The UNESCO World Heritage Centre would like to express its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Professor Philip Vallentine Tobias, who passed away on Thursday, 7 June 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Professor Tobias, born on 14 October 1925, was an exceptional paleoanthropologist and an inspiration to generations of students. He was internationally renowned for his commitment to the study of the origins and evolution of the human being.
Prof. Tobias made a great contribution toward sharing the ideals and programs of UNESCO, both as a chair of the first South African National Commission and a World Heritage expert. His name is associated with research and excavation of human fossils around the world and particularly in Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa, where some of the world’s early hominid fossils were discovered. For half a century he led paleontological digs in Sterkfontein caves, and also contributed to its inscription as a World Heritage site (better known as the Cradle of Humankind) in 1999.
During his career he received awards and honorary degrees from several universities and was nominated three times for a Nobel Prize.
South Africa was his source of inspiration and research, and he established the Institute for the Study of Man in Africa (1956) and worked as a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he held three professorships simultaneously.
He was also lauded as a strong opponent of Apartheid from within the South African academic system. In the 1960s he was closely linked to the scientific investigation in “race” coordinated by UNESCO that contributed to the departure of South Africa from the Organization and he published the book “The Meaning of Race” in 1961.