Human evolution is a vibrant focus of scientific research with ongoing discoveries and debates informed by many fields of science. Three areas of study - the Neanderthal genome, the evolution of human life history, and climatic effects on human origins - present some of the most exciting areas of new research.
Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts is the
director of the
Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program at the National Museum
of Natural History. He
received his B.A. in anthropology from Temple University in
1975 and his Ph.D.
in biological anthropology from
Dr. Potts has spent much of his career piecing together the record of Earth’s environmental change and human adaptation. His ideas about how human evolution was a response to environmental uncertainty and disruption have stimulated wide attention and new research in several scientific fields. He leads excavations at several early human sites in the East African Rift Valley, including the famous handaxe site of Olorgesailie, Kenya, and also co-directs ongoing projects in southern and northern China.
Author of numerous research articles and books, Potts and his research have also been featured in the three-part PBS NOVA series ‘Becoming Human’ (2009) and the BBC series ‘The Origins of Us’ (2011). He has received a number of honors, including Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2004), the Explorer's Club Lowell Thomas Medal (2005), and The Peter Buck Chair in Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (2008). Dr. Potts is curator of the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins, which opened at the Natural History Museum in March 2010, and is author of the companion book, titled What Does It Mean To Be Human?