Tim D. White

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Tim D. White
Tim White David Shankbone 2010 NYC.jpg
White at the 2010 Time 100 Gala
Timothy Douglas White

(1950-08-24) August 24, 1950 (age 72)
Alma mater University of California, Riverside (B.A.)
University of Michigan (Ph.D.)
Occupation(s)Professor of Integrative Biology at the Project
Curator of Biological Anthropology, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
Advisor, National Center for Science Education
Known for

Tim D. White (born August 24, 1950) is an American paleoanthropologist and Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for leading the team which discovered Ardi, the type specimen of Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4 million-year-old likely human ancestor. Prior to that discovery, his early career was notable for his work on Lucy as Australopithecus afarensis with discoverer Donald Johanson.



Timothy Douglas White was born on August 24, 1950, in Los Angeles County, California and raised in Lake Arrowhead in neighboring San Bernardino County. [1] He majored in biology and anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. He received his Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Michigan. White took a position in the Department of Anthropology [2] at the University of California, Berkeley in 1977, later moving to the university's Department of Integrative Biology. [3] White taught courses on human paleontology and human osteology. [4] [5] He is a professor emeritus having retired in the spring of 2022. [6]

He is director of the Human Evolution Research Center and co-director, with Berhane Asfaw, Yonas Beyene, and Giday WoldeGabriel, of the Middle Awash Research Project.

White has taught and mentored many paleoanthropologists who have subsequently gone on to prominence in the field, including Berhane Asfaw, William Henry Gilbert, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, and Gen Suwa and thousands of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley.

Since 2013, White has been listed on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education. [7]

White has been accused of mistreating and misappropriating Indigenous people's remains. Some representatives of Indigenous Nations of California protest that he failed to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), though no court has made such a finding. Laura Miranda, chair of the California Native American Heritage Commission, opined that his breach of NAGPRA's codes was "a major moral, ethical, and potentially legal violation." He has used human skeletal remains as teaching tools in classrooms within the legal framework in place at the time of his teaching activities, but has been accused of careless and negligent treatment of human remains. [8]


In 1974, White worked with Richard Leakey's team at Koobi Fora, Kenya. Leakey was so impressed with White's work that he recommended him to his mother, Mary Leakey, to help her with hominid fossils she had found at Laetoli, Tanzania.

White took a job at the University of California, Berkeley in 1977 and collaborated with J. Desmond Clark and F. Clark Howell. In 1994, White discovered 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus , a likely human ancestor from an era which was previously empty of fossil evidence. Near the Awash River in Ethiopia, he found an almost complete fossilized female skeleton, named "Ardi". He took nearly 15 years to prepare publication of the description. [9]

In 1996, White, along with paleontologist Berhane Asfaw discovered fossils of a 2.5 million-year-old species BOU-VP-12/130 Australopithecus garhi , which is thought to predate H. habilis tool use and manufacturing by 100,000 to 600,000 years.


Selected publications

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Ardipithecus</i> Extinct genus of hominins

Ardipithecus is a genus of an extinct hominine that lived during the Late Miocene and Early Pliocene epochs in the Afar Depression, Ethiopia. Originally described as one of the earliest ancestors of humans after they diverged from the chimpanzees, the relation of this genus to human ancestors and whether it is a hominin is now a matter of debate. Two fossil species are described in the literature: A. ramidus, which lived about 4.4 million years ago during the early Pliocene, and A. kadabba, dated to approximately 5.6 million years ago. Initial behavioral analysis indicated that Ardipithecus could be very similar to chimpanzees, however more recent analysis based on canine size and lack of canine sexual dimorphism indicates that Ardipithecus was characterised by reduced aggression, and that they more closely resemble bonobos.

<i>Australopithecus</i> Genus of hominin ancestral to modern humans

Australopithecus is a genus of early hominins that existed in Africa during the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene. The genera Homo, Paranthropus, and Kenyanthropus evolved from some Australopithecus species. Australopithecus is a member of the subtribe Australopithecina, which sometimes also includes Ardipithecus, though the term "australopithecine" is sometimes used to refer only to members of Australopithecus. Species include A. garhi, A. africanus, A. sediba, A. afarensis, A. anamensis, A. bahrelghazali and A. deyiremeda. Debate exists as to whether some Australopithecus species should be reclassified into new genera, or if Paranthropus and Kenyanthropus are synonymous with Australopithecus, in part because of the taxonomic inconsistency.

Paleoanthropology or paleo-anthropology is a branch of paleontology and anthropology which seeks to understand the early development of anatomically modern humans, a process known as hominization, through the reconstruction of evolutionary kinship lines within the family Hominidae, working from biological evidence and cultural evidence.

