Bernard Wood

University Professor of Human Origins and Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy

Full-time Faculty


Email: Bernard Wood
Office Phone: 202-994-6099
Fax: 202-994-6097

After qualifying as an MD in 1970, Bernard Wood practiced as a physician and surgeon before moving to full time research and teaching. He received his Ph.D. in 1975 and then worked as a faculty member in The University of London, becoming University Reader in Anatomy in 1978, and S.A. Courtauld Professor of Anatomy in 1982. In 1985 he moved to The University of Liverpool as the Derby Professor of Anatomy and the Head of the Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, and in 1996 he was appointed Dean of the Medical School of The University of Liverpool. In 1997 he moved to the USA when he was appointed Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Origins and Professor of Human Evolutionary Anatomy at GW, and Adjunct Senior Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. In 2006 he was appointed GW University Professor of Human Origins. In 2007 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

He served as President of the Primate Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1986-89); President of The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1996-97); Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute (1989-92); member of the UK Science and Engineering Research Council and Chair of its Science-based Archaeology Committee (1986-94); member of the UK Natural Environment Research Council and Chair of its Science-based Archaeology Strategy Group (1994-96); member of the UK Natural Environment Research Council Earth Sciences-Science and Technology Board (1994-96); and member of the Bioarchaeology Panel of the Wellcome Trust (1995-2000). He is Director of GW's Hominid Paleobiology Graduate program and of the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology.

When he was still a medical student, he joined Richard Leakey's first expedition to what was then Lake Rudolf in 1968, and he has remained associated with that research group, and pursued research in paleoanthropology, ever since. Bernard Wood's primary interests are directed towards developing a better understanding the evolution of the human lineage, or clade. He is interested in the hominins themselves, their adaptations and in the processes and factors that shaped their evolution.

Biological Anthropology; Human evolution; systematics; and functional morphology

Dr. Wood's primary research interests are directed towards understanding the evolution of higher primates and in particular the hominin lineage, or clade. Acquiring such an understanding requires the identification and characterization of taxa within the hominin fossil record. Recent research has been directed towards:

  1. evaluating and improving methods of phylogenetic analysis;
  2. improving our understanding of the relationships between dental structure and function;
  3. exploring the role of sexual dimorphism and allometry in determining the nature of morphological differences within and between species;
  4. tracing the evolution of tooth macrostructure and microstructure within the hominin clade; and
  5. identifying adaptive shifts within the hominin clade.

Current research projects focus on bioinformatics. They include the preparation of a comprehensive database of fossil hominins including conventional and 3D data, a systematic analysis of higher primate soft and hard tissue morphology that includes data about both presence/absence of features and the extent of intraspecific variation, a study of the nature, and relative contributions, of geographical variation and sex-associated differences to intraspecific variation in the living hominoids. Other projects focus on the use of special imaging techniques that will allow dental macrostructure and microstructure to be used to test phylogenetic hypotheses, and an analysis of the tempo and mode of evolutionary change in early hominins.

D.Sc. 1996, University of London; Ph.D. 1975, University of London

ANTH 0770 Our Place in Nature

ANTH 0801 Dean's Seminar

  • Human Evolution for Beginners

ANTH 3402 Human Evolutionary Anatomy

ANTH 3412 Introduction to Hominid Evolution

ANAT 6210 Gross Anatomy

HOMP 6201 Hominid Paleobiology