Human beings are members of the order Primates, a distinctive group of mammals that originated around 80 million years ago. Within the primate evolutionary tree, the branch leading to the human species split from the sister lineage leading to our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees, approximately 8 million years ago. Even under modern living conditions in industrialized societies, this extensive evolutionary history remains highly relevant, particularly for human medicine. The course is designed to provide an introduction to evolutionary processes among as primates in general, to the evolution of our own species in particular, and to the special features that emerged during emergence of the human lineage. Both living primates and their fossil relatives will be considered within an overall framework that allows confident interpretation of human evolution. Evidence from anatomy, physiology, behavior, chromosomes and molecular biology will be reviewed in an accessible manner, with appropriate attention to key theoretical issues. A key aim of the course, particularly through individual presentations by class participants, is to provide training in reading, interpreting and synthesizing scientific literature on selected themes.
This course fulfills the Biological Science requirement.
Robert Martin is an Emeritus Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History where he previously served as Provost for five years. He is also an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, The University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Chicago where he has taught in the College and is a member of the Committee of Evolutionary Biology. His research interests span the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology and human reproductive biology. He has authored 300 publications, including peer-reviewed papers, books, book chapters, and book translations, and regularly maintains a blog on human evolution for Psychology Today.