William Charles Osman Hill

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William Charles Osman Hill
William Charles Osman Hill.jpg
Born (1901-07-13)13 July 1901
Died 25 January 1975(1975-01-25) (aged 73)
Residence
Nationality British
Fields
Institutions
Alma mater University of Birmingham
Known for Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy
Author abbreviation (zoology)
  • Osman Hill
  • Hill
Spouse Yvonne Stranger (m. 1947 – 1975)

William Charles Osman Hill (13 July 1901 – 25 January 1975) was a British anatomist, primatologist, and a leading authority on primate anatomy during the 20th century. He is best known for his nearly completed eight-volume series, Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy, which covered all living and extinct primates known at the time in full detail and contained illustrations created by his wife, Yvonne. Schooled at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Birmingham and University of Birmingham, he went on to publish 248 works and accumulated a vast collection of primate specimens that are now stored at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Early life and education[edit]

William Charles Osman Hill was born on 13 July 1901.[1] He was educated first at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Birmingham,[1][2] and later obtained his degrees from the University of Birmingham.[1] During medical school, also at the University of Birmingham, he won three junior student prizes and the Ingleby Scholarship in Midwifery.[1][3] He obtained his primary medical degrees in 1924,[1][2][3] and the same year took on the role of lecturer in zoology.[1] Osman Hill earned his M.D. with honors in 1925.[1][2][3] He also earned his Ch. B while in medical school.[4]

Career[edit]

Upon graduation, Osman Hill continued his role as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham under an apprenticeship until 1930, but teaching anatomy instead of zoology. In 1930, his career took shape when he moved to Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, to become both Chair of Anatomy and Professor of Anatomy at the Ceylon Medical College (more recently named Faculty of Medicine of the University of Colombo or Colombo Medical School).[1][2][3] His position allowed him to pursue anthropological studies of the indigenous Veddah people and comparative anatomy of primates. During this time, he began developing a private menagerie of exotic and native species. Consisting mostly of a variety of primates and parrots,[1][5] the collection reported included several types of cockatoo (family Cacatuidae), Red-fan Parrots (Deroptyus accipitrinus), Eclectus Parrots (Eclectus roratus), star tortoises (genus Geochelone), leopard tortoises (Stigmochelys pardalis), Galápagos tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra), and Ruddy mongooses (Herpestes smithii).[5] Osman Hill held this position in Ceylon for 14 years, returning to the U.K. after being appointed as Reader in Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh in 1945.[1][2][3] Upon his departure from Ceylon, his menagerie was divided between the London Zoo and the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka.[5]

Five years later in 1950, he became Prosector for the Zoological Society of London and remained there for twelve years.[1][2][3] When he left the London Zoo in 1962, the old prosectorium that has been his office was closed, many preserved biological specimens were discarded, and the era of anatomists working at the London Zoo—starting from the time of Richard Owen—came to a close.[3] Between 1957 and 1958, Osman Hill also acted as a visiting scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.[1] Later in 1958, primatologist Jane Goodall studied primate behavior under him in preparation for her studies of wild chimpanzees.[6] In 1962, he was hired as the Assistant Director of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center (YNPRC) in Atlanta[1][2] after being turned down for the position of Director.[7]

The Royal Society of Edinburgh honored him as a fellow in 1955 and for his contributions to science awarded him both its Gold Medal and the Macdougal-Brisbane Prize. Upon his retiring from YNPRC in 1969,[3] the Royal College of Surgeons of England made him a Hunterian Trustee. Following retirement, Osman Hill divided his time between his home at Folkestone and his continued work at the University of Turin. His relentless work in anatomy ended only during the final stages of his terminal illness, after he had suffered three years of increased illness as well as diabetes.[1]

Publications[edit]

During his career, Osman Hill wrote 248 publications, all academic journal articles or chapters in books based primarily upon his own observations.[1][2] His first paper, which discussed the comparative anatomy of the pancreas, was published in 1926. In all, his works, which continued being published until the year of his death, focused on the anatomy and behavior of humans, primates, and other mammals.[1]

Osman Hill is best known for writing Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy,[1][3] an eight-volume series that aimed to include all living and extinct primates. Published by Edinburgh University between 1953 and 1974, the series was the culmination of 50 years of his scientific research and thought. Each volume, starting with the strepsirrhines, covered its subjects exhaustively, including native and scientific nomenclature, anatomical structure, genetics, behavior and paleontology.[1] The books were illustrated with both photographs and drawings, most of which were made by his wife, Yvonne. The series was known for its breadth and depth, however it was never completed. Projected as a nine-volume set, Osman Hill died in 1975, leaving his magnum opus unfinished.[1][2] With five sections of the final volume written, including material on the taxonomy and most of the anatomy of langurs, it was hoped that his widow would be able to follow through with plans to prepare and publish them.[1][8] However, she died one year later.[3]

