The Committee on the International Prize for Biology awards
the 2021 International Prize for Biology
in the field of "Biology of Human Evolution” to
Dr. Timothy Douglas White,
Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA
On August 31, the Committee on the International Prize for Biology (chaired by Dr. FUJIYOSHI Yoshinori, Distinguished Professor, Tokyo Medical and Dental University) decided to award the 37th (2021) International Prize for Biology to Dr. Timothy Douglas White, Professor of Integrative Biology and Director of Human Evolution Research Center, University of California at Berkeley, USA. This year’s Prize is awarded in the field of the Biology of Human Evolution.
||Timothy Douglas White
|DATE OF BIRTH :
||August 24, 1950
|PRESENT POSITION :
||Professor of Integrative Biology and Director of Human Evolution Research Center, The University of California at Berkeley
Education and Professional Positions
||Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley
Research Paleoanthropologist and Director, Human Evolution Research Center (HERC), University of California at Berkeley
Distinguished Chair in Life and Physical Sciences, University of California at Berkeley
||Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley
||Associate Professor, University of California at Berkeley
||Assistant Professor, University of California at Berkeley
||Visiting Lecturer, University of California at Berkeley
||Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Michigan
||Teaching Fellow and Laboratory Supervisor, University of Michigan
||Ph.D. degree in Biological Anthropology, University of Michigan
AWARDS AND DISTIONCTIONS
||Inaugural CENIEH-Cajavava Distinguished Lecturer, Burgos, Spain
||Keynote Speaker, Berkeley Geochronology Center 25th anniversary, San Francisco
||Associate Fellow, Ethiopian Academy of Sciences
||Holiday Lecturer, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland
||TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People
||Science Breakthrough of the Year: Ardipithecus; AAAS
||Honorary Fellow, Royal Society of South Africa
||Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
||Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
||Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
||U.C. Riverside, Distinguished Alumnus of the Year 2000
||American Academy of Achievement, Golden Plate Award
From early on in his career Dr. White has been involved in the study of important hominid fossils; in particular, he played a central role in the detailed analytical research on Australopithecus afarensis fossils (including fossilized footprints) dated to 3.7 to 3 million years ago. Due to the highly variable fossil assemblage, it was believed that multiple species had been mixed together, but through his thorough analysis, comparison, and interpretation of the fossils, Dr. White showed that the assemblage represents a single species with a large degree of variation, that he and colleagues named Australopithecus afarensis.
Dr. White’s research on and interpretation of the A. afarensis fossils have become a model for all subsequent work in the field of paleoanthropology and continue to influence research in this field to the present day.
The Middle Awash project in Ethiopia, which Dr. White has co-led with Ethiopian researchers since 1990, has discovered hominid fossils of various ages, including Ardipithecus kadabba (5.7 million years ago), Australopithecus anamensis (4.1 million years ago), Australopithecus garhi (2.5 million years ago), Homo erectus in Africa (1 million years ago), and Homo sapiens idaltu (the 160,000 year-old “Herto man”). Through rigorous analysis Dr. White and his colleagues have provided interpretations for each of these fossils that show that Ardipithecus kadabba is a more primitive hominid precursor of Ardipithecus ramidus; that Australopithecus garhi may be an ancestor of the genus Homo; and that Herto man is Homo sapiens at a period not long after our species arose.
The discovery by Dr. White and others of the 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus fossil, in particular, has provided the first comprehensive findings on the pre-Australopithecus phase of human evolution more than 4 million years ago. Dr. White was also personally in charge of the lengthy restoration work on its nearly complete but very fragile whole-body skeleton (nicknamed “Ardi”). As a result, the research he and his colleagues have done has clarified various aspects of Ardipithecus ramidus, inferring, among other things, what sort of environment the species inhabited by elucidating its mode of locomotion, foraging adaptations, sexual dimorphism (individual traits that differ depending on gender) and its socio-ecological significance, as well as revealing the surrounding paleoenvironment. These findings, for the first time, not only provide clues for a better understanding of the common ancestor of human beings and modern apes, which until now had been vaguely assumed to be chimpanzee-like, they have also simultaneously led to a new perspective on the position of Australopithecus in the history of human evolution.
The study of human evolution today has inevitably become sustained, international, and multidisciplinary, encompassing a wide variety of related fields including geology, geochronology, paleontology, archeology, taphonomy (the study of various changes that occur in the process of fossilization), functional morphology and systematic taxonomy. Dr. White’s personal promotion of wide-ranging research not just on hominid fossils, but also on non-human animal fossils, taphonomy, the paleoenvironment, archeology, osteology and cannibalistic practices and other human behaviors can be said to embody the multifaceted and international state of the study of human evolution today.
