Eugène Dubois

Marie Eugène François Thomas Dubois (French: [øʒɛːn dybwɑ]; 28 January 1858 – 16 December 1940) was a Dutch paleoanthropologist and geologist. He earned worldwide fame for his discovery of Pithecanthropus erectus (later redesignated Homo erectus), or "Java Man". Although hominid fossils had been found and studied before, Dubois was the first anthropologist to embark upon a purposeful search for them.

Eugene Dubois
Eugene Dubois

Life and work

Dubois was born and raised in the village of Eijsden, Limburg, where his father, Jean Dubois, was an apothecary, later the mayor. Interested in all phenomena of the world of nature, Eugène explored the "caves" ("grotten", actually underground limestone mines) of Mount Saint Peter and amassed collections of plant parts, stones, insects, shells, and animal skulls. From age 12-13 on, he attended school in the Limburg city of Roermond, boarding with a family there and then he dropped out. In Roermond he attended lectures on Charles Darwin's new theory of evolution given by the German biologist, Karl Vogt.

Resisting his father's plan for him to train to follow in his footsteps, Dubois, encouraged by his teachers, decided in 1877 to study medicine at the University of Amsterdam. While a student, he taught anatomy at both of the brand new (founded 1880) art schools housed at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (Amsterdam State Museum) the Rijksschool voor Kunstnijverheid (State School for Applied Arts) and the Rijksnormaalschool voor Teekenonderwijzers (State Normal School for Drawing Instructors).[1] In 1884 he completed his medical degree. He declined an offer from the University of Utrecht of a position as a docent. Instead, at the invitation of his anatomy instructor, Max Fürbringer, he decided to train as an academic. From 1881 to 1887 he studied comparative anatomy and became Fürbringer's assistant. In 1885 he investigated the larynx of vertebrates, which led him to develop a hypothesis of the evolution of this organ. Nevertheless, his chief interest was in human evolution, influenced by Ernst Haeckel, who reasoned that there must be intermediate species between ape and human.

Dubois contributed an article on whale anatomy to a book by the Dutch zoologist, Max Weber, and, inspired by the fresh discovery of new Neanderthal fossils at the Belgian town of Spy, he spent his vacation fossil hunting in the vicinity of his birthplace. In the Henkeput[2] near the village of Rijckholt, where a prehistoric flint mine had just been discovered in 1881, he found some prehistoric human skulls.

Reasoning that the origins of the human species must be in the tropics, in 1887 he joined the Dutch army and arranged to be posted in the Dutch East Indies (the Dutch colony that is now independent Indonesia), to the dismay of his academic colleagues. With his wife and newborn daughter he moved to the colony to search for the missing link in human evolution. (He was unalterably convinced there was only one missing link.)[3]

Hominid discoveries

Between 1887 and 1895, Dubois searched at potential sites near rivers and in caves, first on the island of Sumatra, then on the Indonesian island of Java.

In 1891, Dubois discovered remains of what he described as "a species in between humans and apes". He called his finds Pithecanthropus erectus ("ape-human that stands upright") or Java Man. Today, they are classified as Homo erectus ("human that stands upright").[4] These were the first specimens of early hominid remains to be found outside of Africa or Europe. During this period Dubois carried out fieldwork at sites such as Sangiran in Central Java and Trinil in East Java.

Later years

In 1897, the University of Amsterdam awarded Dubois an honorary doctorate in botany and zoology, but he had to wait until 1899 for a professorship. In that year, he was appointed a professor in geology, a function that did not keep him from his research in anatomy. He was also (from 1897 until 1928) keeper of paleontology, geology and mineralogy at Teylers Museum,[5] where he also kept the H. erectus remains.

In 1919 he became member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6]

Although the scientific debate slowly began to turn in his favour in the 1920s and 1930s, he died embittered in 1940. He was buried in unconsecrated ground on the 16th of December 1940 in Venlo, "Algemene Begraafplaats", grave number NH2\26\-\BR. The reason was that his finding of the missing link in favor of the evolution theory was not welcomed by the catholic church. His paleontological collection and scientific archive remain at Naturalis in Leiden.[7] A special section of Museum Het Ursulinenconvent - International Museum for Family History is devoted to Dubois' life and work.

See also


  1. ^ "Rijksmuseum Research Library - online-catalogue". Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  2. ^ "Summary: Prehistorical flint-mining in the Netherlands: Rijckholt (Ryckholt) - St. Geertruid". Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  3. ^ Morwood and van Oosterzee 2007: 124
  4. ^ [1] Archived May 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ In this position, he was the successor to Tiberius Cornelis Winkler, who was one of the earliest translators (1860) of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and a very early proponent of human evolution.
  6. ^ "M.E.F.Th. Dubois (1858 - 1940)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  7. ^ de Vos, J. (2004). "The Dubois collection: a new look at an old collection" (PDF). Scripta Geologica Special Issue 4 p. 267-285.


