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Professor Leslie C. Aiello

Professor Leslie C. Aiello

Contact Details

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc.
470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10016 USA
Tel (WG office): 212 683 5000
Tel (direct line): 212 686 1933
Fax: 212 683 9151

Current Positions

President, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc.
Emeritus Professor, University College London
Honorary Fellow, University College London

Curriculum Vitae and Publications List


Leslie became President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation of Anthropological Research in April 2005. The Foundation is the largest private foundation in existence devoted solely to the support of international anthropological research.

Leslie received her BA and MA in Anthropology from the University of California (Los Angeles) and her PhD in human evolution and anatomy from the University of London.

She spent the majority of her academic career (1976-2005) at University College London where she was Professor of Biological Anthropology from 1995. She was also Head of the UCL Anthropology Department from 1996-2002 and Head of the UCL Graduate School from 2002 to 2005. She served as the co-managing editor of the Journal of Human Evolution from 1993-1999, has been the primary supervisor for 23 PhD students, has published books (e.g. An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy. Academic Press: London. 1990 with Chris Dean) and a number of articles in academic journals and has been active with the media in the public dissemination of science and particularly human evolution. She has served as an officer for a number of anthropological and scientific societies and as a consultant and advisor to a number of international anthropological institutions and initiatives.

Most recently she received the 2006 Huxley Memorial Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute, an Honorary Fellowship from University College London (2007) and the award of ‘2007 Musa Urania (Science) from the city of Florence, Italy.

Research Interests

Leslie is an evolutionary anthropologist with special interests in the evolution of human adaptation as well as in broader issues of evolutionary theory, life history and the evolution of the brain, diet, language and cognition.

Her most recent work has been on thermoregulation and climate adaptation in Palaeolithic hominins while earlier work focused on the relationship between energetics and evolution of locomotion, diet, and brain growth and maintenance.

In collaboration with Peter Wheeler, she developed the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis which posited an inverse relationship between brain size and gut size mediated through the adoption of a high quality animal-based diet. This work also provided the basis for a series of papers focusing on the relationship between energetics, growth and development and the evolution of cooperation in hominin evolution as well as on the evolution of the biological basis for human speech. Throughout her career in anthropology she has relied on the development and use of large palaeoclimate, archaeological, palaeontological, energetic, and skeletal databases without which much of her research would not have been possible.

Wenner-Gren Foundation Initiatives

Since coming to Wenner-Gren, the goal has been to ensure that the Foundation provides the best possible service to the international anthropological community. Leslie and the Wenner-Gren staff have totally redesigned the Foundation's web pages, rewritten and clarified all of the application materials, introduced online application and review procedures, ensured that all applicants received useful feedback in a timely fashion and streamlined operations to make it possible for unsuccessful applicants to reapply if desired at the next biannual grant deadline. We have redesigned our Wadsworth International programs and our International Collaborative Research Grant to ensure that training opportunities are readily available for students and scholars from countries where anthropology is underrepresented. Our efforts have paid off in an impressive increase in applications numbers for all of our programs and in applications from international colleagues in particular.

Our newest initiative is the Institutional Development Grant which supports the growth and development of anthropological doctoral programs in countries where there are limited resources to support academic development. The grant provides $25,000 per year and is renewable for a maximum of five years providing a total of $125,000.

We are currently in the process of developing the historical parts of our web site to highlight the role of the Foundation in the development of international anthropology and also make some of our rich archival material available online. The Foundation is always looking for new ideas for program initiatives and for Foundation-sponsored symposia and workshops. Further information about the Foundation, our programs, our grant-making statistics can be found at