johanson Quotations (Based on Topics)
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Louis Pasteur - Linus Pauling - Galileo Galilei - Vera Rubin - Isaac Asimov - Herbert Simon - Dmitri Mendeleev - Clyde Tombaugh - Carolus Linnaeus - Alfred Russel Wallace