Five things you didn’t know about Professor Robert Broom

  • November 21, 2011 | Linda Piegl and Laura Maggs


																		Professor Robert Broom is best known for his discovery of "Mrs Ples"

Maropeng is delighted to be hosting the Royal Society of South Africa’s Broom Colloquium on Saturday, November 26.

The Broom Colloquium serves to commemorate the late palaeontologist and medical doctor, Professor Robert Broom, and provides a platform for scientists to gather together and share and present papers on a wide range of research issues.

Broom, who passed away 60 years ago, is remembered for his significant contribution to the field of palaeontology. He is best known for his discovery of the Australopithecus africanus skull known as “Mrs Ples” at Sterkfontein Caves, and Paranthropus robustus at Swarkrans, both in the Cradle of Humankind.

His numerous contributions have enabled a better understanding of more recent finds, and the Colloquium aims to honour Professor Broom in this regard. Here are five things you may not have known about the renowned Professor:

1. A man of many interests…

Scotland-born Broom specialised in midwifery, but always had a fascination with mammal origins and evolution.

2. Controversial thinker…

He came to South Africa in 1897 and was a professor of zoology and geology at Victoria College in Stellenbosch. However, he was asked to vacate his post after focusing too much on, and vocalising ideas around, evolution.

3. A new and exciting chapter…

Broom went to the Karoo where he practised medicine and later became involved in projects undertaken by the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, searching for hominids in the Cradle of Humankind.

4. Discoveries that would change how we view the world…

In 1936, together with his students, he discovered the remains of six hominids in the area. In the same year, he was the first person to conduct research at the Bolt’s Farm site near the Sterkfontein Caves, and also discover important fossils there.

5. Coming full circle…

Broom was born on November 30. So the Broom Colloquium will not only be commemorating 60 years since his passing, but the birthday of one of the greatest palaeontologists of all time.

An exhibition of some of the original fossils discovered at Bolt’s Farm will be on display at Maropeng until February 2012.

The Colloquium will take place on November 26, from 08h30 to 16h00, and is open to the public. Tickets cost R300 per person and includes tea, lunch and access to all the presentations.

Book online for the Broom Colloquium.

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