July 17, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 19

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    Tuttle, an expert in paleoanthropology, receives McGraw-Hill teaching honor

    By Seth Sanders
    News Office

    Russell Tuttle, Professor in Anthropology, has been honored with a teaching award from the American Anthropological Association.
    Russell Tuttle, Professor in Anthropology, has been awarded the American Anthropological Association/McGraw-Hill Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

    Tuttle studies the evolution of human and primate morphology, locomotion and other behavior. He also is an expert in paleoanthropology, particularly the evolution of bipedalism and of the human hand, and the history of theories of hominoid evolution and of social prejudice in physical anthropology.

    According to the American Anthropological Association, the McGraw Hill Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching “was established in 1997 to recognize teachers who have contributed to and encouraged the study of anthropology. The successful teaching of anthropology is at the core of producing successful anthropologists. By transferring knowledge and encouraging interest and study, the teacher is able to contribute significantly to the increasing success of the field of anthropology.”

    On receiving the award, Tuttle wrote: “The chief goal of the College ... is to assist students to learn how to think and to be tolerant—albeit without suspending criticism—of what others might say about topics of common interest. Human evolutionary studies proffer rich material for this communal adventure because definitive answers to most of the questions one may pose about the human career and condition are elusive.”

    Tuttle found the history of scholarship to be crucial in provoking analytical insight and independent thought. “I try always to deal with topics historically so students can see the errors of senior scientists and antecedent societies as they try themselves to interpret newly discovered and classic fossils or to judge claims.

    “The careers of some highly visible paleoanthropologists contain many positive and negative lessons on how one might construct and conduct a professional career marked by success and integrity.” And, he argued, the human dimension is key: “Perhaps most importantly, one must be mindful that one is dealing with whole people, who have diverse individual histories and concerns. Confidence building should be at the forefront of one’s goals as a mentor. Students must be treated with dignity and empowered with knowledge and empathetic agency.”

    Tuttle earned a B.S. from Ohio State University in anatomy and physical anthropology in 1961, an M.A. in anthropology from the same institution in 1962, and a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1965.

    He has taught at Chicago since 1964 and is the author of Apes of the World: Their Social Behavior, Communication, Mentality and Ecology (1986) and editor of The Functional and Evolutionary Biology of Primates (1972), among other books.

    He also has written many articles, including “Hands from Newt to Napier,” “Heel, squat, stand, stride: function and evolution of hominoid feet,” and “Fossils, Phylogenies and Feelings.” Currently he serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Primatology: Progress and Prospects.