Biography: Russell H. Tuttle

Russel H. Tuttle (1939) is currently a member of the University of Chicago Department of anthropology as a physical anthropologist specializing in paleoanthropology, primatology, morphology and evolution. He has received global recognition for his many contributions to the field of anthropology and as an educator.

Growing up in rural Ohio, Dr. Tuttle truly admired his teachers, and it was at this time that he resolved to become a college professor. After graduating cum laude with a B.S. in Anatomy/Physical Anthropology from the Ohio State University in 1961, Dr.Tuttle earned his MA in anthropology in 1962, also from Ohio State. He then Attended the University of California, Berkeley where he earned his Ph.D. studying with Sherwood Washburn with a focus on “history and theory of human evolution; primatology: morphology, behavior, and evolution; and Peoples and Cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa” in 1965. In 1964 he was hired at the University of Chicago as an instructor, where he continues to serve, now as a professor.

Many of his publications in the 1970’s explored modern primate morphology and pioneered the use of electromyography to better understand primate locomotion. This work led to the conclusion that modern chimps are not representative of the prehistoric locomotive method that supported the evolution of bipedalism. In the 1980’s Dr.Tuttle provided interpretations of the bipedal status of the Laeotoli footprints, determining that the individuals were in fact bipedal, and helping to support the conclusion that bipedalism was one of the earliest traits to evolve in human evolution. Along with his work in Tanzania, Dr. Tuttle has conducted study in Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Peru, Japan, Zimbabwe and on museum collections in Europe, Asia and North America.

As an educator Dr. Tuttle covers many important issues, like scientific rigor in anthropology, the positive factors of the lives of zoo primates, the ethics of “celebrity paleoanthropologists,” as well as the ethics of ethnographic work. He has played a role in the education of many students, but some of his PhD students at the University of Chicago include Della Collins Cook (1976,) Randy Susman (1976,) Matt Cartmill (1970,) Kenneth Glander (1975,) David Watts (1983,) and Charles Musiba (1999.) Many of whom have made significant contributions to the subfields of physical anthropology, and have since trained many students of their own.  Dr. Tuttle’s particular dedication and significant contributions to teaching has resulted in numerous awards from within the University of Chicago and at the national level.

In addition to teaching awards, Dr. Tuttle has receive numerous professional awards including the Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the AAPA in 2014,  Distinguished Primatologist Award (2010), American Association for the Advancement of Science (50-year membership and fellow,) medal of the Foundation Singer-Polignac, and the Medallion of the College de France. He also served as past editor in chief for the International Journal of Primatology for 20 years, as author or editor of 9 books, and has authored numerous scientific papers. His expertise has also been called on for numerous television and radio appearances. His most recent book, Apes and Human Evolution serves as a synthesis of his decades of research, and underlines his views on human evolution and his ultimate belief that humans and modern apes are not one and the same.

Dr. Richard Tuttle is a significant force in the past and the present of the field of anthropology. He has contributed greatly to the topics of locomotion, human evolution and the relationship between modern humans and nonhuman primates, yet still Dr. Tuttle himself views teaching as his true calling. It is in this way, through the many students he has educated and influenced over the years that Dr.Tuttle will continue to change and shape the field of anthropology for many decades to come.


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