Joseph S. Weiner and the foundation of post-WW II human biology in the United Kingdom



Both the United States and the United Kingdom experienced a transformation in the science of physical anthropology from the period before World War II until the post-war period. In the United States, Sherwood L. Washburn is credited with being a leading figure in this transformation. In the United Kingdom, two individuals were instrumental in bringing about a similar change in the profession. These were Joseph S. Weiner at the University of Oxford and Nigel Barnicot at the University of London, with Weiner playing the principal role as leader in what Washburn called the “New Physical Anthropology,” that is, the application of evolutionary theory, the de-emphasis on race classification, and the application of the scientific method and experimental approaches to problem solving. Weiner's contributions to physical anthropology were broad-based—climatic and work physiology, paleoanthropology, and human variation—in what became known as human biology in the U.K. and human adaptability internationally. This biographical essay provides evidence for the significant influence of J.S. Weiner on the post-war development of human biology (biological or physical anthropology) inthe U.K. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

In the mid to late 1930s, physical anthropology was expanding in the United States. By 1939, Earnest A. Hooton (1887–1954) had trained 13 professional physical anthropologists at Harvard, with eight more to finish during the Second World War (Giles,1997). Most of these former students of Hooton, and a few others trained elsewhere, were to find employment at colleges, universities, and institutions that were growing after the end of the war. In the United Kingdom, there were limited academic positions in physical anthropology; few students were trained before the war and almost none were trained during the war, a war that began in late 1939, more than two years before the United States entered the conflict. The prominent physical anthropology figures in the U.K. directly before the war were Sir Arthur Keith (1866–1955), who had retired from the conservatorship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1933, Wilfrid E. Le Gros Clark (1895–1971), who assumed the Head of Anatomy at Oxford in 1934, and Leonard H.D. Buxton (1889–1939), who had been a Reader in Physical Anthropology at Oxford (within Anatomy) since 1927. Le Gros Clark's interests were neuroanatomy, primatology, paleoanthropology, and evolution, and Buxton's principal interests were in craniology, archaeology, and ethnology. Buxton died right at the outset of the war in 1939, and the Readership in Physical Anthropology at Oxford was frozen then until after the war.

Arthur Keith was the most prominent and influential physical anthropologist in the U.K. in the early years of the 20th century. He was a Scottish anatomist who was best known for his studies of human fossils. As a strong supporter of a European origin for modern humans, he believed that the Piltdown fossil specimens were prime examples of this European origin. He was, however, quite traditional in following his interests in physical anthropology, and as with others in the profession, both in the U.S. and the U.K, his training was based in anatomy and his interests were in skeletal biology. The charismatic Keith had influenced two prominent anthropologists in the U.S.: one an American and the other from the U.K. Both were to play important roles in the foundations of the science in the U.S. Earnest A. Hooton met Keith when he was a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University in 1912, and T. Wingate Todd (1885–1938), a young anatomist at Manchester, worked with Keith, who later recommended him for a senior anatomy post at Western Reserve University in Cleveland (Kern,2006; Giles,2010). Keith also played a role in the field- and paleoanthropological-training of another physical anthropologist from the U.S.: Theodore D. McCown (1908–1969). McCown, who taught and trained students for many years at Berkeley, collaborated as a junior scientist with Keith in the 1930s on the Mount Carmel hominin fossil research (Kennedy and Brooks,1984). Arthur Keith's influences on physical anthropology date back to the early 20th century, but by the third decade of the 20th century, another anatomist and physical anthropologist was rising to prominence.

Wilfrid E. Le Gros Clark grew up in Hemel Hempstead, a town in Hertfordshire, several miles to the northwest of London. At age 17 years, he attended St. Thomas' Hospital Medical School in London, where he qualified as a physician at age 22 years in 1917 (Weddell,1972). He served briefly in World War I as a medical officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and shortly after the war, he took a post as Principal Medical Officer to the Sarawak Government in what was, at that time, a British colony in North Borneo (Wood,2008). It was in Borneo that he conducted his earliest comparative studies of primates, including tarsiers and the formerly thought-to-be-primate, the tree shrew (now identified as an insectivore; Le Gros Clark,1968:75). When he returned to England, he conducted studies of comparative neuroanatomy of primates; his interest in primate evolution was stimulated by this work, and, after a decade-long series of posts in anatomy, he was appointed to the Dr. Lee's Professorship in Anatomy at Oxford University in 1934. A year later, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, largely for his research in neuroanatomy, and he was knighted in 1955.

Le Gros Clark remained at Oxford until his retirement in 1963, and contributed major works in the realm of paleoanthropology (Le Gros Clark,1934, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1967). As Bernard Wood (2008:22) noted: “A Professor of Anatomy in the first half of the 20th century was expected to be familiar with what at that time was still a very meager fossil record for human evolution.” However, Le Gros Clark's scholarship carried him far beyond the expected familiarity with the fossil record. His nearly three decades of research and administration of departmental scientists, students, and staff members led to distinguished studies in comparative neuroanatomy and physical anthropology. Much of the work in population biology and physical anthropology, however, was conducted by his large group of affiliated departmental scientists. A sampling of those who were members of Le Gros Clark's Department at various times include: Solly Zuckerman (later, Sir Solly), the distinguished anatomist and primatologist who was a member of Le Gros Clark's department for a decade into the mid-1940s; the American, Elwyn Simons, who studied under Le Gros Clark from 1956 to 1959, and whose work in paleoprimatology was recognized by memberships in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society (Fleagle and Gilbert,2008); Anthony Allison, whose early investigations in East Africa led to the discovery of the relationship between sickle-cell and malaria; Derek F. Roberts, who was a University Demonstrator in Physical Anthropology and whose original research on human biogeography and climate was conducted out of the Anatomy Department; and James M. Tanner, a pioneer in child growth research, who moved from Oxford to establish the Department of Growth and Development, Institute of Child Health at the University of London.

Another important scientific figure who was appointed Reader in Physical Anthropology in 1945 at Oxford within the Department of Anatomy was Joseph Sydney Weiner (1915–1982). Weiner, a South African immigrant to England before the war, was a physiologist and physical anthropologist who was to play a significant role in the development of the profession in the U.K. He remained at Oxford as Reader in Physical Anthropology for 18 years while actively engaging in research and graduate training and building a fundamental infrastructure for the profession. The basic thesis of this historical essay is that in the same way that Sherwood L. Washburn contributed to the post-war transformation and modernization of physical anthropology in the United States, so did Joseph S. Weiner serve as a central figure in the same transformation in the United Kingdom.


Joe Weiner's father, Reuven (Robert), was born in Zagar, Lithuania in 1882 and migrated to South Africa in 1898. His mother, Chana (Fanny), was born near Memel, Prussia in 1890 and migrated to South Africa as a young woman sometime after 1910. Joe, who was born in Pretoria in 1915, was the second of seven children, with three sisters, and three brothers in this Jewish immigrant family. Robert was a successful general dealer (merchant who deals with general goods) but his business failed in 1929, probably as the result of the beginning of the world economic depression. The family's financial position declined after this time leading to considerable economic stress in the family. Joseph attended The Boys' High School in Pretoria beginning in 1926 and finished with seven “distinctions” in his classes in 1931. His brother, Mottie, to whom Joe was very close, identified Joe as “… a brilliant student and a fair piano player who composed some music and would play Yiddish tunes for the neighbors.”

His brother Mottie quit school in order to assist Joe in paying for his expenses at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he matriculated in March 1932. At the Wits University, he studied science and education including coursework with Raymond Dart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and Alexander Galloway, two distinguished scientists and members of the Wits Faculty. Figure 1 shows the 1934 class of medical and science research students. In late 1934, Weiner was offered a one-year research appointment by A.J. Orenstein (Chief Medical Officer at the Rand Corp. Ltd.) to conduct studies of the physiology and pathology of heat stroke and heat exhaustion in miners who worked for the Rand Corporation. The heat chamber work that was to be conducted on Bantu subjects simulated the very hot, humid environment of the mines, and Raymond Dart supported Weiner in taking up this work. After completing his studies at Wits, Weiner worked under Orenstein's direction during 1935 and 1936 at the Central Native Hospital in Johannesburg. He continued research on Rand mining employees, largely in areas of the physiological and pathological effects of hot temperatures, and comparisons of Bantu physiology with European physiology, especially with respect to vital capacity and pulmonary disease. This early research carried out by Weiner for the Rand diamond mines in South Africa established a life-long interest in climatic physiology, particularly heat stress.

Figure 1.

Medical science and research students from the University of the Witswatersrand in 1934. Raymond Dart, who was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, is fifth from the left and Alexander Galloway is sitting on Dart's right in the front row. Joe Weiner is fourth from the left in the back row. (With permission from Edmund Weiner.)

In addition to the climatic environment, Weiner was also interested in the dietary environment and population variation. In one study of the effects of vitamin C nutrition in healthy Europeans, Bantu mine recruits, and subscorbutic (a chronic deficiency of vitamin C) Bantu subjects, Weiner found that there were no fundamental differences among the groups that could not be attributable to dietary differences (Weiner and Bernstein,1937; Weiner,1947a). This was a significant finding during this era when most racial variation was attributed to genetic differences.

In late 1936, Weiner wrote to G.P. Crowden in the Department of Industrial Physiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to outline his own work on heat stress in Bantu miners and to apply to work under Crowden's direction. Crowden replied (letter dated December 11, 1936) with a very positive statement about accepting Weiner and indicating that he would submit an “expenses grant” proposal for his research. Weiner's acceptance was partly based on very strong letters of recommendation from Raymond Dart at Wits and A.J. Orenstein at the Rand Mines Corporation. Weiner then left South Africa by boat on February 26, 1937 and arrived in England in March. He embraced his new home and rapidly began cultivating the skills and behaviors required of an advanced student in England. In his diary from 1937, he noted that he must strive to work even harder to develop his understanding of physiology, philosophy, social sciences, and “all the departments of knowledge necessary for the appreciation of these three … and to advance my aesthetic appreciation of music, art, literature, drama, ballet.” The impression is given that his appetite for knowledge and observations of things around him was intense, and that he was intellectually driven, but also socially ambitious in his need to fit into proper English academic society, a formidable task for a middle-class South African.