<i>Australopithecus anamensis</i> Extinct hominin from Pliocene east Africa

Australopithecus anamensis is a hominin species that lived approximately between 4.2 and 3.8 million years ago and is the oldest known Australopithecus species, living during the Plio-Pleistocene era.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afar Triangle</span> Geological depression caused by the Afar Triple Junction

The Afar Triangle is a geological depression caused by the Afar Triple Junction, which is part of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. The region has disclosed fossil specimens of the very earliest hominins; that is, the earliest of the human clade, and it is thought by some paleontologists to be the cradle of the evolution of humans. The Depression overlaps the borders of Eritrea, Djibouti and the entire Afar Region of Ethiopia; and it contains the lowest point in Africa, Lake Assal, Djibouti, at 155 m (509 ft) below sea level.

<i>Australopithecus garhi</i> Extinct hominid from the Afar Region of Ethiopia 2.6–2.5 million years ago

Australopithecus garhi is a species of australopithecine from the Bouri Formation in the Afar Region of Ethiopia 2.6–2.5 million years ago (mya) during the Early Pleistocene. The first remains were described in 1999 based on several skeletal elements uncovered in the three years preceding. A. garhi was originally considered to have been a direct ancestor to Homo and the human line, but is now thought to have been an offshoot. Like other australopithecines, A. garhi had a brain volume of 450 cc (27 cu in); a jaw which jutted out (prognathism); relatively large molars and premolars; adaptations for both walking on two legs (bipedalism) and grasping while climbing (arboreality); and it is possible that, though unclear if, males were larger than females. One individual, presumed female based on size, may have been 140 cm tall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of human evolution</span> Chronological outline of major events in the development of the human species

The timeline of human evolution outlines the major events in the evolutionary lineage of the modern human species, Homo sapiens, throughout the history of life, beginning some 4 billion years ago down to recent evolution within H. sapiens during and since the Last Glacial Period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middle Awash</span> UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ethiopia

The Middle Awash is a paleoanthropological research area in the Afar Region along the Awash River in Ethiopia's Afar Depression. It is a unique natural laboratory for the study of human origins and evolution and a number of fossils of the earliest hominins, particularly of the Australopithecines, as well as some of the oldest known Olduwan stone artifacts, have been found at the site—all of late Miocene, the Pliocene, and the very early Pleistocene times, that is, about 5.6 million years ago (mya) to 2.5 mya. It is broadly thought that the divergence of the lines of the earliest humans (hominins) and of chimpanzees (hominids) was completed near the beginning of that time range, or sometime between seven and five mya. However, the larger community of scientists provide several estimates for periods of divergence that imply a greater range for this event, see CHLCA: human-chimpanzee split.

Aramis is a village and archaeological site in north-eastern Ethiopia, where remains of Australopithecus and Ardipithecus have been found. The village is located in Administrative Zone 5 of the Afar Region, which is part of the Afar Sultanate of Dawe, with a latitude and longitude of 10°30′N40°30′E, and is part of the, Carri Rasuk, Xaale Faagê Daqaara.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yohannes Haile-Selassie</span> Ethiopian paleoanthropologist

Yohannes Haile-SelassieAmbaye is an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist. An authority on pre-Homo sapiens hominids, he particularly focuses his attention on the East African Rift and Middle Awash valleys. He was curator of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History from 2002 until 2021, and now is serving as the director of the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins. Since founding the institute in 1981, he has been the third director after Donald Johanson and William Kimbel.

<i>Ardipithecus kadabba</i> Hominin fossil

Ardipithecus kadabba is the scientific classification given to fossil remains "known only from teeth and bits and pieces of skeletal bones", originally estimated to be 5.8 to 5.2 million years old, and later revised to 5.77 to 5.54 million years old. According to the first description, these fossils are close to the common ancestor of chimps and humans. Their development lines are estimated to have parted 6.5–5.5 million years ago. It has been described as a "probable chronospecies" of A. ramidus. Although originally considered a subspecies of A. ramidus, in 2004 anthropologists Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Gen Suwa, and Tim D. White published an article elevating A. kadabba to species level on the basis of newly discovered teeth from Ethiopia. These teeth show "primitive morphology and wear pattern" which demonstrate that A. kadabba is a distinct species from A. ramidus.

