L. Washburn, father of modern primatology and UC Berkeley professor
of anthropology emeritus, dies at age 88
Patricia McBroom , Media Relations
- Sherwood Larned Washburn, the father of modern primatology
who first glimpsed the evolution of human behavior in the actions
of monkeys and apes, died Sunday from pneumonia at Alta Bates
Medical Center in Berkeley.
professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley,
from 1958 to his retirement in 1978 and one of a tiny number
of faculty members appointed as "University Professor" for the
nine-campus system, Washburn virtually established the field
of primatology in the 1950s following his studies on baboon
colonies in Kenya.
the next two decades, his theories dominated interpretations
of human social evolution and his teachings inspired several
generations of students.
Washburn established at UC Berkeley the most influential program
of the century for the study of primatology, of fossil man,
and the biological and cultural evolution of humanity," said
UC Berkeley professor of anthropology emeritus J. Desmond Clark.
"Those who were his friends and those who continue his work
will forever be in his debt. He will be missed the world over."
was the first to propose that tool use, hunting and a gender
division in labor had been critical in human evolution. He also
saw 40 years ago that humans had evolved from an ancestor that
walked on its knuckles, like contemporary great apes - an idea
that only this year has gripped the anthropological world anew.
one of his famous articles on the evolution of man, a 1978 article
in Scientific American, Washburn had this to say about knuckle-walking:
and chimpanzees (and the men who play some of the forward positions
in American football), however, have developed a form of locomotion
called knuckle walking that enables the apes (if not the football
players) to walk normally as they carry objects between their
fingers and their palm."
it was his holistic approach, working from anatomy to function
and behavior, that so inspired his students and colleagues.
Washburn changed the way we study human evolution,"said professor
of anthropology Adrienne Zihlman of the University of California,
Santa Cruz, and a former student. His influence was so pervasive,
said Zihlman, that "everyone has adopted his approach but forgotten
where it came from."
lectures showing how bones, joints and muscles related to movement
and social behavior in humans and other primates often won standing
ovations from students.
on November 26, 1911, Washburn was the younger son of the dean
of Cambridge's Episcopal Theological School. He received a bachelor's
degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard College in 1935 and a
doctorate in 1940, also from Harvard.
a position at Columbia University as assistant professor of
anatomy, Washburn moved to the University of Chicago where he
was professor of anthropology for 11 years and chair of the
his illustrious career, Washburn won virtually every medal and
prize given in his field, including the Wenner-Gren Foundation's
Viking Fund Medal in 1960, the Huxley Medal in 1967 and the
American Anthropological Association's Distinguished Service
Award in 1983. The Fourth International Congress of Primatology
was dedicated to his honor in 1972.
wife, Henrietta, died in 1985. He is survived by two sons, Sherwood
of Brooklyn, and Stan of Berkeley and five grandchildren. His
brother, Bradford, is founder of Boston's Museum of Science.
memorial service will be held on campus at 11 a.m. Sunday, May
21, in the Great Hall of the Faculty Club. Contributions in
lieu of flowers may be sent to the S.L. Washburn Graduate Student
Fellowship Fund. Checks should be marked for the fund, but made
out to the UC Regents and sent to the UC Berkeley Foundation
at 2440 Bancroft Ave., Berkeley, 94720.
Works by Sherwood Washburn
(one book, two monographs, two papers)
New Physical Anthropology" 1951, a monograph published by Transactions
of the New York Academy of Sciences.
of Human Behavior," in Behavior and Evolution, by Anne
Roe and G.G. Simpson, 1958
Life of Early Man," 1961, Viking Fund Publications, No. 31
Study of Race," 1963, in American Anthropologist, (a
Into Man, 1974, co-authored with Ruth Moore