C. Loring Brace dies

The distinguished anthropologist C. Loring Brace IV died on September 7, 2019, at the age of 89, according to the University of Michigan's Department of Anthropology (October 14, 2019). Brace was, in the words of the notice, "a pivotal figure in the history of ideas in biological anthropology, representing the break with the early 20th century’s categorical approach to human variation." Famous within anthropology for his collection of craniofacial and dental measurements, his view that Neanderthals are ancestral to modern humans, and his rejection of typological labels for human groups, Brace himself considered his greatest contribution to the field to be "the attempt to introduce a Darwinian outlook into biological anthropology."

Brace's career was largely shaped by his encounter, while in high school, with Darwin's On the Origin of Species. (Additionally, his great-grandfather was a correspondent of Darwin's.) It is perhaps not surprising that he periodically grappled with creationists, contributing "Humans in Time and Space" to Scientists Confront Creationism in 1983, "Creationists and the Pithecanthropines" to Creation/Evolution in 1986, and "Human Emergence: Natural Process or Divine Creation" to Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond in 2007. In the earliest of these articles, he wrote, "A quick review of the primate and hominid fossil evidence and interpretations will show that the pat dismissal by the creationists does less than justice to what has become a burgeoning mass of data, all of which fit comfortably within an evolutionary framework and are hard to account for in any other way." He added that so-called scientific creationism "can only be maintained ... by either ignoring or denying virtually all of the data and their implications accumulated by biologists, paleontologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists as a result of a century and more of increasingly carefully checked and substantiated work."

Brace was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, on September 19, 1930. He earned his B.A. in geology from Williams College in 1952 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1958 and 1962. After stints at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, he spent the rest of his career at the University of Michigan. His books included Human Evolution: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology (coauthored with Ashley Montagu; 1977) and Evolution in an Anthropological View (2000). His honors included the Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award for 2006 from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.


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