Wits scientist named in Time’s top 100 Most Influential People list

 ·21 Apr 2016

Time magazine has named Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand in its annual list of the most influential people in the world.

The magazine named Berger on its list of ‘Pioneers’, while other notable figures include Kathleen Kennedy, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and actor Leonardo Di Caprio.

South African born actress Charlize Theron, also features among the world’s most influential in 2016.

The list, now in its 13th year, recognises the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals.

As Time editor, Nancy Gibbs, has said of the list in the past: “The Time 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms.”

“While power is certain, influence is subtle. As much as this exercise chronicles the achievements of the past year, we also focus on figures whose influence is likely to grow, so we can look around the corner to see what is coming.”

Wits noted that the USA-born Berger is an award-winning palaeoanthropologist, researcher, explorer, author and speaker from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the Joburg based university.

His explorations into human origins in Africa over the past two-and-a-half decades have resulted in many new and notable discoveries, including the most complete early hominin fossils found so far, which belong to a new species of early human ancestor, Australopithecus sediba, and, in 2013, the richest early hominin site yet found on the continent of Africa and a new species of human relative, Homo Naledi, announced in 2015.

“It is an honour to be included in the Time 100 and a tribute to the world-class and influential science being produced on the African continent by African scientists and African institutions such as Wits University,” Berger said.

“Wits University continues again and again to produce high quality science that reaches and impact on a global audience and I am thrilled to be part of that. New discoveries continue to be made by my colleagues and me at an ever increasing pace, and I hope, and indeed expect, that the research coming out of palaeoanthropology at Wits will continue to have a significant impact on science worldwide,” he said.

Berger is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Prize for Research and Exploration. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club.

Among other positions, Berger serves on the advisory board of the Global Young Academy.

The full list and related tributes appear in the 2 May 2016 issue of Time.

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