During Weiner's first two years in London (1937–1938), he worked with Crowden as his mentor and continued his studies and research, but he still maintained contact with his teachers and supervisors in South Africa. Both Crowden at LSHTM and Orenstein at the Rand Corporation assisted him in his expenses by seeking small grants, stipends, and tuition waivers from their respective institutions. In early 1938, the University of Wits awarded Weiner his M.Sc. in absentia (Letter from the Wits Registrar, March 1, 1938). At the onset of the war in 1939, he received a temporary staff appointment on heat regulation and clothing and continued his work with the Department of Industrial Physiology, which had geared up for wartime research. From 1940 to 1942, Weiner also studied for his medical qualifications at St. George's Hospital in London and was a Demonstrator in the Department of Applied Physiology in LSHTM.

In 1942, he was appointed to the Medical Research Council (MRC), a research organization with which he was affiliated throughout his professional life. During the war, he conducted a variety of research projects, all associated with the war effort, and principally related to temperature regulation, tropical climates, and heat stress in military and civilian personnel. Some of these research projects included: clothing for men in tanks in hot climates; body-armored cork jackets for coastal forces; ventilation of air raid shelters; design of decontamination suits; sun helmets for tropical use; comparative assessments of life jackets; relationship of dry-bulb, wet-bulb, wind, and clothing to performance; the importance of acclimatization in water balance and metabolism (Weiner,1938, 1940, 1942, 1947b). Most of this wartime work was carried out at Queen Square, London where Weiner worked with the Neurological Research Unit of the National Hospital for nervous diseases. He was well-equipped to participate in the search for appropriate indices of heat stress and strain for the Armed Services because of his training and research in South Africa. Despite Weiner's interest in thermal physiology, he found much of this practical work to be mundane. With all of these activities and intense work during wartime, he still found time to court and marry Marjorie Daw in 1943. Throughout his future busy professional life, Weiner was fortunate to have the support of Marjorie and their two children, Julia and Edmund, in a stable family environment.

In a letter to a friend in Johannesburg after the war, Weiner described the character of his wartime research: “In scientific work I have not gone much beyond the physiology of heat regulation for the simple reason that the war in North Africa and especially in the Far East has made the subject of first rate practical importance. For the past 4 years I have worked for the MRC on problems for various services, in the Navy, Army and combined operations, and for the most part it has been a long series of ad hoc and often rather dull projects” (Letter to E. Jokl, June 7, 1945).

With the end of the war approaching, the Readership in Physical Anthropology at Oxford became available in Le Gros Clark's Department of Anatomy, and Weiner applied for the academic post. With the support of Raymond Dart and Le Gros Clark, and both Weiner's significant research achievements with Bantu miners in South Africa and his substantial wartime research and publications, he was appointed Reader in 1945. One of the strong professional links between Le Gros Clark and J.S. Weiner was their mutual interest in the anatomical structure (Le Gros Clark et al.,1938) and physiological function (Edholm and Weiner,1981) of the hypothalamus. In an early vitae, he identified his qualifications for the Readership as “physiological methods applied to comparative study of living races: nutrition, heat regulation, water balance, circulatory adaptation, physical and psychomotor performance, and endocrinological function.” Little was known at that time of the relationships between endocrine function and temperature stress, particularly in the context of population variation. However, Weiner was to work on this problem about a decade later.

According to Le Gros Clark, from his memoirs (1968:150): “The accession of Dr. Weiner (as Reader in Physical Anthropology) … was particularly welcome, for he played a most important part in reorienting the curriculum in physical anthropology and liberating it from some of its traditional and outmoded concepts. As the result of his work, the subject became much more dynamic in its approach to modern problems whereas for some time it had become rather static in its educational content.”


As Geoffrey Harrison (2007:120) noted, during the 1920s and 1930s there was a compulsory physical anthropology component for the Diploma in Anthropology at Oxford. The syllabus for physical anthropology required the “Elements of Physical Anthropology including the comparative study of the principal anatomical characters which (a) determine the zoological position of Man amongst the Anthropomorpha and (b) distinguish the chief races of Man from each other with methods (anthropometric) of measuring and recording such characters.” Arthur Thomson, the Professor of Anatomy who preceded Le Gros Clark, worked with two biologists who lectured on craniometry, sense organs, and fossil remains. Harrison (2007:121) supported Le Gros Clark's contention that the revitalization of physical anthropology, including the incorporation of genetics, evolution, and physiological adaptability into the curriculum, “… can be attributed to Joe Weiner. Weiner had experience in paleoanthropology from Raymond Dart in South Africa, but he was first and foremost a medically trained human physiologist.” Harrison gives credit also to Derek F. Roberts, who was University Demonstrator in Physical Anthropology from 1954 to 1963, in helping to develop the curriculum and the research program.

As a Reader in Physical Anthropology in the Anatomy Department, Weiner was also a member of the Faculty in Anthropology and Geography, so he had contacts with a number of faculty members in departments other than Anatomy. These contacts only stimulated his already existing interests in social sciences, biology, natural history, and all facets of a newly emerging physical anthropology. His research work in the years immediately following the war continued along the lines of his interests in physiological heat tolerance and was combined with his responsibilities as a member of the MRC. He was appointed Honorary Assistant Director of the MRC Unit for Research on Climate and Working Efficiency in 1955 (Weiner and Provins,1958). This Unit was set up in the Anatomy Department in 1948 under the Direction of Le Gros Clark, although Weiner was the knowledgeable scientist who really ran the Unit. During this period, he continued publishing on his Bantu studies, industrial physiology, and thermal physiology, but also he began publishing more widely in physical anthropology (Weiner,1948a, 1950, 1951; Tanner and Weiner,1949).

Weiner must have met and become friends with Nigel Barnicot (1914–1975) at the University of London during the war. In a letter to Sherwood L. Washburn at Berkeley (4 May 1961), Weiner stated “In my efforts to build up the subject (of physical anthropology) in Great Britain I was to some extent instrumental in reassuring Barnicot, now Professor of Physical Anthropology, University College, London, about the prospects for the subject when we had a long talk before he took the plunge and changed from Zoology.” Barnicot, who had begun a faculty position in 1938, transferred from Zoology to the newly established Department of Anthropology in 1946 (Buettner-Janusch,1975). In 1960, he was given the merit title of Professor of Physical Anthropology at University College London, where he stayed for all of his professional life (Brothwell,1975). He trained more students in physical anthropology at London than any other academic in Britain and he conducted an impressive number of studies in a wide variety of fields within physical anthropology/human biology. His earliest research was on bone biology and the effects of vitamins on bone growth. Other topics he pursued were primate dentition and genetics; variation and genetics of taste; human hair and skin color variation; hemoglobin, haptoglobin, and tranferrin genetics; and adaptive physiology. He worked in West Africa, and in East Africa with the Hadza in Tanzania, and he was equally at home in the laboratory and the field (Sunderland,1975).

In that same letter to Washburn where he mentions Barnicot, Weiner stated that research out of his laboratory was conducted by Derek F. Roberts (in the Sudan), Anthony C. Allison (in East Africa), and other students (who worked in Tanganyika, the Congo, Nigerian Delta, and Hokkaido). He also mentioned James M. Tanner, who was in the laboratory, and Geoffrey Harrison, who was Weiner's student in physical anthropology. In a much earlier letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Royal Anthropological Institute (May 13, 1949), Weiner requested funds for Anthony Allison who “… will accompany the University Exploration Club's expedition to East Africa as physical anthropologist.” Allison was resident in East Africa, with training in anthropology in Dart's department at the U of Wits, and was a student in the Anatomy Department at Oxford. The data that Allison was expected to collect on the Maasai included standardized photos (supervised by Tanner), blood samples (supervised by Arthur Mourant), and taster/nontaster status (supervised by Barnicot). This suggests that even by the late 1940s, Weiner had established close professional ties with other anthropologists and human biologists in the context of his training and research program in the Department of Anatomy at Oxford, and was committed to raising physical anthropology to a respected place among the sciences. Figure 2 is a photograph of the scientists and staff in the Department of Anatomy, probably around 1951–1953.

Figure 2.

The Department of Anatomy scientists and staff sometime between 1951 and 1953. Le Gros Clark is the prominent figure seated in the center of the first row. Joe Weiner is the smiling individual with horn-rimmed glasses about four rows back on the right side of the photograph. (With permission from Edmund Weiner.)

While at Oxford, Weiner trained six students through the D.Phil, two of whom worked very closely with him in research over the years: Geoffrey A. Harrison and Kenneth J. Collins. There was a distinct pattern of development with all of his D.Phil. students. He took part with enthusiasm, often as a subject, in all experimental work whenever he could and he encouraged and always discussed progress and problems. However, he was careful to give everyone his/her head when the research started to take off. Simultaneously, he exposed the work to the most rigorous scientific scrutiny, for example, by encouraging the student to present communications at scientific meetings. No doubt these methods were not unique, but Weiner conducted them with the vitality of a scientific maestro. When the MRC Unit moved to London, Weiner had mostly senior scientists about him and did not actually supervise Ph.D. students: he had enough staff in specific disciplines to take on such research tasks.


