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Broom, Robert

australopithecus hominid medicine africa

(1866–1951) British–South African physician and palaeontologist: confirmed significance of Australopithecus as a hominid and proved his bipedality.

After graduating in medicine from Glasgow in 1889, Broom practised general medicine in Australia for some years before moving to South Africa in 1897. In 1934 he gave up medicine and was appointed palaeontologist at the Transvaal Museum, Pretoria.

Something of an eccentric (he buried dead Bushmen in his garden, exhuming them when decomposed), Broom did much to clarify the classification of the fossil reptiles of Africa. In 1936, at the age of 69, he turned his attention to hominid fossils and was almost immediately successful in finding at Sterkfontein a skull of Australopithecus africanus , a hominid first identified by

in 1924. Two years later a small boy brought him the jaw of another early hominid, Australopithecus robustus , now believed to have lived about 1–2 million years ago. These two finds convinced a hitherto sceptical scientific community of the significance of Dart’s earlier claim of Australopithecus africanus as an ancestor of man. In 1947, when over 80, Broom found a partial skeleton of Australopithecus that included the pelvis, giving the first conclusive evidence that he had walked upright.

Broome, (William) Edward [next] [back] Brooks, Walter H.(1851–1945) - Minister, religious reformer, orator, poet, Chronology

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