Time  magazine has named Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand on the 2016 Time 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The full list and related tributes appear in the 2 May 2016 issue of Time, available on newsstands today (22 April 2016), and at time.com/time100.
The list, now in its 13th year, recognises the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. As Time editor Nancy Gibbs has said of the list in the past: “The Time 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms. While power is certain, influence is subtle. As much as this exercise chronicles the achievements of the past year, we also focus on figures whose influence is likely to grow, so we can look around the corner to see what is coming.”
Berger is an award-winning palaeoanthropologist, researcher, explorer, author and speaker from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University in Johannesburg.
His explorations into human origins in Africa over the past two-and-a-half decades have resulted in many new and notable discoveries, including the most complete early hominin fossils found so far, which belong to a new species of early human ancestor, Australopithecus sediba, and, in 2013, the richest early hominin site yet found on the continent of Africa and a new species of human relative, Homo naledi, announced in 2015.
“It is an honour to be included in the Time 100 and a tribute to the world-class and influential science being produced on the African continent by African scientists and African institutions such as Wits University,” Berger says. “This recognition also reflects on the hard work of my colleagues, who are all critical to both the discoveries being made, as well as the interpretations put forward in the scientific literature.
“Wits University continues again and again to produce high quality science that reaches and impact on a global audience and I am thrilled to be part of that. New discoveries continue to be made by my colleagues and me at an ever increasing pace, and I hope, and indeed expect, that the research coming out of palaeoanthropology at Wits will continue to have a significant impact on science worldwide,” Berger adds.
As the Research Professor in Human Evolution and the Public Understanding of Science at Wits, Berger says he believes that Time’s decision to recognise the influence of his team’s research on world science is partly due to Wits University’s leadership in open access and open sourcing. The University is a signatory to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access in the Sciences and Humanities.
Berger is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Prize for Research and Exploration. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. Among other positions, Berger serves on the advisory board of the Global Young Academy.