John T. Robinson

For other people with this name, see John Robinson (disambiguation).

John Talbot Robinson (10 January 1923 – 12 October 2001) was a distinguished South African hominin paleontologist. His most famous discovery (with Robert Broom) was the nearly complete fossil skull of the hominin species Australopithecus africanus, known as Mrs. Ples.

Robinson was born in Elliot, South Africa. After training in Cape Town as a zoologist, Robinson moved to Pretoria in 1946 to take up a post at the Transvaal Museum. In Pretoria, he worked with Robert Broom. They focused on excavations at the caves of Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Swartkrans. Between 1946 and 1952 they jointly published twenty-three books and articles.

After Broom's death in 1951, Robinson took over as head of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology and Physical Anthropology. In 1956 he published what is arguably his most important work, a monograph titled The Dentition of the Australopithecinae after which the University of Cape Town awarded him a Doctor of Science degree.

In 1963 Robinson began a Professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and eventually held joint appointments in the Zoology and Anthropology Departments. He was a gifted and empathetic teacher who spent many after-class hours mentoring his undergraduate and graduate students. He taught courses in evolutionary theory and human origins, zoology and anthropology. Robinson continued to make trips back to South Africa to carry out research.

He died in Madison, Wisconsin in 2001.


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