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Tribute to Frenchman who found 3.2 million-year-old 'Lucy' skeleton

Celebrated palaeontologist Yves Coppens told us about how he made the find with fellow researchers in an interview in 2019

Yves Coppens has died Pic: Abaca Press / Alamy Banque D'Images

Renowned palaeontologist Yves Coppens, famous for his 1974 discovery of the 3.2 million-year-old skeleton, Lucy, has died at the age of 87. 

Lucy was a collection of hundreds of pieces of fossilised bone, making up 40% of a female skeleton of the Australopithecus afarensis species, found in Ethiopia by Mr Coppens and a team of fellow researchers including his American colleague Donald Johanson. 

She was named after The Beatles song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, which was being played at the researchers’ camp. 

Mr Coppens continued working well into his 80s, giving conferences and sharing his knowledge with researchers around the world. 

The news of his death was shared by his editor, Odile Jacob, yesterday (June 22). She said: “My sadness is immense. He was a very great scholar, a world-renowned palaeontologist, a member of innumerable international institutions, but most notably professor at the Collège de France and member of the Académie des sciences.”

“I have lost a friend who trusted me with his whole oeuvre. France has lost one of its great men. I will never forget him.” 

The Connexion interviewed Mr Coppens in 2019 on the subject of his long career and his work with Lucy. 

You can read the interview here: 

Finding Lucy with French paleontologist Yves Coppens

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