Brendon Billings – Looking for answers

  • July 20, 2011 | Julia Lloyd and Bianca Bothma

																		Brendon Billings leads Maropeng's new walking tour, Bone Detectives. Photo: Bianca Bothma

For as far back as he can remember, Brendon Billings recalls a hunger for knowledge in order to make sense of the world he lived in. His outgoing nature and passion for the subject of science make Billings the ideal candidate to host Maropeng’s new walking tour, Bone Detectives, which kicks off on August 13, 2011.

Where did I come from? What is my purpose? How did I get here? Why am I different from everything else? These questions plagued him as a youngster, but never as strongly as when his application to study medicine was rejected.

“How fortunate that was,” says Billings. “I studied a science degree instead and was introduced to the wonderful idea of evolution. I was hooked. Science became my path of using evolutionary principles to understand the world and answer some of these fundamental questions.”

The 29-year-old is busy with his MSc in History of Science at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), and has almost completed his thesis that has special reference to primatology and the evolution of consciousness. Prior to that, among his many accolades and awards were a Bsc Honours in human biology, a staff bursary for Wits University Medical School, and funding in 2010 for the refurbishment of the Raymond Dart Human Skeletal Collection. He was also recently nominated as a member of the prestigious Council for the Royal Society South Africa.

Recently Billings received another feather in his hat with his appointment as curator of all collections at the School of Anatomical Sciences at Wits Medical School. “My average day involves assisting scientists with their research in a wide array of disciplines such as paleoanthropology, forensic anthropology, neuroanatomy. I give tours within the school to the public, facilitate specialist workshops for health and allied professionals, and constantly catalogue,” explains Billings.

With pride he confesses that Professor Phillip Tobias was, and still is, a pillar of support during his studies. “I was a student in his group of young palaeoanthropologists,” says Billing. “Prof Tobias has been patient with my questions, encouraging when I needed it and was my greatest advocate in the scientific community.”

“Billings is a dynamic, up and coming young scientist who truly epitomises the new age of scientists,” says Maropeng curator Lindsay Marshall. “The wealth of knowledge he brings to our tours makes them a unique experience for those interested in the fascinating evolution of animal species and humankind. He represents the new face of science and brings a refreshing new perspective and energy to the field.”

Don’t miss the Bone Detectives tour taking place on August 13. Book online for Bone Detectives: Reading the bones of our ancestors.

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