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F. Clark Howell dies


F. Clark Howell, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Supporter of NCSE, died on March 10, 2007, at his home in Berkeley. Born on November 27, 1925, in Kansas City, he received bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago. Howell taught anatomy at Washington University before returning to the University of Chicago to teach anthropology from 1955 to 1970. In 1970, he moved to UC Berkeley, where he remained until retiring in 1991. He continued to be very active in research and publication until his death. Howell was a central figure in the development of paleoanthropology as a science in the second half of the 20th century. He pursued extensive and groundbreaking fieldwork on human evolution, archeology, and paleontology in Africa, Europe, and Asia. He was a pioneer in the organization of multi-disciplinary research teams, bringing together geologists, paleontologists, biologists, archaeologists, and physical anthropologists to investigate the fossil record of human evolution from many perspectives. Howell was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow or member of many other scientific societies, and a recipient of the Charles Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Physical Anthropology from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

In addition to his research and teaching, Howell was also very committed to public education about human evolution and the fossil record. He was involved in the 1960s in the Hominid Casting Program of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, which produced and distributed high-quality casts of significant fossils. He was a trustee and head of the Science and Grants Committee of the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation for many years, supporting such programs as the "Stones and Bones" high school curriculum in human evolution. He was an advisor to documentary specials and museum exhibits on the fossil record, as well as the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is perhaps ironic that his most persistent contribution to public understanding and debate about human evolution will probably be the book Early Man, first published in 1965. This widely distributed volume in the Time-Life Nature series contained a fold-out graphic depicting a sequence of reconstructions of extinct fossil hominids walking across the page. Although not intended to depict a simple linear course of human evolution, and not the first such illustration, this graphic is the ultimate source of nearly all such illustrations still used today, both in the creationist literature and in popular science media. A memorial website for Clark Howell has been established, and his family suggests donations to the Leakey Foundation.