Yves Coppens, co-discounter of Lucy and face of French paleontology, died

Former director of the Musée de l’Homme and professor emeritus at the Collège de France, Yves Coppens owed his notoriety to discovery, in 1974, of Lucy, the most famous Australopitheque in the world. He died on Wednesday at the age of 87.

Le Monde

The French paleontologist Yves Coppens, co -keeper of Lucy, died Wednesday June 22 at the age of 87, announced his editor Odile Jacob.

“Yves Coppens left us this morning. […] Yves Coppens was a very big scientist, world renowned paleontologist, member of countless foreign institutions, but especially professor at the Collège de France and member of the Academy of sciences “, wrote on Twitter has published a large number of his works. “His benevolence, his kindness, his humor, his fidelity, his erudition had equal only his talent as a writer, a storyteller, an essayist,” she added.

The scientist died of a long illness, said the publishing house at the France Press agency. 2>

field work

Yves Coppens was born in Vannes (Morbihan) on August 9, 1934. He entered the CNRS in 1956 to work on the paleontology of vertebrates. From 1960 he conducted research on the menalla site. He discovered in 1961 his first hominid, Chadanthropus Uxoris (1 million years). It is on this site that Michel Brunet (University of Poitiers, CNRS) will discover, forty years later, the skull of Toumaï, a prehuman of 7 million years. This discovery of Chadanthropus Uxoris will seal the entry of Yves Coppens in the media world. In 1963, the Prix de la Foundation de la Vocation, awarded by Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, opened the doors of Publicis, which welcomed him within his walls for the presentation of his work to the press.

In 1969, he was called to the sub-department of the Museum of Man. He took the direction in 1980, at the same time as he became a professor at the National Museum of Natural History (Chair of Anthropology). Meanwhile, he goes to the Omo river valley, Ethiopia, a high place for discoveries of hominids and old fauna. At the request of Haïlé Sélassié, emperor of Ethiopia, the British paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey organizes an international expedition in which Yves Coppens participates. He uncovered Australopithecus aethiopicus (2.5 million years). Then the French scientist directs his steps towards Afar, in eastern Ethiopia. It was then in 1974 the discovery of Lucy (Australopithecus Afarensis), with Maurice Taïeb and Don Johannson (United States). The 52 bones of Lucy (a human skeleton includes 206) will allow to reconstruct its weight, age and locomotion, and to discover that the prehumans were walking and climbing to trees.

In 1983, Yves Coppens became the holder of the Chair of Paleoanthropology and Prehistory of the Collège de France. Two years later, he was elected member of the Academy of Sciences.


1934 Birth in Vannes.

1974 Discovery of Lucy.

1980 Director of the Museum of Man. Professor at the National Museum of Natural History.

1983 Professor at the Collège de France.

2004 Scientific advisor on the film “Homo Sapiens”.

2022 Death at 87 years old

/Media reports.