<i>Ardipithecus ramidus</i> Extinct hominin from Early Pliocene Ethiopia

Ardipithecus ramidus is a species of australopithecine from the Afar region of Early Pliocene Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago (mya). A. ramidus, unlike modern hominids, has adaptations for both walking on two legs (bipedality) and life in the trees (arboreality). However, it would not have been as efficient at bipedality as humans, nor at arboreality as non-human great apes. Its discovery, along with Miocene apes, has reworked academic understanding of the chimpanzee–human last common ancestor from appearing much like modern day chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas to being a creature without a modern anatomical cognate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bouri Formation</span>

The Bouri Formation is a sequence of sedimentary deposits that is the source of australopithecine and Homo fossils, artifacts, and bones of large mammals with cut marks from butchery with tools by early hominins. It is located in the Middle Awash Valley, in Ethiopia, East Africa, and is a part of the Afar Depression that has provided rich human fossil sites such as Gona and Hadar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berhane Asfaw</span> Ethiopian paleontologist (born 1954)

Berhane Asfaw is an Ethiopian paleontologist of Rift Valley Research Service, who co-discovered human skeletal remains at Herto Bouri, Ethiopia later classified as Homo sapiens idaltu, proposed as an early subspecies of anatomically modern humans.

Ardi (ARA-VP-6/500) is the designation of the fossilized skeletal remains of an Ardipithecus ramidus, thought to be an early human-like female anthropoid 4.4 million years old. It is the most complete early hominid specimen, with most of the skull, teeth, pelvis, hands and feet, more complete than the previously known Australopithecus afarensis specimen called "Lucy." In all, 125 different pieces of fossilized bone were found.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daka skull</span> Homo erectus calvaria, discovered in the Ethiopian Rift Valley in 1997

The Daka calvaria, otherwise known as the Dakaskull, or specimen number BOU-VP-2/66, is a Homo erectus specimen from the Daka Member of the Bouri Formation in the Middle Awash Study Area of the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

Gen Suwa is a Japanese paleoanthropologist. He is known for his contributions to the understanding of the evolution of early hominids, including the discovery of a tooth from a hominid that was more than one million years older than the oldest previously known hominid. The discovery changed scientific opinion regarding the ancestral splits between humans, chimps and gorillas.

The savannah hypothesis is a hypothesis that human bipedalism evolved as a direct result of human ancestors' transition from an arboreal lifestyle to one on the savannas. According to the hypothesis, millions of years ago hominins left the woodlands that had previously been their natural habitat, and adapted to their new habitat by walking upright.

The Middle Awash Project is an international research expedition conducted in the Afar region of Ethiopia with the goal of determining the origins of humanity. The project has the approval of the Ethiopian Culture Ministry and a strong commitment to developing Ethiopian archaeology, paleontology and geology research infrastructure. This project has discovered over 260 fossil specimens and over 17,000 vertebrate fossil specimens to date ranging from 200,000 to 6,000,000 years in age. Researchers have discovered the remains of four hominin species, the earliest subspecies of homo sapiens as well as stone tools. All specimens are permanently held at the National Museum of Ethiopia, where the project’s laboratory work is conducted year round.

Pliopapio is an extinct genus of Old World monkey known from the latest part of the Miocene to the early Pliocene Epochs from the Afar Region of Ethiopia. It was first described based on a very large series of fossils from the site of Aramis in the Middle Awash, which has been dated by 40Ar/39Ar to 4.4 million years old. It has since been found from similarly aged sediments at Gona, approximately 75 km to the North. Additional fossils from the Middle Awash extend its known time range back to at least 5.3 million years ago. There is only one known species, Pliopapio alemui.


  1. "Tim D. White Biography -- Academy of Achievement". achievement.org. October 26, 2010. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012.
  2. cites the fact that he was originally in the Dept. of Anthropology
  3. Last article explicitly noting affiliation with Dept. To Anthropology First article explicitly noting affiliated with Dept. With Integrative Biology
  4. UC Berkeley General Catalog - Integrative Biology "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. UC Berkeley Department of Integrative Biology: Undergraduate Courses "Undergraduate Courses". Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008.
  6. Hudetz, Mary; Brewer, Graham Lee (March 5, 2023). "A UC Berkeley professor taught with human remains, angering Native American tribes". NBC News. ProPublica. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  7. "Advisory Council". ncse.com. National Center for Science Education. Archived from the original on August 10, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  8. Hudetz, Mary (March 5, 2023). "How a UC Berkeley professor taught with remains suspected to be Native American". ProPublica. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  9. White, Tim D.; Asfaw, Berhane; Beyene, Yonas; Haile-Selassie, Yohannes; Lovejoy, C. Owen; Suwa, Gen; WoldeGabrie, Giday (October 2009). "Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids". Science. 326 (5949): 75–86. Bibcode:2009Sci...326...75W. doi:10.1126/science.1175802. PMID   19810190. S2CID   20189444.
  10. "Science Today". California Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on October 22, 2009.