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F. Clark Howell, 81; melded anthropology, other sciences

LOS ANGELES -- F. Clark Howell, an anthropologist who reshaped the landscape of his discipline by adding a broad spectrum of modern sciences to the traditional "stones and bones" approach, died March 10 at his home in Berkeley.

Dr. Howell, who was 81, was diagnosed last year with cancer.

"We have lost one of the fathers of paleoanthropology," said Jordi Agusti, director of the Institut de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont in Madrid. "His scientific and personal character cannot be replaced and, in this way, this is a terrible loss for our science."

Added anthropologist Tim White of University of California, Berkeley, "Clark's central importance since the 1950s has been to make paleoanthropology what it is today -- that is, the integration of archeology, geology, biological anthropology, ecology, evolutionary biology, primatology, and ethnography. When you look at a modern paleoanthropology project, whether in Tanzania or South Africa or Ethiopia, you find Clark's stamp everywhere."

Dr. Howell, who taught at University of California, Berkeley, led or participated in expeditions throughout the world, but his signature dig was in the Omo basin of southern Ethiopia, where he led a team from 1968 to 1973. The team's work revealed fossils and stone tools that helped document a 3 million-year succession of human ancestors and related species. It was here also that he established the multidisciplinary standard for modern anthropological research.

"He is the one who took paleoanthropology from a fossil-recovery type of science to a science where we had to understand the geology, the flora and fauna, the chemistry, everything," said Don Dane of the Leakey Foundation, an organization committed to research related to human origins. "His role, from that point of view, is just enormous."

He also worked with Louis and Mary Leakey and their son Richard in the region, work that established east Africa as the most likely nursery of human evolution. He was a founder and trustee of the Leakey Foundation from 1968 until last year, and a key member of the science and grants committee.

Among his contributions in that role was providing support for the research of Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Birute Galdikas on orangutans, and the late Dian Fossey on gorillas.

He also tirelessly mentored scores of young students, particularly Africans who thought they should play a role in excavating their history.

Articulate and charming, Dr. Howell was also a forceful popularizer of anthropology. His 1965 Time/Life Nature Library book "Early Man" inspired many would-be anthropologists, including White.

He made the first publicly broadcast film on the subject, a 1969 TV special called "The Man-Hunters," and was the scientific adviser on exhibits about early man at the California Academy of Sciences.

In addition to winning several major prizes, Dr. Howell had his name attached to seven newly discovered animal species, most of them extinct. The species include a snail, a hyena, an oryx, and one primate, a loris called Galago howelli.

Francis Clark Howell was born in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 27, 1925. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he ultimately received his doctorate.

He spent two years teaching anatomy at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis before returning to Chicago to join the anthropology department.

In 1970, he left Chicago to join UC Berkeley, from which he retired in 1991. After he retired, he worked with White and others analyzing fossils collected from the Middle Awash Valley of Ethiopia.

Dr. Howell leaves his wife, Betty; a son, Brian David, of Berkeley, a daughter, Jennifer Clare Howell; two sisters, Margaret Johnson and Elizabeth Howell of Charlotte, N.C.; and a granddaughter.

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