  • Morwood, Mike, and van Oosterzee, Penny. 2007. A new human: the startling discovery and strange story of the "hobbits" of Flores, Indonesia. Smithsonian Books.

Further reading

  • Pat Shipman, The Man who Found the Missing Link. Eugène Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right, Harvard University Press (April 30, 2002), 528 pages, ISBN 0-674-00866-9.

External links

1858 in science

The year 1858 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1891 in archaeology

The year 1891 in archaeology involved some significant events.

1891 in science

The year 1891 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1940 in science

The year 1940 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Bos palaesondaicus

Bos palaesondaicus occurred on Pleistocene Java (Indonesia) and belongs to the Bovinae subfamily. It has been described by the Dutch paleoanthropologist Eugène Dubois in 1908. The holotype of Bos palaesondaicus is a skull from Trinil. This species is the likely ancestor to the banteng (Bos javanicus).

Dubois (surname)

Dubois (also spelled DuBois or Du Bois, from the French of the woods/forest) is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Al Dubois, Canadian TV personality, hosted game show Bumper Stumpers

Alexandra du Bois, American composer

Allison DuBois, research spiritual medium and inspiration for the TV show Medium

Anna Dubois (born 1962), Swedish organizational theorist

Antoine Dubois (1756–1837), French surgeon

Benjamin F. DuBois (1915-2013), American politician

Brendan DuBois, author of Resurrection Day

Charles Frédéric Dubois (1804–1867), Belgian naturalist

Charles-Victor Dubois (1832–1869), Belgian composer and harmonium player

Didier Dubois (mathematician) (born 1952), French mathematician

Didier Dubois (athlete) (born 1957), French sprinter

Félix Dubois (1862–1945), French journalist, explorer and speculator

François Dubois (1529–1584) Huguenot French painter

François Dubois (19th century) (1790–1871) neoclassical French painter

Ellen Dubois (1940-Present), American feminist historian

Eugène Dubois (1858–1940), anthropologist

Fred Dubois (1851–1930), U.S. Senator

Guillaume Dubois (1656–1723), French cardinal and statesman

Ja'net Dubois (born 1945), American actress and singer

Jean Dubois (disambiguation), multiple people

Jean-Antoine Dubois (1765–1848), French Catholic missionary in India

Jesse K. Dubois (1811–1876), American politician

Joe Dubois (1927–1987), Northern Irish footballer

Joshua DuBois (born 1982), head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama

Lewis DuBois, American Revolutionary War commander

Louis DuBois (Huguenot) (died 1696), Huguenot colonist in New Netherland

Louis Dubois (painter) (1830–1880), Belgian painter

Louis Dubois (politician) (1859–1946), French Minister of Commerce, Industry, Posts, and Telegraphs

Louis-Ernest Dubois (1856–1929), Roman Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Paris

Louis Victor Dubois (1837–1914), French politician

Macy DuBois (1929–2007), Canadian architect

Marcel Dubois, French geographer

Olivier Dubois (born 1972), French choreographer

Paul-Alexis Dubois (1754–1796), French general of the French Revolutionary Wars

Paul Charles Dubois (1848–1918), Swiss neuropathologist

Paul Dubois (sculptor) (1829–1905), French sculptor and painter

Pierre-Max Dubois (1930–1995), classical composer

R. Luke DuBois, American composer and visual artist

Raymond F. DuBois,

Sieur Dubois, pseudonymous author of 1674 travel book

Stéphanie Dubois, Canadian tennis player

Théodore Dubois (1837–1924), French organist, composer, and musical administrator

Urbain Dubois (1818–1901), French chef

Victoire Du Bois, French actress

William Pène du Bois (1916–1993), author and illustrator

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963), American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and authorFictional characters:

Blanche DuBois, one of the female leads in A Streetcar Named Desire

The Dubois Family, friends of the main characters in The Boondocks

Duboisia santeng

Duboisia santeng or Dubois' antelope is an extinct antelope-like bovid that was endemic to Indonesia during the Pleistocene. It went extinct during the Ionian stage of the Pleistocene, about 750.000 years ago. Duboisia santeng was first described by the Dutch paleoanthropologist and geologist Eugène Dubois in 1891.The species is most closely related to the modern Nilgai-antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) and the Four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis). Antilope modjokertensis is a junior synonym for Duboisia santeng.

Gustav Schwalbe

Gustav Albert Schwalbe, M.D. (1 August 1844 – 23 April 1916) was a German anatomist and anthropologist from Quedlinburg.

