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Tobias, Phillip Vallentine


TOBIAS, PHILLIP VALLENTINE (1925– ), South African anatomist and paleoanthropologist. His paternal grandfather Phillip Tobias served the Central Synagogue of London from 1854 to 1904. Professor Tobias was the great-great-grandson of Isaac Vallentine (1793–1868), founder of the Jewish Chronicle. Born in Durban, South Africa, Tobias taught at the Witwatersrand Medical School from 1951. From 1959 until 1990 he served as head of the department of anatomy. He was dean of the Faculty of Medicine (1980–82), member of the Witwatersrand University Council (1971–84), and the only simultaneous holder of three professorships at Witwatersrand University, Anatomy, Zoology, Palaeo-anthropology. From 1994 he was Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Human Biology. He was founder and president of the Institute for the Study of Mankind in Africa (1961–68, 1983–84), president of the Royal Society of South Africa (1970–72) and of the South African Archaeological Society (1964–65), founder and first president of the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (1968–72) and South African Society for Quaternary Research (1969–73). From 1994 to 1998, he was president of the International Association of Human Biologists. Protégé and successor of Raymond Dart, who discovered the first African australopithecine, Tobias was from 1959 closely associated with Louis and Mary Leakey, who found early hominid remains in northern Tanzania. Some of these fossil hominids Leakey, Tobias, and Napier identified as a new lowly species of man, which they named Homo habilis (handy man) representing a more hominised lineage than the australopithecines. Tobias later adduced evidence that Homo habilis was the world's earliest primate with a capacity for spoken language. To a series of volumes on Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, Tobias contributed a monograph on the biggest-toothed australopithecines, Australopithecus boisei, and two volumes on Homo habilis. His oeuvre of over 1,100 published works includes nearly 500 articles in periodicals, 125 chapters in books, and over 50 books and monographs. He is recognized internationally as a leading authority in palaeo-anthropology and has received 17 honorary doctorates, the Carmel Award of Merit of the University of Haifa, and many medals, honorary professorships, civil decorations, and memberships of academies. He has written inter alia on living Africans, genetics, race and racism, academic freedom, and the harmful effects of apartheid on South African education. Tobias was active in Jewish communal affairs, including the Board of Deputies and the Great Synagogue of Johannesburg.

[Gali Rotstein and

Bracher Rager (2nd ed.)]

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