Michel Brunet Human Paleontology (2008-2011)


Born 06 April 1940 Magné (Vienne, France).
Profile: see "New Focus" in Science, No. 298, pp. 1708-1711, 2002.


Michel Brunet spent most of his childhood in a farm in Poitou (South-West of France). He entered the Sorbonne in Paris where he studied Natural Sciences and palaeontology. He defended his doctorate in palaeontology in 1966. Then he went to the University of Poitiers to study Palaeogene mammals and completed his Natural Sciences State doctorate in 1975 and became a tenured professor of palaeontology in 1989. In 1976 his researches concentrated on hominid palaeontology in Afghanistan and Iraq. Due to the dangerous political situation in both countries Michel Brunet turned his attention to Africa where he decided to explore western Africa for ape and hominid fossils.

His first surveys took place in Cameroon in 1984 and in Chad in 1993 when he received a research permit from the Chad government to conduct excavations in the Lake Chad basin, today the Djurab Desert. He founded the Mission Paléoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne (M.P.F.T.) to research the origin, the evolution and the environments of early hominids. In 1995 Michel Brunet described a new hominid dated to 3.5 My, Australopithecus bahrelghazali the first Australopithecin known west of the Rift Valley. He nicknamed it "Abel" in honour to the memory of a Colleague and close friend who died during a field mission in Cameroon. In 2002 and 2005, he published the earliest hominid yet found (7 My): a nearly complete cranium, lower jaws and isolated teeth from Toros Menalla, Djurab desert (Northern Chad). The fossil, nicknamed Toumaï (meaning "hope of life" in the local Goran language), was classified in Nature by Michel Brunet as: Sahelanthropus tchadensis.

More recently he has also led field surveys and diggings for fossil mammals and primates in Libya and Egypt (with the Al Fateh University of Tripoli & Cairo University).

Michel Brunet is Currently Professor of the College de France, Chaire de Paleontologie humaine, in Paris, and a Member of the Institut International de Paleoprimatologie et Paleontologie humaine: evolution et paleoenvironnements (I.P.H.E.P.) UMR CNRS 6046 of the University of Poitiers.


Professor of the Collège de France, Chaire de Paléontologie humaine (2007-2011)
11 Place Marcelin Berthelot, 75231 Paris Cedex 05
Phone: + 33 (0)1 44 27 10 39 (Mme Christine Delangle, Assistante)

Member of the Institut International de Paléoprimatologie, Evolution et Paléoenvironnements (IPHEP),
UMR CNRS 6046, Faculté des Sciences Université de Poitiers
40 Avenue du Recteur Pineau, 86022 Poitiers CEDEX
Phone: + 33 (0)5 49 45 37 53 (Mme Ghislaine Florent, secrétariat)

Previous positions

Head UMR CNRS 6046 LGBPH (Géobiologie, Biochronologie et Paléontologie humaine) then IPHEP, University of Poitiers (from 2000 to 2007)

Professor of classe exceptionnelle (PRCE), University of Poitiers (since 2000)

Professor of 1re classe, University of Poitiers (1992)


High School: Lycée Hoche (Versailles), Baccalauréat Mathématiques élémentaires (1958)

Bachelor's degree in Life Sciences, University of Paris (1963)

Licence ès Sciences de Doctorat, University of Paris Sorbonne (1964)

Philosophical Doctorate (Ph. D.) in Paleontology, University of Paris Sorbonne (1966)

Doctorate (D. Sc.) in life Sciences, University of Poitiers (1975)


Chevalier of the Ordre de la Légion d'honneur

Officier of the Ordre National du Mérite

Officier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques

Officier of the Ordre National du Tchad

Honorary citizen of urban community of Poitiers

Lamothe Prize of the Société Géologique de France (2004)

Laureat 2003 Dan David Prize (Paleoanthropology)

Philip Morris Scientific Prize (Paleoanthropology) (1996 )

Prix Fontanes Prize of the Academy of Sciences: Paris (1977)