Ian Tattersall

(PhD, Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, 1971) Curator, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History; Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University; Adjunct Professor, PhD Program in Anthropology, CUNY

Fields of Study

Paleoanthropology; primatology; evolutionary biology; evolutionary theory.

Ian Tattersall is currently Curator in the Department of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Born in England and raised in East Africa, he has carried out fieldwork in countries as diverse as Madagascar, Vietnam, Surinam, Yemen, and Mauritius. Trained in archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge, and in geology and vertebrate paleontology at Yale, Tattersall has concentrated his research over the past quarter-century in two main areas, in both of which he is an acknowledged leader: the analysis of the human fossil record, and the study of the ecology and systematics of the lemurs of Madagascar. Tattersall is also a prominent interpreter of human paleontology to the public, with several recent trade books to his credit, among them Extinct Humans (with Jeffrey Schwartz; Westview Press, 2000), Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness (Harcourt Brace, 1998), and The Last Neanderthal: The Rise, Success and Mysterious Extinction of Our Closest Human Relatives (Westview Press, Revised Edition, 1999), as well as several articles in Scientific American and the co-editorship of the definitive Encyclopedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory. He lectures widely, and, as curator, has also been responsible for several major exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, including Ancestors: Four Million Years of Humanity(1984); Dark Caves, Bright Visions: Life in Ice Age Europe (1986); Madagascar: Island of the Ancestors (1989); and the highly acclaimed Hall of Human Biology and Evolution(1993).

Current Research Interests

Human evolution, particularly the recognition of species in the human fossil record and the determination of their relationships; integration of the human fossil record with evolutionary theory; systematics, biology and evolution of the primates of Madagascar.

Selected Publications

Since 1968, over 200 scientific publications including 14 books. Among them:


  • 2002 The Human Fossil Record, vol. 1: Terminology, and Craniodental Morphology of Genus Homo [with J.H. Schwartz]. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • 2002 The Monkey in the Mirror: Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • 2000 Extinct Humans [with J. Schwartz]. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
  • 1998 Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • 1995 The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 1995 The Last Neanderthal: The Rise, Success and Mysterious Extinction of Our Closest Human Relatives. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
  • 1986 “Species recognition in human paleontology,” Jour. Hum. Evol.. 15:165-175.
  • 1982 The Primates of Madagascar. New York: Columbia University Press.

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