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In 1924 he discovered the first fossil of an Australopithecine, at Taung in Northwestern South Africa (now Botswana). It was Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominid closely related to humans. This was a great event in the study of human evolution.
Dart was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, the son of a farmer and tradesman. He studied at the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and University College London, before taking a position as head of the newly established department of anatomy at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922.
Because he was an Australian, and not a part of the scientific establishment, and because he found the fossil in Africa, and not Europe or Asia, where the establishment looked to for man's origins, his findings were initially dismissed.
Dart's closest ally was Robert Broom whose discoveries of further Australopithecines (and Wilfrid Le Gros Clark's support) eventually vindicated Dart. So much so that in 1947, Sir Arthur Keith said "...Dart was right, and I was wrong."
- Dart R.A. 1925. Australopithecus africanus: the man-ape of South Africa. Nature, 115, #2884, 195-9 (the original paper communicating the Taung finding, in PDF format).
- Ape to Man, History channel, 16 February 2011.
- Brain C.K. Raymond Dart and our African origins, in A century of Nature: twenty-one discoveries that changed science and the world, Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln, eds.