One of the icons of British prehistory and paleontology was the "Piltdown Man." Discovered in gravels near the village of Piltdown, in Sussex, England, the fossil specimens of a human cranium and jaw were found by Charles Dawson with the assistance of (later Sir) Arthur Smith Woodward in the years between 1910 and 1912. A worn down canine tooth and, with excavations conducted by Woodward, other fossils, were found up until about 1915. This early human, named Eoanthropus dawsoni, consisted of a remarkably modern skull with a very primitive, ape-like jaw, and it was dated from the gravel deposits to be very old, perhaps 500 thousand to a million years old (Stringer,2003). When it was first reported in the literature (Dawson and Woodward,1913) there was some skepticism, but it was generally accepted, initially by Arthur Keith and other respected scientists from the United Kingdom, although Keith himself had doubts about the Piltdown specimens (Weiner,1955a:18). The skepticism arose from the inconsistency between the large-brained, primitive-jawed, and early Piltdown specimen and the equally early and small-brained Pithecanthropus specimens from Java. The sense of inconsistency persisted when the ape-like Australopithecus finds in South Africa were discovered in the 1920s and 1930s. As more fossil hominins were uncovered through the 1940s, the feelings of doubt persisted (Weiner,1955a:19). Although it was difficult to fit the Piltdown specimen into a logical evolutionary framework, the Piltdown fossils were indentified as a paradoxical, but legitimate representative of early humans; that is, until the early 1950s.

In 1949, Kenneth Oakley (1911–1981), an archaeologist at the British Museum of Natural History, applied the newly developed relative fluorine dating test to the Piltdown fossils, and found that when compared with other fauna from the gravels, the content of fluorine suggested that the Piltdown fossils were quite recent, not the early Pleistocene Epoch as had been thought previously (Oakley and Hoskins,1950). These tests added further confusion to the interpretation of the Piltdown specimens, but still the fossils were not suspected to be false. In the literature and popular representations concerning the uncovering of the Piltdown forgery, there is the implication that Kenneth Oakley was the principal figure in this discovery and it was the relative fluorine dating that conclusively demonstrated that the Piltdown specimens were false. Geoffrey Harrison (1983), who was Weiner's assistant during the research and involved intimately in the multifaceted investigation, provided documentation recorded by Weiner shortly before his death that counters this implication. Harrison (1983:46) has recorded:

“The recent death of J.S. Weiner affords a fitting time for attempting to correct some misconceptions, which appear to have grown up concerning the early stages in the exposure of the Piltdown forgery. In making this exposure Weiner collaborated fully with Dr. Kenneth Oakley of the British Museum (Natural History) and with Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark of the Anatomy Department at Oxford but it was Weiner alone who deduced that the Piltdown remains must have been forged, and who took steps to expose the forgery.”

Around 1950, Oakley gave a talk for the Anthropological Society at Oxford University concerning the fluorine tests applied to bone samples from the Piltdown specimens. Weiner noted, in these comments recorded shortly before his death (Harrison,1983:46), that “… I was immediately struck by the anomalous nature of the results he (Oakley) announced and then went up and spoke to him privately.” Weiner discussed the incongruities of the late Pleistocene dates and the primitive ape-like characteristics of the mandible with Oakley and, as he related “Kenneth Oakley listened to my arguments but took the matter no further” (Harrison,1983:47). Sometime after that, as Harrison (2010:2) later recorded, Weiner “… had concluded on a night drive from London (to Oxford) that the inconsistencies in the Piltdown fossils were explicable only by being fraudulent.” And Harrison noted that the next day Weiner gave him the task of making a Piltdown replica from a modern Orang Utan jaw. As Harrison continued: “I was able to recreate a good imitation of the Piltdown jaw in about a week. I had some difficulty with tooth wear, but so did the fraudster.” It was this replica Harrison had created that Weiner presented to Le Gros Clark for his inspection. According to Le Gros Clark (1968:219): “When he showed the results of his experiment to me the next morning I looked at the teeth with amazement, for they reproduced so exactly the appearance of the unusual type of wear in the Piltdown molars.” Prior to this, Weiner and Le Gros Clark had had discussions about the Piltdown fossils, and Weiner had put forth the proposition that the only explanation was that the specimens had been deliberately faked. The fabricated tooth wear and artificial staining of the replica were what apparently convinced Le Gros Clark of the fraud.

This was one source of evidence that Weiner, as the scientist, brought to bear on his “hypothesis” that the Piltdown fossils were fraudulent. He made many trips to Sussex to interview anyone remaining alive who was associated with the Piltdown finds and he described his attempts to uncover the perpetrator(s) of the fraud in his account of the affair (Weiner,1955a). During trips to Sussex and elsewhere, he interviewed Teilhard de Chardin, Sir Arthur Keith, Lady Smith Woodward, and a host of others. Weiner and Oakley visited Sir Arthur Keith and presented the evidence of the fraud to him just a year or two before Keith's death and prior to publication of the first report. Keith was reportedly stunned (Harrison personal communication). The original report was published in 1953 (Weiner et al.,1953), but evidence continued to be accumulated (Weiner and Oakley,1954; Weiner,1955b). Some of this comprehensive evidence included: (1) fluorine dating and both late Pleistocene dates and different relative dates for the cranium and the mandible; (2) the artificial tooth wear in the mandible and the sole canine tooth; (3) the superficial postmortem staining of the cranium, jaw, and teeth that could not have occurred in the iron-rich, Piltdown gravel deposits; (4) the chemical composition of the skull, mandible, and teeth as determined by X-ray crystalography that demonstrated that the fossils were not from the same individual; and (5) the suspicious nature of the fossil finds and the difficulty documenting the location of some of the finds.

Weiner (1955a) presented an impressive indictment against Charles Dawson as the perpetrator of the fraud, but left the accusation up in the air, as he deemed appropriate with circumstantial evidence. The Piltdown mystery and the suspected perpetrators have been discussed at length in the literature (Spencer,1990; Walsh,1996), and some scientists have even suggested that Arthur Keith was a coconspirator (Spencer,1990; Tobias,1994). More recently, two junior employees of the British Museum of Natural History were implicated by Kenneth Oakley at a dinner party in 1975 (Miles,2003). It is quite likely that the full picture will never be known of one of science's greatest hoaxes. However, the mystery of the perpetrator(s), as it is represented in the literature and popular press, should not obscure the uncovering of the hoax, which was a masterful application of the scientific method through experiment and logic by J.S. Weiner.

Geoffrey Harrison (personal communication) speculated, “Joe Weiner might have been elected to the Royal Society for the Piltdown research, but this work destroyed a British icon and may have been viewed in this light.” In other words, even though this was an important discovery and led to the real truth of the fossils and artifacts as fraudulent and which opened up a more realistic interpretation of human evolution, it nevertheless was destructive in that it cast suspicion on several respected figures from the past and removed British fossils from the mainstream of early hominin evolution.


Two strands of what came to be termed personnel research developed during WWII aimed at increasing the safety, comfort, and efficiency of individuals in the armed services. One team based in Oxford studied anatomical and anthropometric problems under the leadership of Le Gros Clark, which was directed to designing equipment to improve operational efficiency. The other, under the auspices of the U.K. MRC, was concerned with physiological climatic problems, which were undertaken at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London. Joe Weiner had a firm foot in both camps and, as noted above, during the period 1940–1945, he worked first as a Demonstrator in the Department of Applied Physiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with G.P. Crowden. They worked on the design and performance of clothing for the services and then from 1942 on, with a team of distinguished scientists on temperature regulation in a newly constructed climatic chamber at Queen Square. The team developed the P4SR (Predicted 4-h Sweat Rate) Index that predicted the reactions and tolerance time of service personnel exposed to high levels of heat stress (Weiner,1948b). While working at Queen Square, Weiner was simultaneously studying medicine at St. George's Hospital in London, qualifying for the medical License of the Royal College of Physicians and Membership in the Royal College of Surgeons in 1947. After the war, the anatomical research at Oxford continued in relation to the Services and to industry, and in 1948 the anthropological studies became the responsibility of Weiner as the newly appointed Reader in Physical Anthropology. Thus, with his parallel interest in human adaptation to hot climates, the two strands of personnel research came together in 1948 resulting in the formation of a new MRC group, the Climate and Working Efficiency Unit (Weiner and Provins,1958). As noted, it was directed by Le Gros Clark with Weiner as deputy director, to study broadly and conduct research into operational efficiency in the context of relevant anatomical and climatic factors.

The MRC Unit in Oxford was accommodated in the Anatomy Department with which it shared facilities. The main feature of its program was its essential focus on fundamental research in the fields of functional anatomy, anthropometry, and human climatology. The Unit was, however, also involved in solving practical problems posed by organizations such as the National Coal Board, the Iron and Steel Industry, the British Standards Institute, the Road Research Establishment, and all three of the Armed Services. Requests for such assistance were accepted after consideration by the MRC. In many cases, action simply required a written report, but sometimes a short ad hoc investigation was necessary, or even a longer-term commitment with a representative working as an Associate Member of the Unit. In the first few years after its inception, some 30–40 such queries were dealt with annually. The Unit staff received unstinting active support and enthusiasm from Weiner, who was himself a committed experimentalist. There were usually about 10 members of the scientific staff at any one time, including a statistician, all of whom were supported by highly proficient technicians. University undergraduate teaching requirements were minimal. There was, however, a requirement insisted on by Le Gros Clark and Weiner for the Unit staff, which was to attend a formal scientific meeting every Saturday morning to discuss and record ongoing and future research. A six- and seven-day work schedule was not unusual for Weiner at this time and in later years, his daughter recalls that: “Most of the time, he seemed to be either at work or working in his study at home” (Julia Miles, personal communication).

Under the leadership of Le Gros Clark and Weiner, the Climate and Working Efficiency Unit flourished and gained from its situation in the very center of Oxford's South Parks Science area. In close proximity were many distinguished Departments, for example: Physiology (Sir Lindor Brown), Biochemistry (Sir Hans Krebs), Pharmacology (W.D.M. Paton), and Pathology (Sir Howard Florey). In addition, nearby was Sir George Pickering's Department of Medicine at the Radcliffe Infirmary, which also housed another MRC Unit, concerned with problems of cold-water exposure (W.R. Keatinge). There was often close collaboration between these laboratories and the Unit in Anatomy. The climate chamber was not big enough to accommodate a large number of subjects, such as in the Armed Services chambers at Farnborough and Alverstoke, but it could be used in experiments for up to eight subjects and achieved highly accurate control of temperature, humidity, and air movement.

