Life

Obituary: Influential paleontologist
T. Jacob dies at 77

A. Junaidi and Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Indonesian paleontologist Teuku Jacob, who died Wednesday from a liver disease, was known for his firm scientific judgments, including his opinion on the ""Hobbit"" fossils found on an island in East Nusa Tenggara province.

A public funeral ceremony was held at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta on Thursday before Jacob's body was moved to its final resting place in the university's cemetery.

Hundreds of academics, administrative staff, students, former rectors, and colleagues, friends and relatives of Jacob attended the ceremony that ended with a military salute for the recipient of the 2002 Bintang Mahaputra Nararia State Award.

Born in Peureulak, Aceh, on Dec. 6, 1929, Jacob passed away Wednesday evening at Dr. Sardjito Hospital after being treated there since Oct. 4 for liver problems he had been suffering for years.

He is survived by his wife, Nuraini Jacob, and daughter, Nila Nurilani Jacob.

""We remember him as a true nationalist as shown by his opinion regarding the discovery of the Liang Bua skeleton in Flores,"" Suryo Guritno, chairman of the university's Assembly of Lecturers (MGB), said in his remarks at the ceremony.

Jacob made headlines in 2004 when he expressed his opposition to Australian scientists' claims the Liang Bua skeleton belonged to a new species and should thus be renamed Homo Floresiensis.

Jacob, on the contrary, insisted the skeleton was not a new species but simply a fossil of an ordinary modern human being.

""It is not a new species. It is a sub-species of Homo sapiens classified under the Austrolomelanesid race. If it's not a new species, why should it be given a new name?"" Jacob had told a press conference in 2004.

""So, if they (the Australian scientists) say the skeleton was the ancestor of the Indonesian people, forget it,"" he added.

During his service at the university, Jacob was acknowledged as a dedicated scientist. Even after he officially retired, he often worked in the university's bioanthropology and paleoanthropology laboratory.

""He also attended meetings both at national and international levels,"" said Suryo Guritno, adding that the July 2007 Paleoanthropology International Seminar was the last such event he had attended.

""Indonesia in general, and the UGM in particular, has really lost one of its best sons,"" Guritno said.

Jacob started his career at UGM in 1953 as an anatomy student assistant in the university's School of Medicine and then as an anthropology assistant. He graduated from the school in 1956.

He was the School of Medicine's secretary from 1973 t0 1975, dean of the school from 1975 to 1979 and rector of UGM from 1981 to 1986. He was also a member of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly (MPR RI) from 1982 to 1987.

He was declared an Honorary Citizen of The Sunshine City-Mayor of Tucson (1958) and included in the International Biographical Directory of Southeast Asian Specialists (1969), International Directory of Anthropologists (1975), Marquis Who's Who in the World (1980-1998), as well as being awarded the Paul Broca-CNRS Medal (1980), gold medal from the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine (1993) and the Hamengkubuwono IX Award (1997).

A regular columnist for a local newspaper here, Jacob was also involved in important projects and work. Among them include the finding, identification and publication of human fossils from Indonesia and the establishment of a numbering system for human fossils.

Other projects included the rescue and exploration of human and animal fossils, the development of a counter-theory on prehistoric cannibalism and a study of human taxonomy. He was also a consultant for the world heritage Sangiran site.

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