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Milford H. Wolpoff

Milford H. Wolpoff

American paleoanthropologist
Milford H. Wolpoff
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American paleoanthropologist
Is Anthropologist Scientist Paleontologist Archaeologist Historian Paleoanthropologist Professor Educator
From United States of America
Type Academia Biology Science Social science
Gender male
Birth 1942, Chicago, USA
Age 80 years
Residence Chelsea, USA
University of Illinois system
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
The details (from wikipedia)


Milford Howell Wolpoff is a paleoanthropologist working as a professor of anthropology and adjunct associate research scientist, Museum of Anthropology, at the University of Michigan. He was born in 1942 to Ruth (Silver) and Ben Wolpoff, in Chicago. He is the leading proponent of the multiregional evolution hypothesis that attempts to explain the evolution of Homo sapiens as a consequence of evolutionary processes within a single species. He is the author of Paleoanthropology (1980 and 1999 eds.) and the co-author of Race and Human Evolution: A Fatal Attraction, which reviews the scientific evidence and conflicting theories about how human evolution has been interpreted, and how its interpretation is related to views about race.

He is best known for his vocal support of the multiregional model of human evolution when it was challenged by the 'Out of Africa' theory. The basis for advancing the multiregional interpretation stems from his disbelief in punctuated equilibrium (the idea that evolutionary process involves long static periods and abrupt changes rather than gradual modification during speciation) as an accurate model for Pleistocene humanity, noting that speciation played a role earlier in human evolution.


Wolpoff received an A.B. in 1964 with a major in anthropology and a minor in mathematics, and a Ph.D. in 1969 in physical anthropology, with minors in zoology and archaeology, from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois. His research advisor and intellectual mentor was Eugene Giles. He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1971, and became a professor of anthropology in 1977.

Professional work

Wolpoff was trained primarily as a paleoanthropologist at the University of Illinois under Eugene Giles. With his multidisciplinary training, he brings to the study of the human and non-human primate fossil record a background that combines evolutionary theory, population genetics, and biomechanics. With over 50 grants funded by the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, and the University of Michigan, Wolpoff has visited the museums where human and primate fossils are stored and has studied in detail and at length all the materials addressing the fossil evidence for human evolution across Europe, Asia, and Africa. His research foci have included the evolution and fate of the European Neandertals, the role of culture in early hominid evolution, the nature and explanation of allometry, robust australopithecine evolution, the distribution and explanation of sexual dimorphism, hominid origins, the pattern and explanation of Australasian hominid evolution, the contributions and role of genetics in paleoanthropological research, and the taxonomy of the genus Homo. In addition, he is a primary describer of many hominid fossil remains. Since 1976 Wolpoff has graduated more than 20 Ph.D students.

Multiregional evolution and the punctuated equilibrium theory

Drawing on this background and research experience, Wolpoff's continuing research in the last 15 years has been the development, articulation, and defense of his multiregional model of human evolution. He suggests that after an African origin of Homo sapiens (including Homo ergaster/Homo erectus) and the subsequent migration of H. erectus throughout much of the globe (Africa, Europe, Asia), local evolutionary events took place, and when they were advantageous, they spread everywhere else. According to Wolpoff, populations of Homo evolved together as a single species. Change in Pleistocene populations did not involve speciation (the splitting of one species into two): all this time, the geographically distinct populations maintained small amounts of gene flow. This idea directly challenges the Out of Africa model, which claims Homo sapiens evolved recently as a new species in Africa, and then dispersed throughout the Old World, replacing the existing human populations without mixing with them.

His theory evoked bitter rivalry with the proponents of punctuated equilibrium, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, who endorsed H. erectus as a model of their theory. In an earlier example of punctuated evolution preceding the global diffusion of Homo sapiens genes from Africa, some two million years ago, Wolpoff points to evidence of an earlier 'genetic revolution' that took place in a small group isolated from australopithecine forebears. "The earliest H. sapiens remains differ significantly from australopithecines in both size and anatomical details," he notes, "Insofar as we can tell, these changes were sudden and not gradual."

