Yves Coppens (Vannes, August 9, 1934 – June 22, 2022) was a French paleontologist and paleonthropologist. In 1965 he discovered the skull of a hominid in Yaho (Angamma, Chad), estimated to be a million years old, which he then designated as Tchadanthropus uxoris and later considered to be a specimen of Homo erectus. In 1974 he was one of the discoverers of Lucy, the famous Australopithecus afarensis found in Africa in the 1970s.
He was born in Vannes on August 9, 1934.  His father, nuclear physicist René Coppens, Knight of the Legion of Honor, worked on the radioactivity of rocks and wrote numerous scientific papers for the Academy of Sciences. He was a professor at the Faculty of Sciences and at the National Higher School of Geology in Nancy. His mother was a concert pianist.
He was passionate about prehistory and archeology from his childhood, fascinated, for example, by the megalithic alignments of Carnac, not far from his hometown of Vannes; he began to participate in excavation and prospecting work in Brittany at the age of fourteen years. He obtained a baccalaureate in experimental sciences at the Liceo Jules Simon de Vannes and then a bachelor's degree in natural sciences at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Rennes. He did his doctorate on proboscideans in the laboratory of Jean Piveteau at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Paris (La Sorbonne).
In 1956, aged twenty-two, he became a research associate at the National Center for Scientific Research. He focused on the study of the Quaternary and Tertiary periods. In 1959, as a researcher in the laboratory of the Paleontology Institute of the National Museum of Natural History, under the direction of René Lavocat, the latter entrusted him with the determination of the Pliocene proboscidian teeth (object of his thesis), from vertebrate fossils. found by geologists in Africa. This contact with geologists allowed him to leave for Africa in January 1960 and, later, carry out expeditions to Chad, Ethiopia, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Indonesia and the Philippines.
In 1969 he became a professor at the National Museum of Natural History, and later deputy director of the Museum of Man. He was appointed professor at the Museum of Natural History and elected to its chair of anthropology in 1980. He was part of the scientific council of the École Pratique des Hautes Études. In 1983 he was elected chair of Palaeontology and Prehistory at the Collège de France, chair which he held until 2005, when he became an honorary professor.
In 2002 he was appointed to chair a special commission, known as the "Coppens Commission", whose work served as the basis for drafting the Charter for the Environment, a text prepared by the General Secretariat of the Government and the Presidency of the Republic, which was presented to the National Assembly and the Senate in 2004 and was integrated in 2005, by means of the Constitutional Law of March 1, in the block of constitutionality of French law, recognizing the fundamental rights and duties related to the protection of the environment .
In 2006, he was appointed to the High Council for Science and Technology by Jacques Chirac. In January 2010, he was appointed president of the scientific council in charge of the conservation of the Lascaux cave by Nicolas Sarkozy. On April 13, 2016, he was appointed curator of the Manoir de Kerazan by the Institute of France.
He joined numerous national and international organizations that manage the disciplines of his competence. He has also directed a laboratory associated with the CNRS, the Museum of Man's Anthropological Research Center, and two CNRS book collections, "Cahiers de paleoanthropologie" and "Travaux de paleoanthropologie est-africaine".
He was a member of the Academy of Cie