Illinois State University’s Fred H. Smith has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is one of only five scientists from Illinois State to be elected an AAAS Fellow, and the first since 1969. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

Smith is internationally recognized for his work with Neandertals and the broader issue of modern human origins, known as the Assimilation Model.

Smith, a University Professor of anthropology and biological sciences, was named as a Fellow for his “distinguished contributions to the field of human evolution, particularly for research into the biology, behavior, and culture of Neandertals and early modern humans.” He will be honored at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in February.

Internationally recognized for his work with Neandertals and the broader issue of modern human origins, Smith created the Assimilation Model, which recognizes Africa as the region of origin for modern humans. His work has been primarily based on fossil evidence, and supported with the recent DNA sequencing of the Neandertals. As DNA evidence confirmed Smith’s 40-year-old theories, interest in his work has increased, which resulted in attention from media such as The New York Times.

image of a skull

Smith argued from his study of ancient bones that some Neandertal elements are assimilated into the larger, human gene pool. DNA testing proved him right.

For his distinguished research, Smith has been honored with the William King Medal from the National University of Ireland, Galway; the Gabriel Ward Lasker Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists; the Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger Medal from the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences; and as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Central States Anthropological Society. He has published extensively, and his work is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Papers. Smith helped to develop a Smithsonian Institution exhibit exploring what it means to be human, and is also a past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

“This richly deserved recognition for Dr. Smith is a reflection of his prolific research as well as his ability to relate his work to the general public,” said Associate Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies John Baur. “For the past decade, he has served as an outstanding representative of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and Illinois State University.”

Smith joined the Illinois State faculty in 2008, and was named a University Professor in 2013.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

For this year’s AAAS honor, Smith joins fellow scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, the Argonne National Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Germany.

Past AAAS Fellows from Illinois State included: Dale E. Birkenholz, 1965; D. Reed Jensen, 1967; Richard R. Bond, 1968; and Edward B. Jelks, 1969.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. The AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals.