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Raymond Dart

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Raymond Arthur Dart
Dart in 1968
Born(1893-02-04)4 February 1893
Died22 November 1988(1988-11-22) (aged 95)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Alma materIpswich Grammar School, University of Queensland, University of Sydney
Known forAustralopithecus africanus
Dora Tyree
(m. 1921; div. 1934)
Marjorie Frew
(m. 1936)
AwardsViking Fund Medal (1957)
Scientific career
FieldsAnatomist, anthropologist

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 found of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominin closely related to humans, at Taung in the North of South Africa in the Northwest province.

Early life


Raymond Dart was born in Toowong, a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the fifth of nine children and son of a farmer and tradesman. His birth occurred during the 1893 flood, which filled his parents' home and shop in Toowong. The family moved alternately between their country property near Laidley and their shop in Toowong.[1] The young Dart attended Toowong State School, Blenheim State School and earned a scholarship to Ipswich Grammar School from 1906 to 1909. Dart considered becoming a medical missionary to China and wished to study medicine at the University of Sydney, but his father argued that he should accept the scholarship he won to the newly established University of Queensland and study science.[2] He was a member of the first intake of students to the university in 1911 and studied geology under H.C. Richards and zoology, taking his BSc in 1913. Dart became the first student to graduate with honours from the University of Queensland in 1914[1][3] and took his MSc with honours from UQ in 1916.[1][2] He studied medicine at the University of Sydney taking his MB and M.Surgery in 1917, and conducting his residency at St Andrews College, University of Sydney.[2] He was awarded his M.D. from the University of Sydney in 1927.[4]

Dart served as a captain and medic in the Australian Army in England and France during the last year of World War I.[5]

Following the war, he took up a position as a senior demonstrator at the University College, London in 1920 at the behest of Grafton Elliot Smith, famed anatomist, anthropologist and fellow Australian.[6] This was followed by a year on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.[2] Returning to England and work at the University College, London, he reluctantly took up the position of Professor at the newly established department of anatomy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922, after encouragement from Elliot Smith and Sir Arthur Keith.[7]

Dart (left) and Joseph L. Shellshear, c. 1921



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.[8] 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.[9][10] 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 Raymond found the fossil in Africa, and not Europe or Asia, where the establishment supposed man's origins, his findings were initially dismissed.[11]

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. Dart's theories were also popularized by playwright, screenwriter, and science writer Robert Ardrey, first in an article published in The Reporter and reprinted in Science Digest, and later in Ardrey's influential four-book Nature of Man Series,[12]: 41:20 [13][14] which began in 1961 with African Genesis.

Not all of Dart's theories would in the end be vindicated.[15][16] A number of his theories, including that of the killer ape, have been refuted.[17] However, some of his ideas retain support.[17] His work was clearly influenced by the mentors he worked with in his early career, in particular Grafton Elliot Smith.[18]



Dart proposed the idea of dual evolutionary origins of the neocortex. During his research in the 1930s in Africa, he studied the architecture of reptilian brains. He was able to identify a primordial neocortex, the oldest structure that can be considered as a neocortex, in a reptile. He identified a distinction between the cytoarchitecture in an area that split it into a para-hippocampal and a para-pyriform region.[19]

Personal life


Dart married Dora Tyree, a medical student from Virginia, U.S.A., in 1921 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, U.S.A., and they divorced in 1934. He married Marjorie Frew, head librarian at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1936 and they had two children.[2][20]

Dart died in Johannesburg in 1988.



The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa was established in 1956 at Witwatersrand in his honour by Phillip Tobias. In 1964 the Raymond Dart Memorial Lecture was inaugurated at the Institute.[21]

Dart was director of the School of Anatomy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg until 1958. There he worked with Tobias, 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 Edwin Gilbert 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 Dart, she set in motion a chain of events that led to the discovery of the "child skull of Taung".

