The study of human evolution began in earnest in 1863 when Professor of Geology in Galway William King proposed the name Homo neanderthalensis for recently discovered fossil human remains from the Neander Valley of Germany.
This proposal at the 1863 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was based on King’s careful examination of a plaster replica of the Neander fossil skull found seven years earlier. He published his idea the following year (1864).
King’s suggestion was both extraordinary and revolutionary for its time, since Darwin’s masterpiece ‘Origin of Species’ had been published just a few short years beforehand.
To his lasting credit, William King remains the first scientist to name a new and extinct species of human.
As the sesquicentennial anniversary of King’s remarkable achievement approaches in 2014, NUI Galway will mark the occasion with a special international symposium dedicated to the distant prehistoric people he gave a name to and their origin in human evolution.
A detailed circular on the symposium is available for download.