Posted by: COSI | October 13, 2009

Bruce, is that you!?

What a surprise to be glancing through The Columbus Dispatch regarding the announcement of the discovery of the oldest hominid skeleton and see the face of my good friend Dr. Bruce Latimer looking back at me in one of the photos.  The fun of getting to my age (and granted not all aspects of aging are positives!;-) is that people you’ve worked with over the years are hitting the peak of their careers.

Bruce is a world known expert in bipedal locomotion and was chief curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) prior to becoming its Executive Director for a number of years until stepping down last year.  CMNH was also deeply involved in the discovery and analysis of Lucy, previously identified as the oldest hominid skeleton ever found (but roughly a million years younger than “Ardi”!)  So the scientists there, including Bruce, know their stuff and have been deeply involved in some of the most meaningful work in understanding human evolution.  Analyzing Ardipithecus ramidus takes this to a whole new level of ancient knowledge working with a skeleton pegged accurately at 4.4 million years of age.

ArdiThe unusual and unpredicted evolutionary qualities of “Ardi” include a biped creature but one still having a curved big toe for gripping tree limbs for climbing.   Something totally unique.  I loved Bruce’s quote, “There’s not an animal alive today that does that…It’s just bizarre.”

Science is an ongoing process of discovery and reassessment based on the latest best data and insights—sometimes throwing out significant previous understandings as in the case of the implications of Ardipithecus ramidus.  That’s the power of science—willingness (sometimes grudgingly) of updating understandings or totally dropping based on new knowledge.  (Also why folks are confused sometimes by the process of science).

Human evolution is naturally of interest to many people.  I find it cool when a friend and my childhood museum play a role in one of the greatest finds in human history.  In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Ardipithecus ramidus, you can check out the article in Sunday’s dispatch or go to Science, the publication of the American Association of Science.  The Discovery Channel ran a major show last Saturday night which I imagine they’ll be reshowing as well.

As for me, I can’t wait for my lunch with Bruce this weekend to get more personal insights into this incredible discovery!

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Responses

  1. This is such a cool discovery! The floor team is reading the research articles from Science. My regards to Dr. Latimer and Dr. Haile-Selassie — they won’t remember me, one of many Case anthropology students over the years, but I have fond memories of analyzing hominid fossils in their class in the CMNH basement!

  2. One of the nice attributes of scientists like Bruce Latimer (who I know well) is their sincere efforts and desire to share their passion for science. And I wouldn’t assume that you are not remembered by the two scientists–I don’t know Dr. Haile-Selassie, but I know that Bruce has good interpersonal skills including remembering people. I’ll share your regards with him and glad to hear you had the experience.

  3. I haven’t seen Bruce for years. Say, about 30 years plus. All this time I thought he was a history professor at CWRU. I was pleasantly shocked reading the article about the recent discovery in Ethiopia. And I am amazed that he is still in Ohio. But I would be more shocked finding him roaming the campus of UCB. Hats off, Bruce.


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