Yves Coppens

Memory of a Mammoth Science, past and present Publication date : May 25, 2022

Yves Coppens is the world-renowned discoverer of numerous hominid fossils, including Lucy. He is a paleontologist, a professor at the French National Museum of Natural History and the Collège de France, and a member of the French Academy of Sciences and Academy of Medicine.
“Always remember that there are very few important things in life, which you must quickly learn to distinguish from thousands of incidental details; the main thing is to be happy, and for that I suggest plenty of curiosity, so that you are constantly amazed.” From Yves Coppens’ memory of being dazzled by his first glimpse of a fossil – his own Proust’s madeleine – to contemplation of the millions of asteroids hurtling through space (one of which has appropriately been named “Coppens”), this book is a fount of anecdotes about objects and events significant to the author’s scholarly life, drawn from 14 billion years’ history of the world, humankind, animals, plants and minerals. Passages of (pre)history both major and minor are brought to life, perhaps thanks in part to Coppens’ synesthetic brain that makes him – and us – see time in three dimensions. The reader is given tastes of scientific discovery like so many first sips of beer: fossil hominids, early primates, Lucy, France’s earliest inhabitants, the oldest work of monumental architecture, the last Neanderthals, the last mammoths, and more. This book takes us on a joyful journey through a life driven by passion for paleontology and prehistory – and teaches us about our own origins along the way.
“When we’re young, we’re often godchildren; as we get older, we often become godparents! In other words, we come to have the honor of ‘adopting’ a person or a cause, an animal or a planet, an object or a place…”
“I consider it my duty to amuse, to entertain, to teach, to astound, to be scientific so I don’t disappoint, to be straightforward so I am understood.”