23 December 1924
The skull, commonly called the Taung child, was found embedded in rock at a mine near Taung, a village 400 miles southwest of Johannesburg. When Raymond Dart, an anatomy professor at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, chipped away the rock, he exposed nearly the complete skull of a 3-year-old child. The skull was the first early human fossil found in Africa. With his find, Dr. Dart upset orthodox scientific thinking, inspired the extensive searches for the ''missing link'' between apes and humans throughout Africa and was the forerunner of some of the most illustrious fossil hunters on the continent, like Professor Tobias, the Leakey family and Donald Johanson. Dr. Dart, as an expert on the brain, recognized many human characteristics. The aperture through which the spinal cord leaves the braincase implied that the creature had walked on two legs, not four. Dr. Dart said the creature had a mixture of apelike and humanlike features, but was more human than ape. He called the species to which the creature had belonged Australopithecus africanus, meaning southern ape from Africa. Subsequent research indicated that these creatures lived three million to two million years ago. When Dr. Dart's announced his findings in early 1925 he was met with widespread skepticism and scorn. Nearly all theories of human origins then, though based on little or no fossil evidence, assumed that the birthplace of mankind to be in Asia, not Africa. Scientists also believed that the brains, obviously responsible for mankind's survival, had already increased in size in an early stage of evolution.  Although large for an ape, the size of braincase of the Taung skull was still closer to that of a chimpanzee-exactly the opposite predicted by science of that day. Still other scientists felt that a single skull, and of a child at that, was insufficient to support Dr. Dart's claim of having found the missing link between apes and humans. Vindication came to Dr. Dart slowly and not until a succession of spectacular fossil discoveries by Louis Leakey, working in East Africa after World War II, firmly established the African genesis of early humans. 'I Wasn't in a Hurry'

Wilford, J.N, (1988), "Raymond A. Dart Is Dead at 95; Leader in Study of Human Origins.", from the New York Times, 23 November, [online], Available at www.nytimes.com [Accessed: 27 November 2013]|Strangescience, (2013), Biographies: Raymond Dart, from Strangescience, 02 August [online], Available at www.strangescience.net [Accessed: 27 November 2013]|Image: Raymond Dart with Taung skull. en.wikipedia.org