Research in anthropometry, dynamometry, and functional anatomy provided some of the impetus for establishing the science of ergonomics (the customs, habits, or laws of work). Weiner cofounded the Ergonomics Research Society in Oxford in 1949, was Chairman of the Society Council from 1961 to 1963, and Editor of the journal, Ergonomics, from 1964 to 1967. A wide range of working postures such as those adopted in sighting tasks involving extensive movements of the head and trunk or limitations of reach were analyzed. Anthropometric surveys were also made on school children to aid the design of school furniture and on which national standards were based by the British Standards Institute in 1955. James Tanner and Weiner (1949) worked together in developing a photogrammetric method using a library of photographs of over a thousand individuals to extract anthropometric measurements that could be applied to practical problems, such as posture, that would otherwise have entailed special surveys. Apart from the analysis of posture, there were many other studies of the range and strength of joint movement to provide basic data for the prediction of human performance in operating manual controls (Provins and Salter,1955; Roberts,1956; Whitney,1958).

At the time of applying for the Readership in Physical Anthropology at Oxford in 1944, Weiner had included a mention of plans to study endocrinological function in comparative studies of living races. In the 1950s, little was known of this aspect, and biochemical methods for accurate detection of hormones were rudimentary. However, he embarked on a series of challenging studies of thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal hormone activity in both animals and humans exposed to hot environments. Particular attention was given to the adrenocortical hormones, from the need to assess stress reactions, as well as the control of salt and water balance. It was to work on that project that one of us (KJC) was appointed to the MRC Unit in 1954. During the course of the research that followed, Weiner and Collins laid the foundation for the action of electrocortin (aldosterone) and the study of corticosteroid stress hormones in humans in hot environments (Collins and Weiner,1968). This area of “environmental endocrinology” as pioneered by Weiner has only been developed in the U.K. and U.S. within the past 30–40 years.

One early study focused on the urinary excretion of corticosteroids in subjects performing physical work in a hot environment (Hellmann et al.,1956). Suitable tests for plasma steroids were not then available. The climate chambers in Oxford and in Doncaster were used, and groups of men acting as their own controls performed two 4-h tests, one of which was in an unheated environment. Urinary samples were processed in Oxford to extract the steroids, then in a London chemical pathology department to separate them by chromatography, and finally in another London Hospital to quantify aldosterone by bioassay. Levels of aldosterone excretion were, for the very first time, shown to be significantly elevated in the heat-exposed subjects. What was not expected was the discovery of a new hormone or metabolite in the chromatograph from men after heat exposure. The unknown substance was a ketosteroid that was termed X6 by the laboratory in London, who immediately published news of the discovery. However, Weiner, in “Piltdown” mode, was skeptical about the finding. He argued that it was biologically unlikely that X6 was excreted in significant amounts in every subject exposed to heat but not at all in the control experiments. He suspected that it was an experimental artifact and then realized that there was a difference besides temperature between the heat and control situations. It was that in the hot climate, all the subjects had been rehydrated with orange juice rather than less palatable water. Subsequently, it was found that the urinary excretion of X6 depended entirely on the ingestion of citrus fruits such as oranges where was a remarkable sex difference, especially in pregnant women who were encouraged to take more citrus drinks and that X6 is found in the pulp and peel of oranges. Thereafter, compound X6 had a short history.

In 1962 Professor Le Gros Clark retired, truly the end of an era that began in 1934 when he took up the Chair in Anatomy at Oxford. His successor, Professor Geoffrey W. Harris, was a distinguished biological scientist whose seminal work on the neurohumoral control of the pituitary gland had been published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. It was well known that Geoffrey Harris had no interest in anthropology, and he told Weiner that he could continue as Reader in Physical Anthropology or continue his MRC work in applied physiology in the Anatomy Department, but not both! Furthermore, since Harris was to bring his own MRC Unit from London, there would be no room for the Climate and Working Efficiency Unit. Weiner therefore decided to move back to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). There he was offered a Chair to set up a new Department of Environmental Physiology in the School, and in 1963, another MRC Unit, the Environmental Physiology Unit, was established with Weiner as Director. Only a few of the scientific staff from the Oxford Unit followed Weiner to London, the remainder dispersed to other MRC Units. Geoffrey A. Harrison returned to Oxford as Reader in Physical Anthropology, replacing Weiner, and later was appointed Professor in a new Department of Biological Anthropology on Banbury Road, Oxford near the Science area (Harrison,2010).

The main changes made by Joe Weiner to the MRC Unit in London were first, to co-opt a subunit in the growing specialty of Exercise Physiology, and second, to appoint an experienced steroid chemist (J.D. Few). The London School included a number of strong Departments including Nutrition, Statistics, Public Health, and Tropical Medicine that afforded useful support to the new MRC Unit while, in return, the Unit provided support in postgraduate teaching. There was no climatic chamber in the School, but such resources were made readily available for Unit use at Farnborough, where large chambers existed in the Institute of Aviation Medicine and in the Army Personnel Research Establishment. Similarly, the Institute of Naval Medicine at Alverstoke, Portsmouth, offered the use of their specialized climatic chamber, and also the British Gas Laboratories in London and the Electricity Research Centre at Capenhurst, Chester, welcomed Unit staff to work in their chamber facilities. In fact, many major climatic investigations, each often taking several weeks or even months to complete, were made in all of these facilities over the next 17 years by the Unit staff. Clearly, Joe Weiner was held in high regard by his peers and their establishments.

In 1975, the MRC's Main Frame Computer in Pentonville Road, London, which was near the Unit, was disbanded and the building became available to Joe Weiner. He quickly established part of the existing Unit in the “Annex,” adding more laboratories and offices, a Unit library also used for meetings and events, a technicians' workshop and a new purpose-built sleep research facility. One of the laboratories was used to house and operate a “body cooling unit” that featured in his current research project. In his early work in the Rand mines, Weiner had been associated with the recognition and treatment of heat illnesses, and in the late 1950s, Weiner and Horne (1958) prepared a memorandum for the MRC Climatic Physiology Committee modifying and updating the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Heat Illnesses. This was subsequently accepted in the WHO Classification of Diseases. During the 1970s, he was joined by Mustafa Khogali from Kuwait who was working in occupational health at the LSHTM, with the intention of devising a method for treating heat stroke (Weiner and Khogali,1980). In this condition, rapid cooling of the body is crucial, and the usual methods of applying ice packs, cold water, and air movement often caused skin vasoconstriction which inhibited rapid cooling. The need to avoid vasoconstriction during cooling and yet to be able to manage delirious patients led Weiner and Khogali to devise and test a body cooling unit. The equipment was designed around a net support over a bath on which the patient could be secured. Cooling is started at once by spraying atomized water at 20°C while air at 50°C is blown over the patient. Normal skin temperature is thereby maintained during rapid cooling. The fully instrumented and moveable unit was then put into production on a commercial basis with the main outlet centered in Saudi Arabia where many of the cooling units were eventually housed in purpose-built casualty stations along the route of the Hajj at Mecca. The method remains a standard controlled means of treating hyperthermia in very hot climates (Weiner et al.,1984).

In surveying the history of the work in the two MRC Units for which Weiner was responsible, it can be acknowledged that it carried the stamp of great dedication and inspired leadership throughout. The remarkable aspect of it is that he managed to find time to make equally outstanding contributions to all his other major academic activities, particularly anthropology and human biology.


One of the noteworthy attributes of Joe Weiner was his ability to juggle several projects and activities and to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. Among his close associates and colleagues at Oxford, he was known as “Hurricane Joe,” largely because of his dynamism and ability to get things done quickly. He was energetic, fully committed, and driven to promoting science within human biology, developing the discipline, training students to become professionals, and instilling respect for this fledgling science−human population biology−as a legitimate member of the natural sciences. His active research in human physiology was paralleled by equally active engagement in anthropological research in a variety of areas; that is, research that was moving biological anthropology and human biology forward as a science. Geoffrey Harrison (1982:470) credits both Weiner and Nigel Barnicot (at University College, London) as having revolutionized physical anthropology in the U.K., “…primarily by developing the subject as a natural science and it is no doubt not a coincidence that one was first trained as a physiologist and the other as a zoologist.” This can be contrasted with the pattern of post-war development of physical anthropology in the U.S. that arose more generally from anthropology within the social sciences.

During the first decade that Weiner was a Reader at Oxford (1945–1955), in addition to the Piltdown publications, he published 11 articles with anthropological themes. A number were on skeletal biology, and he conducted extensive studies of the Swanscombe skull (Weiner and Campbell,1964). However, other anthropological studies dealt with anthropometry, skin color determination, climatic adaptation, and overviews of human evolutionary status and the status of physical anthropology at that time. In a classic article that Weiner (1954) published during this period, he reanalyzed data from earlier work by Thomson and Buxton (1923) on nasal index and climate. At that time, Arthur Thomson was Chair of Anatomy and Buxton was later to be Reader in Physical Anthropology at Oxford. What Weiner demonstrated was that rather than nose shape being associated with mean annual temperature, the nasal index is most highly correlated with the vapor pressure or absolute humidity of the air. Hence, a major function of the nose, and its shape, is to humidify rather than to cool or to warm inspired air.

During the second decade (1955–1965) at Oxford, and then in the Department of Environmental Physiology at the LSHTM, he published about 30 works with anthropological themes. By the early 1960s, Weiner was recognized internationally for his collective work on population variation in physiology and climatic adaptation, skeletal biology and what is now called paleoanthropology, and for his research on human evolutionary process and population biology. During this period, he also undertook two field expeditions to southern Africa. In 1958, he led research on the Bushmen (San) people in the Kalahari Desert in Bechuanaland (Botswana), and in 1961 to the Okavanago delta region to study Bantu and Bushmen and SW Africa to study Hottentots and Rehoboth peoples. Somewhat later in 1969, he conducted research in Tanzania on the Sandawe. Some of this southern Africa research was published posthumously as an Oxford Research Monograph on Human Population Biology (Nurse et al.,1985).

