Inaugural lecture: Professor Rebecca Ackermann

05 August 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

It is a great pleasure for me to invite you to the fourth Vice-Chancellor’s Inaugural Lecture of the year, which is to be presented by Professor Rebecca Ackermann. The lecture is titled: “The evolution of human diversity: The relative roles of chance, adaptation and ancient sex”.

Professor Ackermann is a biological anthropologist, professor in the Department of Archaeology and deputy dean for transformation in the Faculty of Science at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She was the founding director of UCT’s Human Evolution Research Institute and is currently its deputy director. Her research concentrates on the evolutionary process, specifically how gene flow, drift and selection interact to produce skeletal diversity through time, with a focus on human evolution.

A past recipient of the UCT Distinguished Teacher Award, Professor Ackermann has a B2 rating from the National Research Foundation. She sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Human Evolution, Primate Biology and American Anthropologist. She is also the chair of the Committee on Diversity for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and is engaged in discourse and policy development around sexism, racism and transformation of the discipline more generally.

Professor Ackermann asserts that human evolution has traditionally been portrayed as a branching tree where you can trace the success of a single lineage through that tree, ultimately leading to the evolution of our species, Homo sapiens, in Africa a few hundred thousand years ago. Other branches either go extinct before we evolve, or soon after through replacement. And yet we look around us and see so much diversity in the single living product of this evolution – us. How did this diversity evolve in such a short period? Or is this narrative incorrect?

This lecture engages with current research, including evidence from the fossil record, to provide perspective on these and other issues.

When: Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Where: Lecture Theatre 2, Kramer Law Building, Middle Campus, UCT

Time: 17:30 (doors open at 17:00)

RSVP: Please confirm your attendance online by 11 August 2019.

For further information, please email or phone 021 650 4847/4870.

Please note: Due to limited space, seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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