This monographic series often received praise for its encyclopedic content, but was also criticized for occasional omissions, errors, and lack of specificity.[9]

Selected publications[edit]

The eight volumes for which Osman Hill is best remembered were[3][10]

  • Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy (1953–1974)
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1953). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy I—Strepsirhini. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3. Edinburgh University Press. OCLC 500576914. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1955). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy II—Haplorhini: Tarsioidea. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3b. Edinburgh University Press. OCLC 500576923. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1957). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy III—Pithecoidea Platyrrhini. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3c. OCLC 500576928. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1960). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy IV—Cebidae, Part A. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3d. OCLC 500576933. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1962). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy IV—Cebidae, Part B. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3e. OCLC 500576939. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1966). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VI—Catarrhini Cercopithecoidea: Cercopithecinae. Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3f. OCLC 500576943. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1974). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VII—Cynopithecinae (Cercocebus, Macaca, Cynopithecus). Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3g. OCLC 613648477. 
    • Osman Hill, W. C. (1970). Primates Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy VIII—Cynopithecinae (Papio, Mandrillus, Theropithecus). Edinburgh Univ Pubs Science & Maths, No 3h. OCLC 500576950. 

The following is a list of other selected publications written by Osman Hill between 1926 and 1974.[10]

  • Osman Hill, W. C.; Phillips, W. W. A. (1932). "A new race of slender loris from the highlands of Ceylon". Ceylon Journal of Science (B) 17: 109–122. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1933). "A monograph of the genus Loris, with an account of the external, cranial and dental characters of the genus: A revision of the known forms; And the description of a new form from Northern Ceylon". Ceylon Journal of Science (B) 18: 89–132. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1934). "A monograph on the purple-faced leaf-monkeys (Pithecus vetulus)". Ceylon Journal of Science (B) 19: 23–88. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1942). "The slender loris of the Horton Plains, Ceylon. Loris tardigradus nycticeboides subsp, nov". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 43: 73–78. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1942). "The highland macaque of Ceylon". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 43: 402–406. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1945). "Notes on the Dissection of Two Dugongs". Journal of Mammalogy 26 (2): 153–175. doi:10.2307/1375092. JSTOR 1375092.  edit
  • Osman Hill, W. C.; Rewell, R. E. (1948). "The caecum of primates.—Its appendages, mesenteries and blood supply". The Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 26: 199–256. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1948.tb00223.x.  edit
  • Hill, W. C. O. (1952). "The external and visceral anatomy of the Olive Colobus Monkey (Procolobus verus)". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 122: 127–186. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1952.tb06315.x.  edit
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1953). "Note on the taxonomy of the genus Tarsius". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 123: 13–16. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1953.tb00149.x.  edit
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1953). "Caudal cutaneous specializations in Tarsius". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 123: 17–26. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1953.tb00150.x.  edit
  • Osman Hill, W. C.; Davies, D. V. (1954). "The reproductive organs in Hapalemur and Lepilemur". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (B) 65: 251–270. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C.; Davies, D. V. (1956). "The heart and great vessels in the Strepsirhini". Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 63 (1): 115–127. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C.; Booth, A. H. (1957). "Voice and larynx in African and Asiatic Colobidae". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 54: 309–321. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1958). "Pharynx, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine. Form and position". In Hofer, H.; Schultz, A. H.; Starck, D. Primatologia 3 (1). Basel: Karger. pp. 139–207. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1958). "External genitalia". In Hofer, H.; Schultz, A. H.; Starck, D. Primatologia 3 (1). Basel: Karger. pp. 630–704. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1959). "The Anatomy of Callimico goeldii (Thomas): A Primitive American Primate". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. New Series 49 (5): 1–116. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1972). Evolutionary Biology of Primates. Academic Press. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-12-528750-0. 
  • Osman Hill, W. C. (1972). "Taxonomic status of the Macaques Macaca mulatta Zimm. and Macaca irus Cuvier (= M. fascicularis Raffles)". Journal of Human Evolution 1 (1): 49–72. doi:10.1016/0047-2484(72)90041-3.  edit

Cryptozoology studies[edit]

In 1945, Osman Hill published an article entitled "Nittaewo—An unsolved problem of Ceylon", in which he speculated that a traditional Vedda story on Sri Lanka about savage dwarf-like humanoids, called Nittaewo, might have referred to an isolated species of Homo erectus, then referred to as Java Man or Pithecanthropus.[11][12] He went further to suggest that Homo erectus may also fit the description of the elusive and more well-known cryptid called Orang Pendek from Sumatra.[12][13][14] He supported his now-defunct hypothesis by pointing out several shared similarities between the two islands, including comparable wildlife.[13]