Despite his comprehensive training in physiology and medicine, and his dedication to thermal physiology, he was also a keen supporter of biosocial and biocultural research designs. He believed firmly in the need to incorporate the social sciences into human population biology research. This connection to anthropology as a discipline in the social sciences made him one of only a handful of U.K. human biologists holding these perspectives. In a 1958b article on "… training in physical anthropology and human biology,” he noted: “… it should be emphasized that in their (students') research interests an important field of overlap exists between biological and cultural anthropologists” (Weiner,1958a,b:47). Derek Roberts (1997: 1108) observed that: “He saw human communities as dynamic functional entities displaying adaptive responses to the demands and stresses of the environment, as well as of day-to-day events. As such, Weiner is considered to have played a major role in establishing the intellectual contours of the discipline during the second half of the twentieth century.” In addition, much later in life, Weiner (1982:19) extended this view to note that:

“The simple fact that his unit of study is a defined community has made it imperative for the human biologist to take full account of the sociocultural properties of his community. Population structural analysis cannot be pursued without close attention to social factors whatever parameter is under examination. Genetic analysis is inseparable from demographic and mating patterns; nutrition and energetics are inseparable from food production and food distribution, and land holding; climatic adaptation must encompass the technology of housing and clothing; biomedical fitness is related to population size, sanitary systems, health services, and life-style.”

In the late 1950s, a sequence of events with Joe Weiner as the prime mover led to the founding of the Society for the Study of Human Biology (SSHB), the principal association in the U.K. for biological anthropology and human population biology. A first formal meeting was organized by Weiner at the initiative of the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute and held at the Ciba Foundation in November 1957 (Roberts and Weiner,1958). At this Symposium, Weiner proposed that there was a need for an association of professionals interested in human population biology and that such an association should be established. Weiner's suggestion was endorsed and an organizational meeting was held early the next year at the Child Study Centre of the Institute of Child Health in London. It was attended by the major players in human biology in the U.K., including: Joe Weiner, James Tanner, Derek Roberts, Geoffrey Harrison, Arthur Mourant, Nigel Barnicot, and Kenneth Oakley (Tanner,1999). The inaugural meeting was held on May 7, 1958 at the Natural History Section of the British Museum in London with J.Z. Young as the meeting Chair, and Weiner as the General Secretary of the Society. The Ciba volume (Roberts and Weiner,1958) was identified as the first symposium publication in the SSHB series. In 1963, the SSHB affiliated with the journal, Human Biology, founded in 1929 by Raymond Pearl and then edited by Gabriel W. Lasker. James M. Tanner became the coeditor as the representative for the SSHB. A decade later in 1974, the SSHB disaffiliated with Human Biology and founded its own journal, Annals of Human Biology, which at this writing, is in its 38th year of publication.

In addition to the founding of the SSHB via the Ciba Symposium, the small book that was the product of the Ciba Foundation Symposium (Roberts and Weiner,1958) became the defining document for the new dimensions or “changing face” of physical anthropology in the United Kingdom. In the introductory chapter by Le Gros Clark (1958), he outlined the new directions that the field was taking and observed that one of the responsibilities of physical anthropologists was to communicate these new directions for research to scientists in other fields who retained the view that physical anthropology was largely craniometry and osteometry. Chapters by Penrose (1958), Young (1958), Mourant (1958), Barnicot (1958), Tanner (1958), and Oakley (1958) provided detailed descriptions of these new directions in genetics, human variation, social medicine, comparative physiology, demography, comparative primatology, child growth, and both experimental and field approaches to research. There was general agreement that teaching and training programs for new students were needed to expand the numbers of research scientists working in these important new directions. Weiner (1958a,b) listed and discussed ten centers of research that were appropriate for training students in the U.K., and noted that these were quite adequate for proper training. Possibly because of his own position as Reader in Physical Anthropology in an anatomy department, he advocated a home for physical anthropology in anatomy departments across the U.K. This view is consistent with an earlier era when, in both the U.S. and the U.K., most physical anthropologists were housed and trained within anatomy departments. Weiner's commitment to knowledge of social processes and the need for training in the social sciences and collaboration with social scientists is reiterated in this chapter, as well.

When it became clear in early 1961 that Le Gros Clark was about to retire and that the Dr. Lee's Chair in Anatomy would be vacated, Weiner began marshalling support for his application for the position. In retrospect, his scientific credentials were good, but there are several reasons why Weiner was unlikely to have been the strongest candidate for the Chair: (1) although he had conducted research in anatomy and had distinguished himself by his Piltdown research, he was known principally for his work in human physiology; (2) he had not been elected to the Royal Society or received other comparable honors at that time; and (3) in addition to his identification as a physiologist, he was also more of a physical anthropologist than an anatomist. In May 1961, Weiner wrote letters to William L. Strauss at Johns Hopkins (letter of May 23, 1961), Sir Gavin de Beer in the U.K. (letter of May 5, 1961), and Sherwood L. Washburn at Berkeley (letter of May 5, 1961) seeking letters of support for his application for the Dr. Lee's Professorship. Perhaps thinking that two Americans were not appropriate referees, he dropped Strauss and added Sir Harold Himsworth, head of the MRC. Both Himsworth and de Beer were Fellows of the Royal Society. In the letters to the referees, Weiner outlined his achievements at Oxford, and at the same time expressed his primary goals in physical anthropology:

“My main endeavor since I was appointed as Reader in Physical Anthropology has been to raise the standard in the subject by teaching and research and to encourage others to work in this field. At the time that I took up the Readership in 1945, you will recall what a low ebb the subject had reached and the violent criticisms that R.A. Fisher, amongst others, had been leveling at much of the work of the Pearsonian school. With the backing of Professor Le Gros Clark and some financial support from the University, I have tried over the last fifteen years to infuse an approach which owes much to advances in animal biology and evolutionary theory generally. I mean here that in the study of living populations variability has to be looked at on the one hand from the point of view of its genetic basis and on the other from the point of view of adaptation and ecological response.”

Weiner's bid for the Dr. Lee's Professorship was not successful, and in a letter from Sherwood Washburn (letter September 26, 1961), he expressed regret that Weiner had not been appointed to the Anatomy Chair and noted that he had written a strong letter of support.

Weiner had been quite loyal to Le Gros Clark, and the latter had been generally supportive of Weiner's research efforts and interests. As a special gift for Le Gros Clark, Weiner was able to persuade the distinguished sculptor, Jacob Epstein, to sculpt a bust of Le Gros Clark in honor of his retirement. Sir Jacob Epstein (1880–1959) was born in the United States but became a British citizen in 1911. He was best known for his avant-garde and sexually explicit sculptures and his rough-hewn and realistic busts of distinguished figures. In addition to Le Gros Clark, he sculpted the busts of Paul Robeson, Joseph Conrad, and Albert Einstein. The bust of Le Gros Clark was done in 1958, well in advance of Le Gros Clark's retirement and Weiner was responsible for raising the money from Le Gros Clark's friends and colleagues to pay for the commission. How Weiner was able to arrange for this commission is quite remarkable, especially since Epstein died (August 1959) only a few months after the Le Gros Clark bust was dedicated in mid-March 1959 (Brit Med J,1959). Figure 3 shows Joe Weiner and Wilfrid Le Gros Clark around the time of Le Gros Clark's retirement.

Figure 3.

Joe Weiner and Wilfrid E. Le Gros Clark in 1962 around the time of Le Gros Clark's retirement. (With permission from Kenneth J.Collins.)

Joe Weiner's level of activity, if anything, accelerated during the transition period around the time that he moved from Oxford University to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In rapid sequence during the early to mid 1960s, he was appointed World Convener of the Human Adaptability Component of the International Biological Programme (IBP, 1962–1974), was a coauthor on the first graduate textbook in human biology (Harrison et al.,1964), he became Chair of a newly established Department of Environmental Physiology at the LSHTM, he set up a new MRC Unit, the Environmental Physiology Unit, he continued his active research in both human population biology and environmental physiology, he was elected to a two-year term as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1963–1964), and he began to intensify his travel to international meetings, largely, but not entirely, as a result of his position in the IBP. The summer of 1964 was particularly intense with three major meetings held between late June and mid-August. A Wenner-Gren Foundation conference, held at Burg Wartenstein in Austria on June 29–July 12, 1964, was organized by Weiner to develop a plan for the IBP Human Adaptability research. This was followed only 10 days later by the Paris IBP Assembly on July 23–25 in which Weiner argued for the acceptance of the plan developed at the Wenner-Gren meeting in Austria. Later, on August 12–18, and totally independent of the IBP meetings, Weiner was a participant in the Moscow meeting to draft the third Unesco Statement on Race. This third Statement on Race was designed to update the 1950 and 1951 Unesco Statements (Montagu,1972:148–155). It was somewhat modernized in perspective with an emphasis placed against racism. The majority of the attendees at the Unesco meeting were biological anthropologists of considerable stature and drawn from around the world. They included: Joe Weiner and Nigel Barnicot from the U.K., James Spuhler and Carleton Coon from the U.S., Jean Benoist from Canada, Jean Hiernaux from Belgium, Santiago Genoves from Mexico, Francisco Salzano from Brazil, Adelaide de Diaz Ungria from Venezuela, Tadeusz Bielicki from Poland, A.E. Boyo from Nigeria, and others. In a preconference document, Barnicot lucidly expressed a more contemporary view of race that both he and Weiner shared: “Crude division into racial groups does not adequately represent the actual complexities of the situation and by oversimplification or distortion of the facts may impede rather than assist interpretation. Our task should be to explain the observed pattern (of variation) in terms of known evolutionary parameters rather than to seek a rigid classification” (Barnicot,1964a:3). Figure 4 shows Coon, Genoves, and Weiner examining a skull on display at the Moscow Unesco meeting.

