W.R. Maples

William R. Maples, Ph.D. (1937-1997)

This center is named for Dr. William R. Maples, a pioneer in the field of Forensic Anthropology and Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Florida.

Born in Dallas, Texas on August 7, 1937, William R. Maples developed an early interest in human identification and medico-legal issues. He received his Master’s Degree in 1962, and was chosen to serve as manager of the Darajani Primate Research Station in Kenya. He initiated studies in Africa toward his doctoral degree which he received from the University of Texas in 1967.

Dr. Maples began his teaching career at Western Michigan University. In 1968, he joined the faculty of the University of Florida where he eventually rose to the rank of Distinguished Service Professor. Maples served as chair of the Anthropology Department in 1973, and in 1978 was named Curator of Physical Anthropology at the Florida State Museum (The Florida Museum of Natural History). During the 1970’s, Dr. Maples began consulting with Florida’s medical examiners, bringing his expertise in the identification of age, race, sex, stature, and cause of death to crime and accident investigations. Dr. Maples developed a relationship with the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory providing oversight, expertise and consultation involving military personnel missing or killed in action during the Second World War,  Korean War and Vietnam conflict. Maples provided expert opinion and Congressional testimony which helped shape the reformation and professional mission of that laboratory.

Maples brought compassion and scientific rigor to the more than 1,200 cases with which he was involved during his twenty-eight year career. A pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology, Maples was nationally and internationally respected for his analysis of human skeletal material. He participated in a number of current and historical high profile investigations including President Zachary Taylor, Medgar Evers, Francisco Pizzaro, and The Elephant Man – Joseph Merrick. In 1992, Maples supervised a team of forensic scientists that identified the remains of the last Russian monarch, Czar Nicholas II, and his family, who were killed by revolutionaries in 1918. Maples was internationally renowned, but was also involved locally and assisted with many investigations including the 1990 Gainesville student murders.

Though diagnosed with brain cancer in 1995, Dr. Maples continued working for the next two years. During his final year, Maples assisted medical examiners in Dade County identifying victims of the ValuJet airline disaster in the Everglades.