He was educated at the universities of Berlin, Zurich, and Bonn (M.D. 1866), he became in 1870 privat-docent at the University of Halle, in 1871 privatdozent and prosector at the University of Freiburg in Baden, in 1872 assistant professor at the University of Leipzig, and then professor of anatomy successively at the universities of Jena (1873), Königsberg (1881), and Strassburg (1883) — at that time a German university, Alsace having been annexed to Germany. There he died.

Known for his anthropological research of primitive man, Schwalbe considered the Neanderthal to be a direct ancestor of modern humans. He was the author of an influential treatise on Java Man, it being a recent discovery by Eugène Dubois (1858-1940).

In 1869 Schwalbe injected Berlin-blue dye into the subarachnoid space of a dog, and was the first to demonstrate that the major pathways to absorb cerebrospinal fluid were lymphatic pathways. The subarachnoid or subdural spaces between the internal and external sheaths of the optic nerve are now referred to as "Schwalbe's spaces"; also called the intervaginal spaces of optic nerve (spatia intervaginalia nervi optici). His name is lent to several other anatomical structures, including "Schwalbe's nucleus" or the vestibular nucleus; "Schwalbe's ring", which is a circular ridge consisting of collagenous fibers surrounding the outer margin of Descemet's membrane; and "Schwalbe's line", an anatomical line located on the posterior surface of the eye's cornea.

Homo erectus

Homo erectus (meaning 'upright man') is a species of archaic humans that lived throughout most of the Pleistocene geological epoch.

Its earliest fossil evidence dates to 1.8 million years ago (discovered 1991 in Dmanisi, Georgia). However, a 2017 analyses points to these specific fossils being more archaic, being related to H. naledi, which was considered one of the first homo species.A debate regarding the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H. erectus, especially in relation to Homo ergaster, is ongoing, with two major positions:

1) H. erectus is the same species as H. ergaster, and thereby H. erectus is a direct ancestor of the later hominins including Homo heidelbergensis, Homo antecessor, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo Denisova, and Homo sapiens; or,

2) it is in fact an Asian species or subspecies distinct from African H. ergaster.Some paleoanthropologists consider H. ergaster to be a variety, that is, the "African" variety, of H. erectus; the labels "Homo erectus sensu stricto" (strict sense) for the Asian species and "Homo erectus sensu lato" (broad sense) have been offered for the greater species comprising both Asian and African populations.H. erectus eventually became extinct throughout its range in Africa, Europe and Asia, but developed into derived species, notably Homo heidelbergensis.

As a chronospecies, the time of its disappearance is thus a matter of convention. The species name proposed in 1950

defines Java Man as the type specimen (now H. e. erectus). Since then, there has been a trend in palaeoanthropology of reducing the number of proposed species of Homo, to the point where H. erectus includes all

early (Lower Paleolithic) forms of Homo sufficiently derived from H. habilis and

distinct from early H. heidelbergensis (in Africa also known as H. rhodesiensis). In this wider sense, H. erectus had mostly been replaced by H. heidelbergensis by about 500,000 years ago, with possible late survival in Java as late as 140,000 years ago.

The discovery of the morphologically divergent Dmanisi skull 5 in 2013 has reinforced the trend of subsuming fossils formerly given separate species names under H. erectus considered as a wide-ranging, polymorphous species. Thus, H. ergaster is now well within the accepted morphological range of H. erectus, and it has been suggested that even H. rudolfensis and H. habilis (alternatively suggested as late forms of Australopithecus rather than early Homo)

should be considered early varieties of H. erectus.

International Museum for Family History

The Internationaal Museum voor Familiegeschiedenis (known in English as the International Museum for Family History, or in short "The Family Museum") is a museum located in the former Ursuline Convent in Eijsden, Netherlands. As a museum with a focus on genealogy and family history, it is the first museum of its kind in the world.

The Ursuline sisters commissioned Pierre Cuypers to renovate and extend the building in 1899. It is probable that Cuypers entrusted part of the project to Johannes Kayser, a Dutch architect notable for his neogothic designs.The museum focuses especially on genealogy, DNA-research, the life and work of Eugène Dubois, human evolution, heraldry, Charlemagne, family law and the working lives of our ancestors. the museum also houses the office, archives and collections of the International Qajar Studies Association.

The museum is a "Public Benefit Organisation" (Algemeen nut beogende instelling) and it has won awards such as the 'VVV price for innovation'.The advisory board of the museum includes notable figures such as former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Dries van Agt, American historian at Yale University Ned Blackhawk, professor Michel Hockx of the University of Notre Dame, professor of Russian and Inner Asian history at Brock University David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, and professor Tudor Parfitt.

Java Man

Java Man (Homo erectus erectus; Javanese: Manungsa Jawa; Indonesian: Manusia Jawa) is an early human fossil discovered on the island of Java (Indonesia) in 1891 and 1892. Led by Eugène Dubois, the excavation team uncovered a tooth, a skullcap, and a thighbone at Trinil on the banks of the Solo River in East Java. Arguing that the fossils represented the "missing link" between apes and humans, Dubois gave the species the scientific name Anthropopithecus erectus, then later renamed it Pithecanthropus erectus.

The fossil aroused much controversy. Less than ten years after 1891, almost eighty books or articles had been published on Dubois's finds. Despite Dubois's argument, few accepted that Java Man was a transitional form between apes and humans. Some dismissed the fossils as apes and others as modern humans, whereas many scientists considered Java Man as a primitive side branch of evolution not related to modern humans at all. In the 1930s Dubois made the claim that Pithecanthropus was built like a "giant gibbon", a much misinterpreted attempt by Dubois to prove that it was the "missing link".

Eventually, similarities between Pithecanthropus erectus (Java Man) and Sinanthropus pekinensis (Peking Man) led Ernst Mayr to rename both Homo erectus in 1950, placing them directly in the human evolutionary tree. To distinguish Java Man from other Homo erectus populations, some scientists began to regard it as a subspecies, Homo erectus erectus, in the 1970s. Other fossils found in the first half of the twentieth century in Java at Sangiran and Mojokerto, all older than those found by Dubois, are also considered part of the species Homo erectus. Estimated to be between 700,000 and 1,000,000 years old, at the time of their discovery the fossils of Java Man were the oldest hominin fossils ever found. The fossils of Java Man have been housed at the Naturalis in the Netherlands since 1900.

Lou Jensen

Eugene Dubois "Lou" Jensen (13 February 1915 – 1 July 2003) was a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

Margarethe Lenore Selenka

Lenore Margarethe Selenka-Heinemann (7 October 1860, Hamburg – 16 December 1922, Munich) was a German zoologist, anthropologist, feminist and pacifist. She researched apes and led scientific expeditions to the Dutch East Indies.

Mojokerto child

The Mojokerto child, also known as Mojokerto 1 and Perning 1, is the fossilized skullcap of a juvenile early human. It was discovered in February 1936 near Mojokerto (East Java, Indonesia) by a member of an excavation team led by Ralph von Koenigswald. Von Koenigswald first called the specimen Pithecanthropus modjokertensis but soon renamed it Homo modjokertensis because Eugène Dubois – the discoverer of Java Man, which was then called Pithecanthropus erectus – disagreed that the new fossil was a Pithecanthropus. The skullcap is now identified as belonging to the species Homo erectus.

The Mojokerto child has been the most controversial of the early human fossils that have been found in Indonesia. Its date and even the exact site of its discovery have been widely disputed. First thought to be less than 1.00 Ma (million years old), in 1994 it was claimed, based on what was then a new dating method, that the skull was around 1.81 Ma old. The authors of the paper, Carl C. Swisher III and Garniss Curtis, argued that this date had wide implications for our understanding of the first human migrations "Out of Africa". In the early 2000s, however, new archival and scientific research identified the precise layer from which the fossil was excavated in 1936 and showed conclusively that the fossil's earliest possible date was 1.49 Ma.

Out of Asia theory

The Out of Asia theory was a scientific theory which contended that modern humans first arose in Asia. Most anthropologists until the mid 20th century preferred Asia, over Africa, as the continent where the first hominids evolved. The recent African origin of modern humans ("Out of Africa") theory is currently supported by more data.

SS Prinses Amalia

SS Prinses Amalia was a Dutch steam ship built for the Netherland Line (Dutch Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN) or Netherlands Steamship Company) in 1874 by John Elder & Co. of Govan on the River Clyde.


Trinil is a palaeoanthropological site on the banks of the Bengawan Solo River in Ngawi Regency, East Java Province, Indonesia. It was at this site in 1891 that the Dutch anatomist Eugène Dubois discovered the first early hominin remains to be found outside of Europe: the famous "Java Man" (Homo erectus erectus) specimen.

Trinil H. K. Fauna

The Trinil H. K. Fauna, or Trinil Haupt Knochenschicht Fauna (Trinil "main fossil-bearing layer" Fauna) is a biostratigraphic faunal assemblage. It is another interpretation of the collection of fossils gathered by Eugène Dubois at Trinil, where he discovered the early hominid fossils of Java Man. It was proposed in the 1980s a group of Dutch paleontologists to reassess the date of the layer in which Java Man was found.

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