Advisory Board

Dr. Henry C. Harpending

The PhysOrg article Are humans evolving faster? Findings suggest we are becoming more different, not alike said

Researchers discovered genetic evidence that human evolution is speeding up — and has not halted or proceeded at a constant rate, as had been thought — indicating that humans on different continents are becoming increasingly different.
“We used a new genomic technology to show that humans are evolving rapidly, and that the pace of change has accelerated a lot in the last 40,000 years, especially since the end of the Ice Age roughly 10,000 years ago,” says research team leader Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah.
“We aren’t the same as people even 1,000 or 2,000 years ago,” he says, which may explain, for example, part of the difference between Viking invaders and their peaceful Swedish descendants. “The dogma has been these are cultural fluctuations, but almost any temperament trait you look at is under strong genetic influence.”

Henry C. Harpending, Ph.D., FAAAS is Thomas Chair Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of Utah. He is an anthropologist interested in preindustrial populations, the history of modern humans, and the evolution of human social life. His recent work is about genetic diversity within and between human populations. Some genetic markers, such as mitochondrial DNA, microsatellites, and quantitative traits, evolve rapidly enough to have information about size and isolation of subpopulations in the recent past.
Henry has found evidence that our species had only a few thousand members during the last interglacial and that there were several subsequent demographic expansions, the earliest among the ancestors of contemporary sub-Saharan Africans. He has also done fieldwork with several groups in southern Africa, concentrating on family demographic histories. His particular interests have been the effects of infectious infertility on population structure, consequences of preferential treatment of children by sex for mortality and for growth and development, and the relationships among wealth, family organization, and individual reproductive outcomes.
He coauthored The Aging Experience: Diversity and Commonality Across Cultures, Microsatellite diversity and the demographic history of modern humans, Sequence variations in the public human genome data reflect a bottlenecked population history, Genomics refutes an exclusively African origin of humans, Population structure and history in East Asia, Genetics and Population History of Caucasus Populations, Genetic Traces of Ancient Demography, Genetic Diversity and Genetic Burden in Humans, In our Genes, Genetic Perspectives on Human Origins and Differentiation, and Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence. Read the full list of his publications!
Henry earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Hamilton College in 1964, a M.A. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1965, and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1972. He was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2000. He is Associate Editor of Human Biology, and on the Editorial Boards of Population and Environment and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He speaks fluent !Kung Bushman.