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ASU professor, daughter team up for book about human origins

School of Life Sciences professor Stephen Pyne teamed up with his daughter, ASU alumna Lydia Pyne, to explore the earliest appearance of mankind on Earth.

Their book, “The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins and the Invention of the Pleistocene,” was released in June.

The book combines Stephen’s knowledge of environmental history and Lydia’s passion for solving the remaining mysteries connected to the rise of man.

As part of her ongoing research, Lydia has participated in archeology and paleoanthropology projects in Ethiopia, South Africa and Uzbekistan.

After Lydia received her Ph.D. from ASU, she and her father began writing the book using her expertise on the Pleistocene era and Stephen’s experience in writing and publishing academic books.

Stephen said scientific evidence generally dictates that humans evolved into their present form sometime during the Pleistocene era, which lasted from approximately 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.

“A lot of circumstances came together which allowed us write it,” Pyne said. “I happened to have a sabbatical semester coming up, so I was free to do the writing.”

During her time as a doctoral student at ASU, Lydia used the storage space adjoining Stephen’s office as a base to do her research.

Stephen said he and Lydia had often joked about partnering to write a book.

“This project was really ideally suited to us,” Lydia said. “We worked back and forth on several drafts over Steve's sabbatical year, using that year as the time that we knew we'd have to write the bulk of the manuscript.”

Lydia is currently part of a fellowship with the Great Works Symposium at Drexel University.

The objective of the program is to continue research into the fields of exobiology, astrobiology and studies regarding the origins of life on Earth.

Drexel professor Lloyd Ackert said Lydia has taken on administrative duties and helped to develop several of the courses since she arrived at Drexel.

“She contributes to the program in some very creative ways. Lydia certainly brings a lot to the table,” Ackert said. “She is part of a new, younger generation of professionals who are thinking about science in new ways.”


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