Raymond Dart

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Raymond Arthur Dart
Raymond Dart with Taung.jpg
Raymond Dart with the Taung Child skull
Born (1893-02-04)4 February 1893
Brisbane, Queensland
Died 22 November 1988(1988-11-22) (aged 95)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Nationality Australian
Fields anatomist, anthropologist
Known for Australopithecus africanus
Notable awards Viking Fund Medal (1957)

Raymond Arthur Dart (4 February 1893 – 22 November 1988) was an Australian anatomist and anthropologist, best known for his involvement in the 1924 discovery of the first fossil ever found of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominin closely related to humans, at Taung in the North of South Africa in the province Northwest.

Early life[edit]

Dart was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the son of a farmer and tradesman. He studied at Ipswich Grammar School, the University of Queensland, St. Andrew's College, Sydney, University of Sydney and University College, London, before taking a position as head of the newly established department of anatomy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922.

Dart served as a medic in the Australian Army in France during World War One.[1]


Dart in 1968

In 1924, Dart discovered the first Australopithecus africanus fossil, an extinct hominin closely related to humans. His colleague, Professor Robert Burns Young from the Buxton Limeworks, had sent Dart two crates of fossils from the small town of Taung in the North West Province of South Africa.[2] Upon seeing the fossils, Dart immediately recognized one as being an early human because its brain dimensions were too large for a baboon or chimpanzee.[3][4] Blasting had exposed a breccia-filled cave and the child's skull had come to light together with several fossilized monkeys and hyraxes. M. de Bruyn had noticed their unusual nature in November 1924 and informed the Limeworks manager, Mr. A.E. Spiers.

As Dart was not part of the scientific establishment, and because he found the fossil in Africa, and not Europe or Asia, where the establishment supposed man's origins, his findings were initially dismissed.[5]

Dart's closest ally was Robert Broom whose discoveries of further Australopithecines (as well as Wilfrid Le Gros Clark's support) eventually vindicated Dart, so much so that in 1947 Sir Arthur Keith said "...Dart was right, and I was wrong". Keith made this statement referring to his dismissal and skepticism of Dart's analysis of the 'Taung Child' as an early human ancestor; Keith thought that it was more likely to be an ape, yet later research by Broom confirmed Dart's theories.

Not all of Dart's ideas are accepted now. His assertion that gazelle long-bones found in association with A. africanus were used as tools is unproven and largely dismissed.[citation needed] Dart also originated the killer ape theory. Although some other anthropologists, notably Robert Ardrey, defended and further developed the theory, it is still widely questioned.[citation needed] Dart envisioned damage to fossilized bones was caused by meat-eating proclivities of A. africanus, but C.K. Brain was able to show the damage was caused by large carnivores feeding.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Dart was married twice and had 2 children.[citation needed]


The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa was established in 1956 at Witwatersrand in his honor.[7]

Dart was director of the School of Anatomy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg until 1958. There he worked with Phillip Tobias (1925-2012), who continued his work in the study of the Cradle of Humankind and other paleoanthropological sites. In 1959, an autobiographical account of Dart's discoveries, Adventures with the Missing Link, was published (with Dennis Craig as co-author). In the book he acknowledges the crucial role played by his first female student and Demonstrator, Josephine Salmons. She brought to his attention the existence of a fossilised baboon skull at the house of Mr E.G. Izod, director of the Northern Lime Company and proprietor of a quarry in Taung. The skull was kept as an ornament on the mantlepiece above the fireplace at his home. In bringing the skull to show Prof. Raymond Dart, she set in motion a chain of events that led to the discovery of the 'Child skull of Taung' She later became wife of Prof. Cecil Jackson, Professor of Anatomy at Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, University of Pretoria.

At the age of 73, Dart began dividing his time between South Africa and The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP), an organization founded by Glenn Doman. Dart spent much of the next twenty years working with the IAHP, an organization that treats brain injured children. [8]


  • Dart R.A. (1925): Australopithecus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa. Nature, Vol.115, No.2884 (1925) 195-9 (the original paper communicating the Taung finding, in PDF format).
  • Dart, R.A. (1953): "The Predatory Transition from Ape to Man." International Anthropological and Linguistic Review, 1, pp. 201–217.
  • Dart, Raymond A. and Craig, Dennis (1959): Adventures with the Missing Link. New York: Harper & Brothers (autobiography).
  • Fagan, Brian. The Passion of Raymond Dart. Archaeology v. 42 (May–June 1989): p. 18.
  • Johanson, Donald & Maitland Edey. Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0-671-25036-1
  • Alexander Murray, ed. (1996): Skill and Poise: Articles on skill, poise and the F. M. Alexander Technique. Collection of Raymond Dart's papers. Hardcover, 192+xiv pages, b/w illustrations, 234 x 156 mm, index, UK, STAT Books.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/23/obituaries/raymond-a-dart-is-dead-at-95-leader-in-study-of-human-origins.html
  2. ^ http://www.maropeng.co.za/index.php/exhibition_guide/personalities/
  3. ^ Dart, Raymond (1982). Adventures with the Missing Link. Better Baby Pr. ISBN 0936676299. 
  4. ^ Brain, C.K. "Raymond Dart and our African origins". A Century of Nature. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved 18 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Ape to Man, History, 16 February 2011
  6. ^ Bunn, Henry (2007). Evolution of the Human Diet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 191. ISBN 0195183460. 
  7. ^ Institute for the Study of Man in Africa. "Objectives & Vision, Background Information". ISMA website. 
  8. ^ Review by Jean Clark of "Dart: Man of Science and Grit" by Frances Wheelhouse and Kathaleen S. Smithford. Review was published in STATNews vol. 6, issue 11, September 2003. http://www.mouritz.co.uk/8.33.22.Wheelhouse.Dart.html

External links[edit]