Broom, Robert (1866-1951), a Scottish paleontologist, anatomist, and physician, made major contributions to the study of the origin of mammals and the structure of their skulls, to the history and classification of ancient reptiles, and to the discovery and interpretation of early human fossils.
Broom, the son of a Scottish fabric designer, was introduced to marine biology in childhood, when he spent a year at the seaside recovering from respiratory ailments. He received his medical degree in 1889 from the University of Glasgow, where he also studied chemistry, botany, and embryology.
Three years later he went to Australia, where he married Mary Braid Baillie in 1893. Between medical calls, he began studying the anatomy of native marsupials and of monotremes, a primitive order of mammals. He also made studies showing the transition from reptilian to mammalian features, which shed light on the origin of mammals. At the time, most zoologists believed mammals had evolved from amphibians.
During a visit to his father in 1896, Broom saw the collection of African fossils in the British Museum. He understood how studying them would help resolve the problem of mammal origin. In 1897, he and his wife moved to South Africa. In 1936, he discovered the fossil remains of an ancient humanlike creature now known as Australopithecus africanus. His discovery of a partial skeleton proved that australopithecines had walked upright.
Until he reached his 60's, Broom continued to practice medicine, often in remote rural locations. He also was a professor of zoology and geology at what became Stellenbosch University (1903-1910) and curator of paleontology at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria (1934-1951). Broom's books include Mammal-Like Reptiles of South Africa and the Origin of Mammals (1932) and Finding the Missing Link (1950).