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Death at 87 of paleontologist Yves Coppens, co-discoverer of Lucy

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World-renowned French paleontologist Yves Coppens, discoverer of several hominid fossils including the famous Australopithecus Lucy, died Wednesday at the age of 87, his editor, Odile Jacob, announced on Wednesday. One of the most famous fossil hunters, the co-discoverer of the famous Australopithecus Lucy, has just bowed out. The French paleontologist Yves Coppens died on Wednesday June 22 at the age of 87, after a life devoted to research on the fabulous history of the origins of Man. Books, conferences, interviews, but also scientific supervision of documentaries: this formidable knowledge broker, professor emeritus at the College de France, has never ceased to recount with verve the human epic. A story in constant evolution according to the discoveries of new fossils.Smiling, endowed with a sense of humor and formula, sometimes gently provocative, the paleoanthropologist with the white beard and mustache professed his confidence in the future of man. .>> See you again, our interview with Yves Coppens: “I’m always passionate about what I’m looking for and about humanity”Born August 9, 1934 in Vannes (Morbihan), this son of a nuclear physicist was passionate about for the excavations. “From the age of seven or eight, I wanted to become an archaeologist,” he told AFP at the end of 2016. “All my vacations were occupied by excavations”. On his 20th birthday, busy working on a mound, he refuses to go home. It is his family who will have to travel to the excavation site to celebrate his birthday there, he remembered mischievously. With a bachelor’s degree in experimental sciences, the young Breton obtained a degree in natural sciences, then a doctorate in paleontology. He did his thesis on proboscideans, mammals with trunks of which only elephants remain today. He joined the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in 1956, when he was only 22 years old.”Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”Man in the field, Yves Coppens went on an expedition to Africa from 1960. He began with Algeria and Chad. In 1967, he discovered a fossil of a bipedal hominid 2.6 million years old. years, in the valley of the Omo river, in Ethiopia. an international expedition also including the American Donald Johanson. The team unearthed 52 bone fragments. It was at the time the most complete hominid fossil ever found. The researchers nicknamed her Lucy, because they were listening to the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” while tagging the bones. It is an Australopithecus afarensis, 3.2 million years old. Because of her bipedalism, scientists have long believed that Lucy was our direct ancestor (and Donald Johanson continues to present her as such). But for Yves Coppens and other paleontologists, it is rather a very old cousin of Man. Coppens, who presented himself as one of Lucy’s “dads” with Johanson and Taieb, also searched Mauritania, the Philippines, Indonesia, Siberia, China, Mongolia. In total, he co-signed six hominids. At the same time, Yves Coppens rose through the ranks. The professor was appointed deputy director of the Musée de l’Homme in 1969, then director of this museum in 1980. He was then elected holder of the chair of paleoanthropology at the Collège de France in 1983. He held it until 2005. Lascaux and the megaliths This prehistoric enthusiast is also concerned about the future. In 2002, he prepared the Environmental Charter, desired by President Jacques Chirac and which was incorporated into the French Constitution in 2005. Nicolas Sarkozy called on him in 2010 to chair the scientific council responsible for the conservation of the Lascaux cave. , whose condition has deteriorated sharply. The cave is better and Yves Coppens passes the torch in the summer of 2017. He immediately seizes another one: the Breton seeks to make the megaliths of Morbihan a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yves Coppens was a member of the Academy of Sciences, that of medicine, and many foreign academies. On the other hand, he failed to enter the French Academy in 1998. He is the author of more than a thousand scientific articles and several books. In his penultimate, “Origin of Man, origin of a man”, published in 2018, he had chosen to take himself as a new object of study, under the friendly impulse of his editor. “Odile Jacob has had to say to himself ‘ooh there, he’s getting old; it’s time for him to write his memoirs'”, he joked in an interview with AFP. Modest, he only delivered “the professional part” of his memoirs. He just confessed a real “love of music”, transmitted by his mother. Apart from Lucy, his real pride was to have “unquestionably linked the emergence of Man to climate change”, in 1975. With AFP

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