“A mammoth memory”, the life of paleontologist Yves Coppens



A mammoth memory,

by Yves Coppens,

Editions Odile Jacob, 443 pages, €24.90

Having trouble remembering what you ate for lunch? Yves Coppens, he remembers his dinner of January 22, 2001. And his afternoon of April 27, 1990. And a thousand other days, each with its share of inaugurations, speeches, discoveries, and above all meetings . The French paleontologist, discoverer of the famous Australopithecus Lucy fossil, has an elephant’s memory. Or rather “mammoth” as he himself admits.

→ CRITICAL. “A brief history of the origins of mankind”: from chimpanzees to Homo sapiens

Helped by an important biographical work, Yves Coppens retraces his life here, in its great and small moments. But do not believe that this is an autobiography like the others. Between each anecdote, the specialist in the beginnings of humanity slips in “drops of knowledge”, because you can’t get over it after so many years of passing on your passion. We discover in bulk ichnology, the science of fingerprints, the joint evolution of mitochondria and our cells, but also the history of the Miss France contest!

If some passages look a bit like a list of thanks, reading a life as extraordinary as that of Yves Coppens remains fascinating, whether it is the story of excavations in Chad or the improbable visit of a private English school in Jakarta, where the paleontologist finds himself giving exams.

Closer to us, he also looks back on his Breton childhood memories, he who was born in Vannes in 1934. With simplicity and generosity, Yves Coppens talks about himself, pays homage and makes people discover a thousand and one things, in a hands-on approach. all very fun.

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