Awards and honours

Wolpoff is a member of many anthropological organizations, and is an Honorary Life Member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (in 2001) and Fellow of the American Anthropological Association. Some notable awards are

  • LS&A Excellence in Education Award in 1998
  • W.W. Howells Book Prize in Biological Anthropology, presented by the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association in 1999
  • Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger Award at the Krapina 1899–1999 Conference, presented by the Croatian Natural History Museum
  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer of 2001–2004
  • Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in 2011


Books and monographs

  • 1971 Metric Trends in Hominid Dental Evolution. Case Western Reserve Studies in Anthropology 2. Case Western Reserve University Press, Cleveland; 244 pp.
  • 1976 William R. Farrand, Richard W. Redding, Milford H. Wolpoff, and Henry T. Wright, III). An Archaeological Investigation on the Loboi Plain, Baringo District, Kenya. Museum of Anthropology, The University of Michigan Technical Reports Number 4, Research Reports in Archaeology, Contribution 1, Ann Arbor.
  • 1980 Paleoanthropology. Knopf, New York; 379 pp.  ISBN 0-394-32197-9
  • 1988 Jakov Radovčić, Fred H. Smith, Erik Trinkaus, and Milford H. Wolpoff . The Krapina Hominids: An Illustrated Catalog of the Skeletal Collection. Mladost Press and the Croatian Natural History Museum, Zagreb.
  • 1994 Paleoanthropology. Preliminary publication of the 2nd edition. College Custom Series, McGraw-Hill, New York. ISBN 0-07-071679-X
  • 1995 Human Evolution. 1996 edition. College Custom Series, McGraw-Hill, New York. ISBN 0-07-071827-X
  • 1996 Human Evolution. 1996-1997 edition. College Custom Series, McGraw-Hill, New York. ISBN 0-07-071833-4
  • 1997 Milford H. Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari: Race and Human Evolution. Simon and Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-81013-1. Published in paperback in 1998 by Westview press ISBN 0-8133-3546-9. A Canadian National Institute for the Blind talking book RC18623 (4 cassettes, narrated by Roy Avers).
  • 1999 Paleoanthropology. 2nd edition. McGraw-Hill, New York. ISBN 0-07-071676-5. Reviewed by A. Bilsborough (2001) Clash of the Titans. Journal of Human Evolution 41:701-709.

His work with Rachel Caspari, Race and Human Evolution earned them the W.W. Howells Book Prize in 1999. Besides these, he has published 5 other books, 160 papers, and 22 book reviews, has presented numerous lectures and meetings papers, and has had many interviews and video appearances.

Magazines and films

Wolpoff has also appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, Discover, and Newsweek. He has appeared in numerous video documentaries, notable ones include

  • Origins (SABC) in 1990
  • Beyond 2000 (Video Australia), The Roots of Humanity (NHK) and The Dawn of Humankind (PBS) in 1992
  • Apeman(4 part series produced by Granada TV), Dead Men Talk (Equinox), Wir Neandertaler (ORF) and Paleoworld: Missing Links (New Dominion in 1994
  • Paleoworld: Trail of the Neanderthal (TLC) in 1995
  • Ancient Mysteries: The Fate of the Neandertals (A&E), The Last Neandertal (Discovery) and Bipedalism and Human Evolution (TCJ) in 1997
  • Neanderthals on Trial (Nova) and Creationism and Evolution (PBS) in 2002
  • The Lapedo Child (Anglica Television) in 2003

Past PhD Students

  • David Wayne Frayer 1976
  • Fred Hines Smith 1976
  • Leonard Owen Greenfield 1977
  • Timothy Douglas White 1977
  • Clark Spencer Larsen 1980
  • Mary Doria Russell 1983
  • Marcia Lynn Robertson 1984
  • Karen R. Rosenberg 1986
  • Lynne Alison Schepartz 1987
  • Andrew Kramer 1989
  • Tracey Leigh Crummett 1994
  • Katarzyna Anna Kaszycka 1995
  • James Chapin McLaughlin Ahern 1998
  • Sang-Hee Lee 1999
  • John D. Hawks 1999
  • Adam P. Van Arsdale 2006
  • Virginia Hutton Estabrook 2009
  • Julie J. Lesnik 2011
  • Davorka Radovčić 2011
  • Mary Kelaita 2011
  • Zachary Cofran 2012
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 04 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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