International Expert on Neanderthals to be Awarded William King Medal at NUI Galway

Professor Chris Stringer with the famous fossil skull from Broken Hill in Zambia (‘Rhodesian Man’ ), a possible distant African ancestor of modern humans. Photo: The Trustess of the Natural History Museum.
Oct 08 2019 Posted: 11:52 IST

Professor Chris Stringer will deliver the fifth annual William King Lecture

Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum London will deliver the fifth annual William King Lecture at NUI Galway on Thursday, 10 October. Professor Stringer, one of the most high-profile international experts on Neanderthals, will also be presented with the William King Medal at the talk for his contributions to our understanding of human evolution.

The William King Lecture series was established in 2015 with the aim of honouring the scientific legacy of William King, the first Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Queen’s College Galway (as NUI Galway was then known). King made his own scientific history in 1863 when he first proposed the formal scientific name Homo neanderthalensis for Neanderthal people.

Event co-organiser Professor Heinz Peter Nasheuer, Biochemistry, NUI Galway, commented:

“William King would go on to become the first scientist to successfully name a new human species based on actual fossil remains. It was a remarkable achievement, and also an extremely important step in the early development of palaeoanthropology (the study of human evolution) in the Nineteenth Century.”

Professor Stringer is Research Leader in Human Origins at London’s Natural History Museum, and is best known for his work on the Recent African Origin theory of modern human origins, and also with projects concerned with the ancient human occupation of Britain. He actively collaborates with a large and diverse international network of archaeologists, dating specialists, and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally. Planet Earth is effectively his field study area, and his research has addressed one of the most fundamentally important questions that can be asked in science – what does it mean to be human?

The title of Professor Stringer’s lecture will be ‘The evolution and fate of the Neanderthals’ and he commented that: “The last ten years have seen many exciting developments in the study of Neanderthals – from how they evolved through to when they disappeared, including the remarkable discovery that most of us alive today have about 2% of their DNA in our genomes. In my forthcoming lecture in NUI Galway I will be presenting some of the latest evidence about these close relatives of ours.”

To date, Professor Stringer has published over 400 papers and books, and his recent output has included ‘The Origin of our Species’, ‘Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story’ (with Rob Dinnis), and ‘Our Human Story’ (with Louise Humphrey). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He won the 2004 Rivers Memorial Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute and also the 2008 Frink Medal of the Zoological Society of London. More recently he was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society.

Dr John Murray, Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway, and one of the co-organisers of the annual lecture series, said: “We are really delighted to welcome one of the world’s leading and most highly respected Neanderthal experts to NUI Galway. Professor Stringer is an icon to many in palaeoanthropology; his research on those most enigmatic of prehistoric people, the Neanderthals, has enlightened and inspired in equal measure. His investigations also continue in the spirit of work initially begun by William King here over a century and a half ago. The awarding of the King Medal to Professor Stringer, here in the institution where their formal scientific name was first coined, thus represents fitting completion of this scientific circle.”

The fifth annual William King Lecture will take place at 7pm in the Human Biology Building and all are welcome to attend.


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