In the 1950s, he studied photographs of a relic from the Pangboche monastery in Nepal called the Pangboche Hand, which was claimed to be the hand of a Yeti, and decided that it belonged to an unknown anthropoid. However, after the a few bones from the relic were smuggled out of Nepal and brought to him for examination, he concluded that the bones had belonged to a human.[15] He reportedly changed his mind later and declared the bones belonged to a Neanderthal.[12] In 1961, Osman Hill published an article entitled "Abominable snowmen: The present position".[16] After examining the evidence available at the time, he and other researchers decided that although the Yeti might still exist, the evidence was not conclusive.[15] In time, he lost interest in the matter due to a lack of new evidence.[17]

Based on his studies of the results of a March 1960 expedition, Osman Hill concluded that "Ufiti", or Bili ape, was a remarkable chimpanzee. Citing older reports of chimpanzees from the dense forests of Malawi, he suggested that the Bili Ape represented an undiscovered subspecies of chimpanzee, more similar to the Western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), despite being located nearer the Eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii).[12]

Legacy[edit]

Today we think that structure cannot be divorced from function; anatomists have become physiologists, physiologists biochemists, and biochemists physicists; anatomy probes the sub-molecular. However, our modern world was soundly built on the foundations laid by men such as Osman Hill, and men such as he still fill an important role.

—R. N. Fiennes, Journal of Medical Primatology[3]

Osman Hill is remembered as a "distinguished anatomist", "eminent primatologist", and the foremost authority on primate anatomy of his time.[1][2] However, he did not consider himself a primatologist, but instead related best to old-school anatomists and naturalists, who studied the entire biological world and considered their own observations and recordings as sufficient. To these ends, he utilized his curiosity and broad knowledge of natural history.[3]

Osman Hill was remembered for his skill at dissection, and was noted for his ability to make quick, but accurate sketches of the anatomical features his scalpel revealed.[3] He is also remembered for his work as a "painstaking investigator",[1] physician, and anthropologist.[18] In his honor, two species have been named after him: Osman Hill's mangabey (Lophocebus osmani) and the Colombo wolf snake (Lycodon osmanhilli). The Primate Society of Great Britain named their Osman Hill Medal award after him.[18][19] The award is given every two years for distinguished contributions to primatology.[20]

He is responsible for describing one subspecies of black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata), the southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (V. v. editorum)[21] in 1952; one subspecies of toque macaque (Macaca sinica), the highland toque macaque (M. s. opisthomelas) in 1942;[22][23] one subspecies of red slender loris (Loris tardigradus), the Horton Plains slender loris (L. t. nycticeboides) in 1942;[24][25] and two subspecies of gray slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus), the highland slender loris (L. l. grandis) in 1932[26][27] and the dry zone slender loris (L. l. nordicus) in 1933.[28][29]

His extensive collection of biological primate specimens, which included tissues and skeletons, is preserved at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.[1][18][19]

Personal life[edit]

The loss of a friend is always saddening, but when this friend was also a teacher of science and life our appreciation, for the knowledge with which we were enriched by him, enhances our sorrow beyond words.

—B. Chiarelli, Obituary in Journal of Human Evolution[8]

Osman Hill married his wife, Yvonne Stranger, in 1947.[3] Yvonne, the only daughter of Harold Stranger K.C., M.P., was not only his devoted wife, but also a collaborator and illustrator of his works.[1][3] The couple preferred a small, close-knit circle of friends, and the dinners they hosted for their friends included the best wines and exotic dishes, such as python stew. Yvonne died close to a year after her husband.[3]

Osman Hill was described in a memorial published in the International Journal of Primatology (1981) as being "short and rotund, with twinkling blue eyes, a quiet manner, and a strong sense of humor." He was particularly remembered for his eagerness to help young researchers.[2] In the Journal of Medical Primatology he was described as an "entertaining companion with a quick and ready wit."[3] In another memorial, published in the Journal of Anatomy in 1975, he was described as friendly and tolerant, as well as "a merry man, vigorous, of humane culture, having the humour and good sense natural to those bred in the Provinces: a good Englishman." He was known to value simple citizenship and academics, and held small regard for people who "aspired to monarchy."[1] At Yerkes in Atlanta, some staff members viewed him as "the archetypical English scholar-gentleman who viewed those from the 'colonies' as a step below the British."[7]