Figure 4.

Carleton S. Coon, Santiago Genoves, and Joe Weiner at the Unesco meeting on race in Moscow,1964. (With permission from Edmund Weiner.)

Earlier that same year, a follow-up to the 1957 Ciba Foundation meeting (Roberts and Weiner,1958) was held in London on April 25, 1964 to update the status of human biology in the U.K. (Harrison,1964a). While the 1957 Ciba meeting devoted principal effort to define the field of human biology, the 1964 meeting focused on training at the general university level, in medical education, and for professional human biologists. It was agreed, also, that human biology as a field had expanded during the 6 years between the two conferences and it was time for a re-examination of the field. In the first chapter of the 1964 update, Barnicot (1964b) discussed the history and dimensions of human biology, underlining its principal character as a biological science while at the same time identifying the importance of the social sciences and how human biology “straddles these two spheres” (p 9). He also recognized the central feature of human biology as an interest in human variation. Harrison (1964b) was in full agreement with Barnicot in “… considering human biology as the study of the nature and causes of human variation” (p 115). Then, equating human biology with physical anthropology, Harrison named five centers in the U.K. where comprehensive training can be received: the Universities of London, Cambridge, Oxford, Liverpool, and Sheffield. In addition, of these, only London, Cambridge, and Oxford trained professional human biologists. The human biology training program at Oxford University was initiated and developed by Weiner and Derek Roberts during the 1950s, leading to the Diploma in Anthropology with various options for the examination components. It was further refined by Harrison in the early 1960s, leading toward a Human Biology B.Sc. and then an M.Sc. Weiner (1964), again discussed post-graduate training through research, and listed an expanded 16 training centers compared with those identified at the original Ciba meeting (Roberts and Weiner,1958). All those who participated in this updated assessment of human biology were committed to expansion of training and research in the field.

The first graduate-level and comprehensive textbook in human biology was published by Oxford University Press in 1964 (Harrison et al.,1964). This was a modern and authoritative text in which each author wrote on his own specialty, covering broadly the principal topics that constituted the science of human population biology. Most introductory texts, up to this time, were single-author works. In this new approach to human biology, Harrison and Weiner wrote Part I, Human Evolution, Harrison covered Part II, Human Genetics, Barnicot authored Part III, Biological Variation in Modern Populations, Tanner authored Part IV, Human Growth and Constitution, and Weiner wrote Part V, Human Ecology. Weiner's main contribution to Part I was in the realm of paleoanthropology. However, his unique contribution was in an entirely new approach to an understanding of human variation within the realm of human ecology, or the adaptation of human populations to the circumstances of their environments. Within anthropology, ecological studies had been pioneered by British social anthropologists such as C. Daryll Forde (1934) and E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1940), but little had been done within physical anthropology in the UK to develop an ecological approach. Weiner's interests in ecology stemmed from his broad grounding in environmental physiology and his breadth of knowledge about human adaptability to diverse environments and ecosystems. Weiner's Part V identified human habitation in broad ecosystems throughout the world and covered topics in detail such as: nutritional ecology, climatic adaptation, disease, and population stability (demography). These topics were seldom dealt with in other writing on physical anthropology/human biology, and the text became a background model for research ideas that were developed over the next decade as a part of the Human Adaptability investigations conducted under the umbrella of the International Biological Programme (IBP).


The IBP was an idea that was based on a very successful program in earth sciences; that is, the International Geophysical Year (IGY), launched in 1957 (Worthington,1975). With the IGY having dealt with the geosphere, there were some discussions at a General Assembly of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) in Amsterdam in 1960 about a program of research to focus on “the betterment of mankind” within the biosphere (Waddington,1975:6). The IUBS is one of a number of international scientific unions that are a part of a major world scientific organization, the International Council for Science (ICSU). The IBP and its major objectives were only outlined at an IBP Planning Committee meeting at Morges, Switzerland in May 1962. At this meeting, despite considerable prejudice against the field of ecology and reluctance by the American representatives to support the concept of such an international program, the basic structure of the program was approved. By this time, and because of the large scope of the IBP, it was taken over to be administered by the parent ICSU scientific body. It was at this time that the basic objective of the IBP was identified as understanding the biological basis of productivity and human welfare in the context of global ecological problems (Weiner,1977:1).

Weiner, after consultation with Sir Lindor Brown earlier in April 1962, proposed a program of human biology research at the May 1962 meeting (Weiner,1975). It suggested that, “a world-wide ecological program concerned with human physiological, developmental, morphological, and genetic adaptability was feasible and timely and would form a fitting counterpart to the remainder of the IBP. The IBP required that living human populations be investigated as functioning entities interacting with a large variety of habitats and therefore be understood in adaptive and selective (evolutionary) terms” (Weiner,1977:2). An emphasis was placed on integrated approaches, with methods drawn from a variety of disciplines, and application of the comparative study of human populations drawn from a variety of ecological settings. Aside from its fundamental research value, comparative analyses would also allow Third World nations with limited resources to participate in the international program by contributing basic data that could be used for combined analyses. Weiner was then chosen as the International Convener (Director) of what became known as the Human Adaptability or HA Section of the IBP. There were several other major Sections identified with corresponding Conveners in the IBP. They included: Marine (PM), Freshwater (PF), and Terrestrial Productivity (PT) Sections; Production Processes (PP); Conservation of Terrestrial Communities (CT); and Use and Management of Biological Resources (UM). The decision to focus the IBP effort on worldwide ecosystems was based largely on the realization that the biosphere and its component ecosystems or biomes were more fragile than had previously been assumed and combinations of habitat losses, extinctions, and anthropogenic transformations had reached alarming levels. It is also quite likely that had Weiner not attended the Morges meeting and argued quite vigorously for the inclusion of the Human Adaptability Section, then human population biology would have been poorly represented in the IBP.

To further plan the research objectives of this world-wide program in Human Adaptability, Weiner organized a conference that was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and its President, Lita Fejos Osmundsen (1926–1998). The conference was entitled “The Biology of Populations of Anthropological Importance.” The Wenner-Gren Foundation was certainly the most important private institution funding anthropology at that time and during the present. It was established in 1941 with funds provided by the Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, and it was the vision of Paul Fejos (1897–1963), who served as the first President of the Foundation, and who directed the support exclusively to anthropology. Although based in New York City, the Foundation supported anthropological research internationally; hence, their funding of research and invitations to conferences were not restricted only to U.S. scientists.

The conference that Weiner organized was held at Burg Wartenstein in Austria on June 29–July 12, 1964. Burg Wartenstein was a medieval castle that Paul Fejos had restored and converted to a conference center several years before his death in 1963. Nestled in the Austrian Alps, Burg Wartenstein allowed small groups of up to 25 scholars to deal with contemporary issues away from the distractions of an urban setting. As mentioned, this Wenner-Gren Conference immediately preceded the important Paris IBP Assembly to design and plan the IBP. Hence, there was some urgency for the organizer and conference participants to design a cogent plan for the HA Section of the IBP. About 20 distinguished leaders in human biology from all over the world participated in this global planning for the Human Adaptability research. One of the products of the meeting was the framework for Human Adaptability research that Weiner presented at the Paris Assembly later that month. Another product that documented the presentations and discussion at the Wenner-Gren Conference was an important state-of-knowledge volume entitled The Biology of Human Adaptability (Baker and Weiner,1966). In the first chapter of this volume, Weiner (1966) discussed and justified the four categories of HA research in considerable detail, while other chapters dealt with methods, research design, child growth, and state-of-knowledge research reviews on Africa, South America, Asia, Australia, the Pacific, and both circumpolar and high-altitude zones.

The coeditor of the conference volume was Paul T. Baker, a physical anthropologist who had much in common with the more senior, Joe Weiner. They had met at a conference in the early 1960s and immediately recognized the commonalities in their backgrounds and interests and became fast friends. Both came from modest, middle-class backgrounds, both had conducted extensive research in climatic physiology and were committed to incorporating human physiology into current anthropological studies. They were dedicated to advancing physical anthropology/human biology in their respective nations, and promoting modern scientific approaches that would gain recognition and respect for their field of study within the general community of scientists.

The Paris IBP Assembly on July 23–25, 1964, that followed the Wenner-Gren Conference by about 10 days, established the three phases of the IBP decade (1964–1974), and the tasks to be completed during the preoperational phase (1964–1967). For the Human Adaptability research, these were: (1) establishing national HA committees, (2) full international discussion of HA proposals, (3) agreement on methods and procedures, (4) encouraging pilot and feasibility studies, (5) developing training programs, (6) establishing data and coordinating centers, and (7) securing more precise proposals for research by nations or groups of nations. At the end of this preoperational phase in 1967, there were 45 nations participating in the HA Section of the IBP. Much of this international participation was the result of extensive travel, correspondence, and persuasion carried out by Weiner as the Convener and organizer. Weiner traveled extensively and met with scientists, members of national academies, and government officials in attempts to increase world participation in the IBP/HA programs and to facilitate the establishment of IBP/HA national committees. The second and third phases consisted of a five-year operational or research phase from 1967 to 1972, and a synthesis phase from 1972 to 1974. There were four categories of proposed Human Adaptability research approved at the Wenner-Gren Conference and agreed on at the 1964 Paris Assembly (Weiner,1965, 1966).

Category 1

Surveys of sample populations in conformity with a world scheme

Surveys of populations over a wide geographical range, including surveys of gene frequencies of polymorphic systems and of growth and physique.

Category 2

Intensive multidisciplinary regional studies

Single-population studies with an array of biological, demographic, and social data to be collected.

Category 3

Special investigations on selected populations

Problem-oriented studies on specific populations that pose interesting problems, including physiological fitness, disease and selection, socio-demographic factors, population dynamics and reproduction, and special nutritional problems.