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 that treats brain injured children. Dart's son, Galen, had suffered motor damage during birth in 1941. Dart spent much of the next twenty years working with the IAHP.[22]


  • 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.The publication does not exist on line, but in "http://www.users.miamioh.edu/erlichrd/vms_site/dart.html" there is a copy of the article.
  • 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
  • Murray, Alexander 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



  1. ^ a b c Wheelhouse, Frances and Smithford, Kathaleen (2001). Dart: scientist and man of grit. University of Queensland Library: Transpareon Press. pp. 1–17. ISBN 978-0908021277.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e Tobias, Phillip V. "Raymond Arthur Dart (1893–1988)". Dart, Raymond Arthur (1893–1988). Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  3. ^ Wheelhouse, Frances (1983). Raymond Arthur Dart: a pictorial profile. University of Queensland Library: Transpareon Press. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-0908021048.
  4. ^ "Dart, Raymond Arthur - Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive". sydney.edu.au. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  5. ^ Wilford, John Noble (23 November 1988). "Raymond A. Dart Is Dead at 95; Leader in Study of Human Origins". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Biographies: Raymond Dart". www.talkorigins.org. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  7. ^ Falk, Dean (2011). The fossil chronicles. University of Queensland Library: University of California Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780520266704.
  8. ^ "The early personalities of South African palaeoanthroplogy". Maropeng – Official Visitor Centre. Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  9. ^ Dart, Raymond (1982). Adventures with the Missing Link. Better Baby Pr. ISBN 978-0936676296.
  10. ^ Brain, C.K. "Raymond Dart and our African origins". A Century of Nature. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  11. ^ Ape to Man, History, 16 February 2011
  12. ^ Townsley, Graham (Director) (10 September 2015). Dawn of Humanity (Documentary). Nova, PBS.
  13. ^ Webster, Bayard. "Robert Ardrey Dies; Writer on Behavior." New York: The New York Times. 16 January 1980. Print
  14. ^ Selig, Ruth Osterweis (Spring–Summer 1999). "Human Origins: One Man's Search for the Causes in Time". Anthronotes. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  15. ^ Derricort, Robin (2009). "The enigma of Raymond Dart". International Journal of African Historical Studies. 42 (2): 257–282. JSTOR 40282388.
  16. ^ Strkalj, Goran (2007). "Where was Raymond Dart wrong?". African Studies. 57 (1): 107–111. doi:10.1080/00020189808707888.
  17. ^ a b Pickering, TR (2012). "24: African Genesis revisited: reflections on Raymond Dart and the 'predatory transition from ape(-man) to man.'". African Genesis: Perspectives on Hominin Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 487-505. ISBN 9781139096164. falsifying the 'killer ape' hypothesis has allowed palaeoanthropologists to consider early hominid hunting and aggressive scavenging on its own merits, unburdened by the more imaginative aspects of Dart's idea regarding australopithecine inter-personal violence. In doing so, recent data have revealed that Dart was likely correct in the broadest sense when he postulated a 'predatory transition' from the ape-like adaptations of the first hominids to a human-like pattern for the first 'men', H. erectus.
  18. ^ Derricort, Robin (2010). "Raymond Dart and the danger of mentors". Antiquity. 84 (323): 230–235. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00099890. S2CID 162819349. ProQuest 217545627.
  19. ^ Pandya, Deepak; Petrides, Michael; Seltzer, Benjamin; Cipolloni, Patsy Benny (2014). Cerebral Cortex: Architecture, Connections, and the Dual Origin Concept. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-538515-1.
  20. ^ Wilford, John Noble (23 November 1988). "Raymond A. Dart Is Dead at 95; Leader in Study of Human Origins". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  21. ^ Institute for the Study of Man in Africa. "Objectives & Vision, Background Information". ISMA website. Archived from the original on 7 October 1999.
  22. ^ 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. "Review: Wheelhouse: Dart - 8.33.22". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2008.