Professor Dr. Friedemann Schrenk will hold the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship 2012

The road to Homo sapiens and "Out of Africa" represent the focus of the lecture series to be given by the internationally renowned paleoanthropologist in the summer semester 2012

06.12.2011

For 20 years now, he has enjoyed global recognition for his scientific research and excavation campaigns aimed at throwing light on the early history of man. He made a sensational discovery in Malawi in 1991 – the oldest lower jaw ever found belonging to the human species, a bone some 2.5 mio. years old. He is a firm advocate of interdisciplinary research on Africa, is active on the Board of Directors of the Uraha Foundation in Germany and Malawi, and is co-founder of the Cultural & Museum Center in Karonga in Malawi. In 2006, he was awarded the Communicator Award, the Science Award of the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany [Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft], for his outstanding achievements in the field of science and knowledge transfer. – Friedemann Schrenk, Professor of Paleobiology at the Department of Biological Sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt and head of the Paleoanthropology division at the Senckenberg Research Institute, will hold the 2012 Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz giving a lecture series entitled: "Out of Africa: The Global History of Homo Sapiens."

"Friedemann Schrenk is an outstanding researcher and one of the leading German scientists in the field of paleoanthropology," explains Peter Radermacher, Chair of the sponsoring Association of Friends of Mainz University. "Besides his research achievements, Professor Schrenk set up the Museum and Research Center in Malawi and initiated the Hominids for Schools program to promote African-German dialog between European and African pupils and teachers. With these communicative initiatives, which are unique in the realm of science, Friedemann Schrenk has by all means fulfilled the requirements of the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship at Mainz University."

Based on his work, Africa is now regarded as the continent of man’s biological origin and the place from where the species' forerunners spread around the world in several "waves" over the past 2 mio. years. It is also in Africa that the biologically modern man emerged about 160,000 years ago before spreading across and populating the entire globe. Paleoanthropology understands the history of Homo sapiens as global history. In his lecture series at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Schrenk will present and discuss with his guests the principal paleoanthropological concept of man's biocultural evolution. The Out of Africa concept assigns the origin of modern man to Africa, a continent that is currently undergoing upheaval and change. For Africa, these archaeological finds and their paleoanthropological interpretation are of particular importance.

"The new global historical approach opens new perspectives on a common origin"

According to Professor Dr. Andreas Cesana, Chair of the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship Foundation, the lecture series will detail the evolution of man from his early beginnings to the present and will use this as background to discuss the scientific concepts, methods, and conceptual history of paleoanthropology. "The question of the origin of man is a key to our self-understanding," says Cesana. "The new global historical approach offers us new perspectives on our common origin. I am sure Friedemann Schrenk will fascinate the interested public, because he himself is still so much fascinated by Africa, his excavations, and his research work."

Professor Dr. Friedemann Schrenk, born in 1956 in Stuttgart, studied geology, paleontology, zoology, anatomy, and anthropology in Darmstadt, Johannesburg, and Frankfurt. After receiving his doctoral degree in 1987 and his postdoctoral lecturing qualification in 1994, he was, among other things, head of the Paleontology Department at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt (1989-1999) and its Deputy Director (1992-1999). Since 2000, Schrenk has been Professor of Paleobiology at the Institute for Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity at Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main and head of the Paleoanthropology division at the Senckenberg Research Institute. His research has focused on the paleoanthropology, biogeography, and evolutionary ecology of Plio-Pleistocene Africa (with field work in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda), evolutionary and functional morphology of mammals, uplift of the Rwenzori Mountains, and climactic impacts on the evolution of the Homo species.

Friedemann Schrenk is a member of the Board of the Center for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF) at Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main and the Review Board Geology and Paleontology of the German Research Foundation (DFG). He is Chair of the Board of the Uraha Foundation Germany, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Uraha Foundation Malawi. Friedemann Schrenk received the German Donors' Association's Grüter Prize for Scientific Communication (1999), the Research Award of the Collège de France, Paris (1997), and the Communicator Award from the Donors' Association (2006).

The Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship at Mainz University is reserved for outstanding scientists and internationally renowned figures. With it, the sponsoring Association of Friends of Mainz University aims to promote the university's reputation and attractiveness beyond national borders and to break new ground. Following on from Fritz Stern, Bert Hölldobler, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Wolfgang Frühwald, Klaus Töpfer, Peter Ruzicka, Anton Zeilinger, Fritz Melchers, Jan Philipp Reemtsma, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Angela D. Friederici, and Gottfried Boehm, Friedemann Schrenk is the next figure of international renown to come to Mainz. He will be holding the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship in 2012.

"How does climate impact on the evolution and development of man? – Under the aegis of the JGU GEOCYCLES Research Center, four renowned Mainz scientific institutions are searching for answers to these and similar questions. With Friedemann Schrenk, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has found an excellent sounding board for scientific questions like these. "The Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship 2012 will once again draw public attention to Mainz University and will make a significant contribution towards enhancing the university's reputation," emphasizes the President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Dr. Georg Krausch." Friedemann Schrenk is eminently suited for getting sophisticated scientific topics across to the public in a readily understandable manner whilst maintaining an unerringly high academic level in his lectures."

The Association of Friends of Mainz University established the Johannes Gutenberg Endowed Professorship in the year 2000 on the occasion of Johannes Gutenberg's 600th birthday. The following have held the endowed professorship so far: cultural historian and recipient of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade Fritz Stern (2000), the leading representative of evolutionary biology and pioneer of sociobiology Bert Hölldobler (2001), former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (2002), former President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Wolfgang Frühwald (2003), former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Klaus Töpfer (2004), composer and conductor Peter Ruzicka (2005), Viennese experimental physicist Anton Zeilinger (2006), immunologist Fritz Melchers (2007), literary and social scientist Jan Philipp Reemtsma (2008), Cardinal Karl Lehmann (2009), neuropsychologist and cognitive scientist Angela D. Friederici (2010), and cultural historian and image scientist Gottfried Boehm (2011).

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