Category 4

Investigations related to current WHO (World Health Organization) activities

Suggested topics included blood pressure surveys, hematological data, antibody levels, blood constituents, and congenital defects.

With these Human Adaptability objectives, the human components fit squarely into IBP general objectives. Weiner (1977:2) clarified one of his primary objectives later when he stated: “The fact [was] that the IBP came just at a time when it could contribute significantly to the development of human population biology, a process which had begun after the Second World War with the supercession and transformation of the old fashioned and static subject of physical anthropology by an ecologically and genetically based discipline. The IBP required that living human populations be investigated as functioning entities interacting with a large variety of habitats and therefore be understood in adaptive and selective terms.”

The operational phase of the Human Adaptability section of the IBP commenced in 1964 soon after Weiner's MRC Unit moved to London. Physical performance and the capacity to work are fundamental determinants of human survival. Therefore, accurate measurement of these functions in world populations formed a vital component of the HA program. Weiner realized the important contribution that basic studies on exercise physiology would make and in 1963 recruited specialists in the subject to the MRC Unit. Extra space was found in the London School building to accommodate a new laboratory and equipment for exercise physiology testing. Foremost was the investigation of factors underlying physiological maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max), a measurement of maximum power output. Direct measurement of VO2 max is, however, not practical in population studies where subjects may be unable to continue exercise to the defined maximum end-point of near exhaustion. Assessment of VO2 max was therefore often made indirectly from progressive submaximal exercise studies. In healthy subjects, it was found that VO2 max is closely related to the effective muscle mass used to perform physical work, essentially the muscles of the legs in stationary bicycle ergometer tests (Davies,1974). Later, it was shown that the lower VO2 max values of African men, when compared to European men and the women, are a function of Africans' smaller muscle mass (Davies et al.,1973; Weiner,1980a, b). Field work in the HA program was undertaken by Weiner and the MRC Unit in East Africa. Investigations were made of the relationship of body composition to maximum exercise performance in adults and children, and the effect of anemia and malnutrition. It was found also that iron therapy in anemic subjects increased VO2 max without there being any change in leg muscle mass. Later studies, described below, demonstrated corresponding health effects of parasite load on work capacity of individuals in Africa.

There were a number of important Human Adaptability documents that were developed during this period. Weiner (1965) prepared a preliminary guide to Human Adaptability proposals with a contribution by Baker (1965) on multidisciplinary studies. Others included a field methods manual by Weiner and Lourie (1969, 1981), a Japanese symposium proceedings on methodology (Yoshimura and Weiner,1966), an Indian symposium proceedings on physical fitness (Malhotra,1965), a proceedings of a Warsaw Conference (1968) on Problems in Human Adaptability held in 1965, and two major conferences on Africa (Dzierzykray-Rogalski,1970; Vorster,1972). These and other minor conferences were held in many parts of the world to define regional population research problems and to assist national committees to identify the scope of their Human Adaptability programs. As HA Convenor, Weiner participated in, assisted in organizing, and contributed articles to many of these international conferences. Gabriel Lasker (1969) in the U.S. documented the theoretical justification for the Human Adaptability research in a major article around that time as the IBP/HA was developing.

The synthesis phase from 1972–1974, and into later years, led to a scientific output from this worldwide research effort from the Human Adaptability Section that was several thousand published works that were based on more than 230 research projects (many of them multiyear projects) and that included data from human communities in 90 nations (Collins and Weiner,1977). In addition to compendia and synthesis series that were produced by several nations (including the U.S., Japan, and the USSR), several synthesis volumes were published to represent the comparative international research. They included volumes on circumpolar populations (Milan,1980), high-altitude residents (Baker,1978), human growth variation (Eveleth and Tanner,1976, 1990), human physiological work capacity (Shephard,1978), and population structure (Harrison,1977). The very existence, breadth, and success of the Human Adaptability research as a part of the International Biological Programme can be attributed largely to the unflagging efforts, diplomatic skills, and scientific vision of Joe Weiner. Figure 5 shows the principal officials of the International Biological Programme at one of their final meetings.

Figure 5.

The principal officials of the International Biological Programme. Front row from left: EM Nicholson (UK), Convener of Conservation of Terrestrial Communities; GK Davis (US), Convener of Use and Management of Biological Resources; CH Waddington (UK), former Vice-President; JG Baer (Switzerland), President Emeritus; G Montalenti (Italy), former Vice-President; L Tonolli (Italy), Convener of Freshwater Productivity; EB Worthington (UK), Scientific Director; Sir Otto Frankel (Austral), Vice President. Middle row from left: WF Blair (US), Vice-President; MJ Dunbar (Canada), Convener of Marine Productivity; JS Weiner (UK), Convener of Human Adaptability; H. Tamiya (Japan), Vice-President; RWJ Keay (UK), Chair of Finance Committee. Back row: F Bourlière (France), President. Photograph was taken in 1974. (With permission from Edmund Weiner.)


Joe Weiner had established a good working relationship with Lita Osmundsen, the President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation. She had confidence in his leadership and supported the objectives of the Human Adaptability research as a part of the IBP. She had encouraged his organization of the first Wenner-Gren Conference to define the HA program and she funded and helped organize three more international conferences held at Burg Wartenstein in Austria that promoted and defined efforts of the IBP/HA. In 1966, Weiner co-organized with Paul Baker a second conference designed to bring together sociocultural anthropologists and biological anthropologists to discuss their joint interests and grounds for collaboration in “The Interrelation of Biological and Cultural Adaptations.” At this same time, Weiner approached Lita Osmundsen and the Wenner-Gren Foundation to sponsor a conference to discuss the international development and coordination of human biology as a science (Roberts,1994). This third conference was organized by Paul Baker and Santiago Genoves and entitled: “World Association for the Study of Primate Variability.” It was held in June 1967, where plans were made to found a new international society: the International Association of Human Biologists (IAHB,1967). As Roberts (1994:1) noted: “The International Association of Human Biologists (IAHB) was the brainchild in the early 1960s of J.S. Weiner.” The fourth conference in 1970 was organized by Geoffrey A. Harrison, and dealt with a topic of increasing interest to both sociocultural and biological anthropologists, human demography, or the formal study of population. This conference was entitled “Demography and the Biological and Social Structure of Human Populations.” In each of these Wenner-Gren Foundation international conferences Weiner played a key role through his influence and ideas, through organization, and through his active participation.

It would seem a fitting tribute at the conclusion of the Human Adaptability program in 1974 that Joe Weiner should undertake a major field study in Africa using much of the methodology developed and advocated by the IBP. A London-Khartoum Schistosomiasis project was being organized at the LSHTM at the time with the ambitious aim of eradicating the disease from the Gezira area of the Sudan. This agricultural region between the Blue and the White Niles is criss-crossed by irrigation canals and there schistosomiasis is endemic. The method to be used was to spray the canals systematically from the air with a molluscicide thus breaking the life cycle of the schistosome. Accompanying the eradication program was a long-term project to monitor the impact on the working population. Led by Weiner, a laboratory and clinic was set up in a little-used “hotel” on the edge of sugar cane fields in the Gezira. Surveys were made of anthropometry, VO2 max, respiratory function, muscle strength, and thermal tolerance with equipment brought in from the MRC Unit, and measurements were first made on over 500 cane cutters. In addition, medical screening of each individual included assessment of the intensity of the disease (egg load). Subsequently, each cane cutter took part in a work/productivity study in the cane fields with direct measurement by means of a weigh-bridge of the amount of cane cut/day/man and with the work carried out both under normal working conditions and with the influence of a bonus scheme. In the first trials, over 2 months mean productivity was found to be not significantly related to the degree of schistosome infection. One important confounder was that highly infected men were intrinsically more skilled at the task because of a greater number of seasons' experience. Over the next 10 years of the project on cane cutters and many other working groups, it emerged that there was a definite relationship between critical levels of egg load and working capacity, and that significant improvement occurred after anti-schistosomal treatment (Collins et al.,1976; Weiner,1980b). The results of the study went some way to begin questioning the statement of a previous WHO Expert Committee that it was not possible to compute in economic terms the precise extent of the damage caused to communities by schistosomiasis and therefore rigorous analysis of the benefits of control was not possible.

As noted above, the International Association of Human Biologists (IAHB) was launched at a Wenner-Gren Foundation Conference in June 1967 that Weiner helped to organize. One of the principal contributions made by this Association was the distribution of Occasional articles covering histories of human biology/physical anthropology in different countries around the world. The first contribution to this series was by Weiner (1982) on the History of physical anthropology in Great Britain. The history was an update of the Huxley Memorial Lecture that Weiner (1979) delivered several years earlier. This series, as well as the Newsletter of the IAHB was under the able editorship of Derek F. Roberts. Weiner was active in the IAHB and was President from 1977 until 1982, shortly before his death. The IAHB became an affiliate of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), indicating the direction of the Association toward the biological rather than anthropological sciences.

During the period of the early 1970s with the winding down of the IBP, there was considerable discussion in international scientific circles of new programs to carry forward the ecological and environmental research that had been developed through the IBP. Two such programs were ICSU's Special Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and Unesco's Man and the Biosphere Program (MaB) (Roberts,1993). Weiner was involved in both programs as HA Convener. SCOPE never developed any strong research program. MaB did develop into a full-fledged international program; however, incorporating studies of human populations became quite difficult (as it was in the early IBP planning) because of a lack of interest by human biologists and limited funding. Several years later, Unesco/MaB refocused the Program on Biosphere Reserves around the globe. Many Biosphere Reserves were national parks with limited human habitation.

