Biological Anthropologist Brian Richmond Awarded Humboldt Prize

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Curator Brian Richmond, whose research focuses on early human origins, has received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to researchers “whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.” 

Brian Richmond ©AMNH/D.Finnin

Brian Richmond

©AMNH/D.Finnin


Richmond, who joined the Division of Anthropology in August, conducts fieldwork at excavation sites in East Turkana, Kenya, an area regarded by many anthropologists as a cradle of humankind.

Recently, he and his team uncovered some of the oldest footprints in the human family tree. Richmond uses comparative and laboratory analyses of these prints to answer questions about why our bodies evolved to function and look the way they do today, as well as to explore the ecology and social behavior of our ancient ancestors.

As the recipient of the Humboldt Research Award, Richmond will work with paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, on two major projects. In the first, they will apply sophisticated 3D approaches to the analysis of newly discovered fossil bones and footprints of early human ancestors that lived about 1.5 million years ago in East Africa.

In the second project, Richmond and his colleagues plan to analyze the microstructure of fossilized bones to reveal how our early ancestors walked, and when a modern style of walking first appeared.

“I am truly humbled by this award,” Richmond said. “Although it is an award honoring past achievements, I feel like I’m just getting started. I can’t wait to share with the world what we learn about early human origins from these new fossils and footprints.”

Before joining the Museum, Richmond was an associate professor at George Washington University and a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He received a B.A. degree in biology and history from Rice University in 1990, and his M.A. degree and doctorate in anthropology from Stony Brook University in 1995 and 1998, respectively.