Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was recognized for his discovery of a 3.8-million-year-old fossil cranium of an early human ancestor in Ethiopia.
The partial skull of Australopithecus anamensis puts a face on a species closely related to the famous “Lucy” specimen's Au. afarensis.
The discovery further challenged the long-held view that hominin evolution proceeded in a linear fashion, with one species disappearing and giving rise to its descendant species.
This year’s list also includes 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Brazilian physicist Ricardo Galvão, who brought global attention to the sharply rising deforestation rates in the Amazon, and Neuroscientist Nenad Sestan, who challenged thinking about the border between life and death by reviving the brains of pigs that had died hours earlier.
Other notables on the list are Sandra Díaz, an ecologist who helped produce the most authoritative assessment yet of Earth’s biodiversity and reported that 1 million species are headed toward extinction, and microbiologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum who is leading the fight of an ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The complete list is here.