Physical Anthropologist and Curator of Anthropology

Dr. Douglas Ubelaker sitting at table in a lab that has a skull and other human skeletons on it. Skeleton on the wall behind.
Dr. Douglas Ubelaker examining a human skeleton in his laboratory. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 2002-15888.

Dr. Douglas H. Ubelaker is a curator and senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He has published extensively in the general field of human skeletal biology with an emphasis on forensic applications. As a youth, Doug went to the University of Kansas to study medicine. He became interested in anthropology after taking a class and doing summer fieldwork with Professor William Bass. The field experience opened his eyes to the valuable stories that can be found from sites contained human remains, and Doug went on to get his PhD in anthropology.

Doug joined the Smithsonian in 1971, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Dr. Larry Angel and Dr. T. Dale Stewart. Doug also became an expert consultant to the FBI to help solve criminal cases. During his career, he has reported on more than 900 cases and testified in many legal proceedings, including the famous Waco, Texas case. His research includes assembling a database of skull and skeletal measurements for Latin American remains, studying the bio-archaeology of Roman tombs, improving methodology in forensic anthropology, and looking at geographic skeletal variation in ancient Ecuador. He is Past President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and continues to take an interest in the policies and practices that shape forensic science.