At the time of the IBP, components of an agreed system of laboratory and field tests of physical fitness and work capacity were tested on an international scale. The tests served well for investigations in human ecology and introduced a basis for consistency if not standardization in the methodology. Since the IBP, a number of advances have undoubtedly been made in, for example, ambulatory monitoring, microprocessing, and instrumentation, and a revision and update of methods in this sphere were urgently required. The opportunity to do this presented itself with a meeting of the General Assembly of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) in Ottawa, August 1982, when a program of scientific research was approved, The Decade of the Tropics (Solbrig and Golly,1983). Derek Roberts, Weiner's colleague from the 1950s at Oxford, was a U.K. representative for this program and helped to encourage further work along IBP lines. He helped to stimulate a symposium meeting in London, December 1987, on Working Capacity in Tropical Populations (Collins,1990), which was attended by many of the international figures previously associated with the Human Adaptability Section of the IBP. The objective of the Decade of the Tropics was to advance understanding of the feature of tropical ecosystems from their genetics to ecology. It may be argued that much of the new methodology considered at the meeting would be too “high tech” to apply to the study of tropical rural populations under difficult field condition, but in fact, almost all the techniques described have been applied to populations in the tropics both during and after the IBP.

Perhaps, as the result of the 1970s Sudanese research and earlier work in Tanzania, Weiner's interests in African savanna (tropical grass) lands were reawakened in the early- to mid-1970s. Around this time, Weiner and Erica Wheeler (1979) completed a comprehensive review article on the human biology of savannas worldwide. This UNESCO review, based on a savanna workshop held in Paris in 1975, covered a number of topics germane to savanna populations in Africa, Central and South America, India, Australia, Oceania, and other regions where people live in tropical grasslands ecosystems. Evolution of human populations, demography, nutrition, physiology, growth, epidemiology, and the identification of research needs and priorities were among the topics covered.

This interest was reflected in the subject matter of the last Wenner-Gren Conference that Weiner co-organized and attended in 1978. The conference was entitled “Human Ecology in Savanna Environments and was co-organized by David Harris, a geographer from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of London. According to Harris (1980a:vii), the Wenner-Gren Conference and its published book (Harris,1980b) arose from conversations that he had with Joe Weiner in a Paris café at the same 1975 Unesco savanna workshop where the two were lamenting how little was known scientifically about the human ecology of the world's savanna lands.” The eight-day conference, which one of us attended (MAL), had a remarkable collection of distinguished archaeologists, grasslands ecologists, geographers, sociocultural anthropologists, and human biologists in attendance. It is also the case that Weiner took little credit for his ideas, influence, initial planning, and actual management of the conference. Rather, he almost always encouraged the junior scientist or the foreign editor to be the primary author on published works in which he had a major input. In this conference volume, Weiner contributed a commentary on the human biology chapters (Weiner,1980a) and a chapter on the physiology of savanna peoples (Weiner,1980b).


Sherwood Washburn (1951) argued for a “new physical anthropology” from his background in anatomy and with interests in evolution and functional morphology. Joe Weiner (1952, 1957) promoted his “new physical anthropology” from a background in environmental physiology, with interests in evolution and ecology, and from a department of anatomy. Associations with anatomy and anatomy departments, particularly skeletal anatomy, were a part of the prewar and postwar programs in physical anthropology. However, both Washburn and Weiner moved beyond these realms of what was largely descriptive science and on to more hypothesis-driven and experimental science.

Weiner's interests were broad within science, physiology, and both anthropology and human biology. His success as an advocate and spokesperson for human biology was attributed to two primary factors. First and foremost, he established a strong reputation as a scientist in thermal and work physiology and as a creative thinker and leader in anthropology. Thus, his scientific credentials were established. During his career, he published more than 200 articles and notes and 15 authored and edited books (for full bibliography see Harrison and Collins1982). Many of the articles were experimental works in human physiology, but an equal number dealt with topics in anthropology and human biology. He coauthored an advanced textbook in human biology (Harrison et al.,1964, 1977) and edited another in human physiology (Edholm and Weiner,1981); he wrote an elementary text in biological anthropology that was used widely and translated into several foreign languages (Weiner,1971); and he contributed, up to shortly before his death, to a comprehensive monograph on South African peoples (Nurse et al.,1985). He collaborated with and coauthored works with many scientists in physiology and human biology, and he was particularly generous in sharing recognition in his research articles with junior colleagues and students. The second factor contributing to Weiner's success was the very essence of his personality. He had a broad knowledge of science, music, literature, and art, and a keen wit that was both entertaining and reflective of his acute intelligence. Weiner shone in many scientific fields, but also in the company of his friends and colleagues.

He also was committed to promoting physical anthropology/human biology as a modern and legitimate pursuit among the natural sciences. According to Geoffrey Harrison (personal communication): “He wanted to convert the world, but the structure was not set up to allow it.” Harrison also observed that Weiner's broad professional and personal interests might have prevented him from achieving greater scientific recognition. He had a vision about the value of trying to understand people and human populations according to the circumstances of their environments; that is, that human populations should be investigated as functioning entities interacting within a variety of habitats and understood in adaptive and selective terms.

One of the honors that Joe Weiner received that pleased him a great deal was the nomination and elected membership in the Athenaeum. The Athenaeum is probably the most exclusive Club in London. Dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, the Athenaeum was established in 1824. Weiner was nominated in late 1967, several years after he moved to London, and his membership began in January 1968. Past members included Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Alec Guinness, and more than 50 of its past and present members have won a Nobel Prize. The Athenaeum is an imposing building in Pall Mall, not far from Buckingham Palace, and with an equally imposing interior. Clearly, as a member of this exclusive club, Weiner was interacting with some of the intellectual leaders in the U.K. It is agreeable to reflect that J.S. Weiner, as a committed evolutionist, walked many times up the Club's great staircase, literally in the footsteps of one of its most distinguished earlier members, Charles Darwin.

Joe Weiner's scientific accomplishments and his service to the development of human biology in the U.K. and elsewhere were remarkable. Today, he stands as the major architect of a modern, postwar physical anthropology that has served as a model for current directions in human biology in the U.K. and abroad. A chronology of Joe Weiner's life is presented in Appendix.


The authors wish to thank several individuals who have helped enormously in completing this biography of Joe Weiner. They gratefully acknowledge the help of Mark Mahoney, archivist at the Wenner-Gren Foundation, who provided DVDs of the 1964 Wenner-Gren Conference that Joe Weiner Organized. In Oxford, Joe Weiner's daughter, Julia Miles, and her husband, Oliver Miles, and Weiner's son, Edmund Weiner and his wife Clare, were gracious and hospitable to an outsider (MAL) and provided access both to their memories of their father (or father-in-law) and documents about his life. Edmund and Clare allowed access to Joe Weiner's articles and correspondence and provided copies of many photographs. Geoffrey Harrison was generous with his time and information, and both he and his wife Elizabeth provided hospitality to MAL during his brief visit to Oxford. They are grateful also to John Lourie for his recollections of the time when he worked with Joe Weiner during the IBP years. Chris Stringer was helpful in providing references and background information about Nigel Barnicot. Elwyn Simons made available information about the time that he spent at Oxford University. They thank them too. The Office of the Dean of the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences provided partial travel expenses for a trip to Oxford, England. Finally, their appreciation is given to Adrienne Little who copy-edited the final draft and added enough commas to make the text coherent.


Table  . Joseph Sydney Weiner chronology
0June 29, 1915Born in Pretoria, South Africa
191934B.Sc. Degree at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (studied with Raymond Dart); first article published in the South African Journal of Science
211936M.Sc. Degree in physiology at Witwatersrand
221937Migrated to Britain from South Africa
25–261940–1941Demonstrator in the Department of Applied Physiology in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
27–311942–1946Scientific officer of the Medical Research Council (M.R.C.) Unit at Queen Square, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
30–481945–1963Reader in Physical Anthropology at Oxford University at the invitation of Wilfrid E. Le Gros Clark
311946Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of London (Thesis: Studies in Adaptation to Hot Environments)
321947Received the L.R.C.P. and M.R.C.S. from St. George's Hospital
33–481948–1963Codirector with Le Gros Clark of the MRC Climate and Working Efficiency Unit
341949Cofounded the Ergonomics Research Society, Oxford
381953Demonstrated that Piltdown skeletal material was a forgery
401955Published “The Piltdown Forgery”
411956Received the Vernon Medal
431958Edited “The Scope of Physical Anthropology and Its Place in Academic Studies” (with D.F. Roberts); Founded the Society for the Study of Human Biology (SSHB)
47–591962–1974World Convenor of the Human Adaptability (HA) Section of the International Biological Programme (IBP)
48–491963–1964President of the Royal Anthropological Institute
48–651963–1980Director of the M.R.C. Environmental Physiology Unit, LSHTM
491964Published “Human Biology: An Introduction to Human Evolution, Variation and Growth” (with G.A. Harrison, J.M. Tanner, and N.A. Barnicot); and “The Taxonomic Status of the Swanscomb Skull” (with B.G. Campbell)
501965Appointed Professor of Environmental Physiology at the University of London; Published “International Biological Programme Handbook No. 1: A Guide to Human Adaptability Proposals”
511966Edited “The Biology of Human Adaptability” (with P.T. Baker)
521967One of the founders of the International Association of Human Biologists
53–581968–1973Chairman of the Society for the Study of Human Biology
541969Received the Rivers Memorial Medal; Published “Human Biology: A Guide to Field Methods, IBP Handbook No. 9” (with J.A. Lourie)
561971Published “The Natural History of Man”
571972Edited “The Assessment of Affinities between Human Populations” (with J. Huizinga)
581973Elected Member of the Royal College of Physicians (M.R.C.P.)
621977Edited “Human Adaptability: A History and Compendium of Research in the International Biological Programme” (with K.J. Collins); and “Physiological Variation and its Genetic Basis. Society for the Study of Human Biology Symposium No. 17”
62–661977–1982President of the International Association of Human Biologists (I.A.H.B.)
631978Received Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (F.R.C.P.)
651981Edited “Principles and Practice of Human Physiology” (with O.G. Edholm); Published “Practical Human Biology” (with J.A. Lourie)
66June 13, 1982Died in Oxford, England
 1985Posthumous Coauthor, “The Peoples of Southern Africa and Their Affinities” (with G.T. Nurse and T. Jenkins)