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Robert Broom


1866 - 1951

Palaeontologist. Born in Paisley, Broom studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, then emigrated, eventually settling in South Africa (1897). For a brief period he became Professor of Zoology and Geology at Victoria, before returning to medical practice. On retiring from medicine, at the age of 68, he took the post of Palaeontologist to the Transvaal Museum (1934). He made a spectacular discovery in 1938, the partial skeleton of an early hominid, Australopithecus Robustus, including evidence proving that it had walked upright.

Broom had a reputation as an eccentric, dressing in a formal dark suit even when fossil hunting, only to strip naked when it became too hot. Broom always suggested that he would "wear out, not rust out" and, true to his word, he remained prodigiously energetic until the end of his life. In 1951, after writing the final lines of the monograph describing his research, he whispered "Now that's finished ... and so am I" and died moments later at the age of 85.


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