Lee Berger

Current Position

Head of Division for Palaeo-anthropology in the Evolutionary Studies Institute,
University of the Witwatersrand

Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society


Lee Berger is Head of Division for Palaeo-anthropology in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society. He holds a Ph.D. in palaeoanthropology and a Doctor of Science in the same field. He is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Prize for Research and Exploration and the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award. His work has brought him recognition as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and the South African Academy of Sciences and prominent advisory positions including the Chairmanship of the Fulbright Commission of South Africa, and the Senior Advisory Board of the Global Young Academy. He is a South African Ambassador for Tourism, Conventions and Business Events. He has been awarded several humanitarian awards including the Boy Scout Medal of Honor for saving a life and the Red Cross Certificate of Merit. In addition his efforts in conservation have been recognized by the William T. Hornaday Award and Georgia’s Youth Conservationist of the Year.

His explorations into human origins on the African continent, Asia and Micronesia for the past two and a half decades have resulted in many new discoveries, including the most complete early hominin fossils ever discovered that belong to a new species of early human ancestor, Australopithecus sediba.  His contributions to exploration sciences have also resulted in advances in the field of applied exploration methods and the application of technology to exploration, excavation and discovery.

He is the author of more than two hundred scholarly and popular works including more than 100 refereed papers and a number of academic and popular books on palaeontology, natural history, and exploration. His work has been featured three times on the cover of Science, and has been named the top 100 science stories of the year by Time, Scientific American and Discover Magazine on numerous occasions. He has appeared in many television documentaries on subjects related to archaeology, palaeoanthropology and natural history.

He has founded the not for profit Lee R. Berger Foundation for Exploration and was a founder of the Palaeoanthropological Scientific Trust and a founding Trustee of the Jane Goodall Society of South Africa. He is Director of one of the largest palaeontological projects, leading over 100 researchers in investigations of the Malapa site in South Africa as well as leading the Rising Star Expedition in 2013 resulting in the discovery of the largest early hominin assemblage in history.