The study of human evolution began in earnest with the discovery of fossil human remains in a cave in the Neander Valley of Germany in 1856. William King (1809 1886), Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Queen’s College Galway, as NUI Galway was then known, obtained a plaster replica of the skullcap and, following careful examination, proposed the name Homo neanderthalensis for the specimen at the 1863 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. This suggestion was both extraordinary and revolutionary for its time. To his lasting credit, William King remains the first scientist to name a new and extinct species of human based on actual fossil hominin material. King’s proposal effectively marked the beginning of one of the longest standing debates in human evolutionary studies*the precise taxonomic and phylogenetic position of Neanderthals. Opinion remains divided as to whether they should be given specific (sensu King) or sub- specific status, and studies of Neanderthal ancient DNA have further fuelled this debate. Palaeoanthropology as a scientific discipline began with the acceptance that different species of human had existed in the past and King made a singular contribution to that development.