Charles Kimberlin Brain

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Charles Kimberlin Brain (C. K. 'Bob' Brain), born in Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) in 1931, is an eminent South African paleontologist who has studied and taught African cave taphonomy for more than fifty years.


From 1965 to 1991, Dr. Brain directed the Transvaal Museum, which became one of the most scientifically productive institutions of its kind in Africa during his tenure.

During his years at the Museum, Bob Brain actively pursued his own research, which was A-rated by the Foundation for Research Development (now the National Research Foundation of South Africa) from the inception of its evaluation system in 1984 until his retirement.

Brain planned and scripted the displays in the Museum's "Life’s Genesis I" and "Life's Genesis 2" halls, which have been seen by several million visitors.

Very early in Bob Brain's career, Robert Ardrey wrote of him:

[In 1958] I was spending a night in a South African village with a party of scientists. One in the party was Dr. C. K. Brain, an amazing young man from the Transvaal Museum.

Brain is a scientist's scientist, and I know of none so young on any continent who has acquired from achievements so varied a reputation quite so wide. He is a Rhodesian, from a family related to that of Eugène Marais. He has a long, distinguished face and his mode of expression, unlike my own, is as a rule one of long, distinguished silences. Brain was twenty-seven at the time, and had taken his doctorate in geology.

He had followed this with three fruitful years in anthropology, in which time he had furnished palaeontology with its only comprehensive geological survey of all five australopithecine sites; had developed techniques of ancient dating never thought of before by anyone; and with his uncovering of primitive stone handaxes at Sterkfontein had made a discovery ranked by Dr. Kenneth P. Oakley of the British Museum as one of the anthropological milestones of the century."

— Robert Ardrey, African Genesis, p. 69, 1961.      

Although Dr. Brain retired in 1996, he is active as Curator Emeritus at the Transvaal Museum, an Honorary Professor of Zoology at the University of the Witswatersrand, an active Research Associate at the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Palaeo-Anthropology Scientific Trust (PAST). He is an active researcher of fossils of the earliest animals and is co-ordinating a renewed excavation initiative at the Swartkrans Cave. He is a consulting editor for the Annals of the Eastern Cape Museums.[1]

In its 2006 Lifetime Achiever tribute to Bob Brain, the National Research Foundation of South Africa said:

Dr Brain was also personally involved and supervised a 30-year-long excavation of the Swartkrans Cave in the Sterkfontein Valley (now the Cradle of Humankind). This cave was the first to demonstrate the coexistence of robust ape men with early humans and produced more remains of robust ape men (Paranthropus) than any other site in the world.

His objective was to obtain a large and meticulously documented sample of fossils and cultural objects from the complex stratigraphic units in the cave and to do taphonomic interpretations on these, throwing light on how the animals (including the hominids) lived and died. His excavation produced a sample of 240,000 fossils from a very diverse fauna. These emphasise the importance of predation to the evolution of human intelligence and provided evidence for the earliest controlled use of fire by humans nearly one million years ago.

For nearly ten years Dr Brain has been looking for evidence of the oldest known predators among fossils of invertebrates from 700 million year old limestones in Namibia. His finds show how the predatory process started in the animal lineages."

Bob Brain has been an invited participant at over thirty international conferences and symposia worldwide. He and his wife have four children.[citation needed]


Honours and awards[edit]

  • Four Honorary Doctorates:
1999: University of the Witwatersrand
1999: University of Pretoria
1993: University of Natal
1991: University of Cape Town

Scholarly scientific societies[edit]

In addition to other active memberships, Bob Brain is a founding member of four societies:

  • Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa
  • South African Archaeological Society
  • South African Society for Quaternary Research
  • Zoological Society of Southern Africa
    • 1974-75: President
    • 1969-73: Vice President


  • Nearly two hundred, including several books.


Scientific Journals[edit]

(This list is very incomplete.)


  1. ^ Rhodes University. "Consulting Editors". Annals of the Eastern Cape Museums. 
  2. ^ a b "Top award for lifetime achiever" (PDF - google search for "Top award for lifetime achiever" will find html version). Newsletter of the National Research Foundation of South Africa No 5, June/July 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c Charles Brain Retrieved 23 May 2010

External links[edit]