Dr. White has also devoted his energies to nurturing younger scholars. The next generation of researchers, including those from the eastern African region, who have been thoroughly trained in the field and in the laboratory by Dr. White and others, are now playing an active role at the forefront of African and Asian paleontology. In addition, the textbook on human osteology that Dr. White authored, considered the field’s unrivaled standard work, has become an indispensable reference not only for beginners but also for specialists.
Representative Publications and Literatures:
- 1) White, T.D., Lovejoy, C.O., Asfaw, B., Carlson, J.P. and Suwa, G. (2015) Neither chimpanzee nor human, Ardipithecus reveals the surprising ancestry of both. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA 112(16): 4877-4884. Special Feature: The Future of the Fossil Record, PNAS Centenary, D. Jablonski and N. Shubin, eds. www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1403659111
- 2) White, T.D., Black, M.T. and Folkens, P.A. (2012) Human Osteology. Third Edition. Elsevier Academic Press. San Diego. 662p.
- 3) White, T. D., Asfaw, B., Beyene, Y., Haile-Selassie, Y., Lovejoy, C. O., Suwa, G., and WoldeGabriel. (2009) Ardipithecus ramidus and the paleobiology of early hominids. Science, 326(5949): 75-86.
- 4) White, T.D. (2009) Ladders, bushes, punctuations, and clades: Hominid paleobiology in the late Twentieth Century. In: D. Sepkoski and M. Ruse (Eds.) The Paleobiological Revolution: Essays on the Growth of Modern Paleontology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 122-148.
- 5) Haile-Selassie, Y., Suwa, G., and White, T.D. (2009) Chapter 7, Hominidae. In: Y. Haile-Selassie and G. WoldeGabriel (Eds.), Ardipithecus kadabba: Late Miocene Evidence from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 159-236.
- 6) White, T.D., WoldeGabriel, G., Asfaw, B., Ambrose, S., Beyene, Y., Bernor, R.L., Boisserie, J.R., Currie, B., Gilbert, H., Haile-Selassie, Y., Hart, W.K., Hlusko, L.J., Howell, F.C., Kono, R.T., Lehmann, T., Louchart, A., Lovejoy, C.O., Renne, P.R., Saegusa, H., Vrba, E.S., Wesselman, H., and Suwa, G. (2006) Asa Issie, Aramis, and the origin of Australopithecus. Nature, 440: 883-889.
- 7) White, T.D., Asfaw, B., DeGusta, D., Gilbert, H., Richards, G.D., Suwa, G., and Howell, F.C. (2003) Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature, 423: 742-747.
- 8) Asfaw, B., Gilbert, W.H., Beyene, Y., Hart, W.K., Renne, P.R., WoldeGabriel, G., Vrba, E.S., and White, T.D. (2002) Remains of Homo erectus from Bouri, Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature, 416: 317-320.
- 9) White, T.D. (2000) A view on the science: Physical Anthropology at the Millennium. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 113: 287-292.
- 10) Defleur, A., White, T.D., Valensi, P., Slimak, L., and Crégut-Bonnoure, E. (1999) Neanderthal cannibalism at Moula-Guercy, Ardèche, France. Science, 286: 128-131.
- 11) Asfaw, B., White, T.D., Lovejoy, C.O., Latimer, B., Simpson, S. and Suwa, G. (1999) Australopithecus garhi: A new species of early hominid from Ethiopia. Science, 284: 629-635.
- 12) White, T.D., Suwa, G. and Asfaw, B. (1994) Australopithecus ramidus, a new species of early hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia. Nature, 371: 306-312.
- 13) WoldeGabriel, G., White, T.D., Suwa, G., Renne, P., de Heinzelin, J., Hart, W.K. and Heiken, G. (1994) Ecological and temporal placement of early Pliocene hominids at Aramis, Ethiopia. Nature, 371: 330-333.
- 14) White, T.D., Suwa, G., Hart, W.K., Walter, R.C., WoldeGabriel, G., de Heinzelin, J., Clark, J.D., Asfaw, B., and Vrba, E. (1993) New discoveries of Australopithecus at Maka, Ethiopia. Nature, 366: 261-265.
- 15) White, T.D. (1992) Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 488p.
- 16) White, T.D. (1986) Cutmarks on the Bodo cranium: A case of prehistoric defleshing. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 69: 503-509.
- 17) Johanson, D.C., Lovejoy, C.O., Kimbel, W.H., White, T.D., Ward, S.C., Bush, M.E., Latimer, B.M. and Coppens, Y. (1982) Morphology of the Pliocene partial skeleton (A.L. 288-1) from the Hadar Formation, Ethiopia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 57: 403-452.
- 18) White, T.D. (1980) Evolutionary implications of Pliocene hominid footprints. Science, 208: 175-176.
- 19) Johanson, D.C. and White, T.D. (1979) A systematic assessment of early African hominids. Science, 203: 321-330.
- 20) Harris, J.M. and White, T.D. (1979) Evolution of the Plio-Pleistocene African Suidae. Monograph: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 69, Part 2: 1-128.