In the British Who's Who, Osman Hill named field ornithology, botany, photography, and travel as his recreations.[3] Other casual interests included drugstore ice cream, good eating, old buildings, and gardening with his wife.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z MacC., M.A.; Young, A. (1975). "In memoriam Osman Hill, M.D., F.L.S., F.R.S.E". Journal of Anatomy 120 (2): 387–90. PMC 1231978. PMID 1104549.  edit
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Day, M. H. (1981). "Fossils and concepts in hominid paleontology: the W. C. O. Hill memorial lecture". International Journal of Primatology 2 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1007/BF02693443.  edit
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Fiennes, R. N. (1977). "William Charles Osman Hill—an appreciation". Journal of Medical Primatology 6 (6): 325–326. PMID 351187.  edit
  4. ^ "Record of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London for the Session of 1974-75". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 7 (4): 293–339. 1975. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1975.tb00230.x.  edit
  5. ^ a b c Walker, Sally (2000). "Zoological Gardens of Asia". In Kisling, Vernon N. Zoo and Aquarium History: Ancient Animal Collections To Zoological Gardens. CRC Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-8493-2100-9. 
  6. ^ Morell, Virginia (1995). Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 242. ISBN 0-684-80192-2. 
  7. ^ a b Dewsbury, Donald A. (2005). Monkey Farm: A History of the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida, 1930-1965. Bucknell University Press. pp. 261–269. ISBN 978-0-8387-5593-8. 
  8. ^ a b Chiarelli, B. (1975). "Obituary: Professor W. C. Osman Hill". Journal of Human Evolution 4 (4): i. doi:10.1016/0047-2484(75)90065-2.  edit
  9. ^ Ashton, E. H. (1971). "Book Reviews: Primates—Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy. Volume 8. Cynopithecinae" (PDF). Journal of Anatomy 110 (1): 127. PMC 1271036. 
  10. ^ a b Day, M. H.; Cartmill, M.; Staddon, N.; Bosler, W. (1981). "W. C. Osman Hill: Selected publications (1926–1974)". International Journal of Primatology 2 (2): 121–129. doi:10.1007/BF02693444.  edit
  11. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles (1945). "Nittaewo—An unsolved problem of Ceylon". Loris (Columbo) 4: 251–262. 
  12. ^ a b c d Coleman, Loren (1999). Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature. Fireside. ISBN 978-0-684-85602-5. 
  13. ^ a b Boyle, Richard (2010). "Dagger-clawed little people". Himāl Southasian. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  14. ^ Forth, Gregory (2008). Images of the Wildman in Southeast Asia: An Anthropological Perspective. Routledge. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-7103-1354-6. 
  15. ^ a b Buhs, Joshua Blu (2009). Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0-226-07979-0. 
  16. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles (1961). "Abominable snowmen: the present position". Oryx 6: 86–98. doi:10.1017/S0030605300001253.  edit
  17. ^ Regal, Brian (2008). "Amateur versus professional: the search for Bigfoot". Endeavour 32 (2): 53–84. doi:10.1016/j.endeavour.2008.04.005. ISSN 0160-9327. PMID 18514914. Retrieved 13 February 2011.  edit
  18. ^ a b c Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2009). The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 301–302. ISBN 978-0-8018-9304-9. 
  19. ^ a b Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2009). The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-9304-9. 
  20. ^ "PSGB Awards". Primate Society of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  21. ^ Andrainarivo, C., Andriaholinirina, V.N., Feistner, A., Felix, T., Ganzhorn, J., Garbutt, N., Golden, C., Konstant, B., Louis Jr., E., Meyers, D., Mittermeier, R.A., Perieras, A., Princee, F., Rabarivola, J.C., Rakotosamimanana, B., Rasamimanana, H., Ratsimbazafy, J., Raveloarinoro, G., Razafimanantsoa, A., Rumpler, Y., Schwitzer, C., Thalmann, U., Wilmé, L. & Wright, P. (2008). "Varecia variegata ssp. editorum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  22. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles (1942). "The highland macaque of Ceylon". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 43: 402–406. 
  23. ^ Dittus, W., Watson, A. & Molur, S. (2008). "Macaca sinica ssp. opisthomelas". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  24. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles (1942). "The slender loris of the Horton Plains, Ceylon, Loris tardigradus nycticeboides subsp. nov.". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 43: 73–78. 
  25. ^ Nekaris, A. (2008). "Loris tardigradus ssp. nycticeboides". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  26. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles; Phillips, W. W. A. (1932). "A new race of slender loris from the highlands of Ceylon". Ceylon Journal of Science (Spolia Zeylanica) XVII (2): 109–122. 
  27. ^ Nekaris, A., Singh, M. & Kumar Chhangani, A. (2008). "Loris lydekkerianus ssp. grandis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  28. ^ Osman Hill, William Charles (1933). "A monograph on the genus Loris with an account of the external, cranial and dental characters of the genus; a revision of the known forms; and the description of a new form from Northern Ceylon". Ceylon Journal of Science (Spolia Zeylanica) 18 (1): 89–132. 
  29. ^ Nekaris, A., Singh, M. & Kumar Chhangani, A. (2008). "Loris lydekkerianus ssp. nordicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 February 2011.