Robert Foley is Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of King's College. He obtained his PhD from Cambridge, and was subsequently a lecturer in biological anthropology at the University of Durham. Since 1986 he has been at Cambridge, and in 2001 co-founded the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, an inter-disciplinary research centre focused on developing multi-disciplinary and integrated approaches to human evolution. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007.
Robert Foley's research has focused on the evolution and ecology of humans, especially their behaviour and adaptations. Much of this work has concentrated on understanding humans in terms of general Darwinian patterns and processes, and relating human evolution to more general models of evolution. Among his contributions are the development of off-site archaeology, community ecology and co-evolutionary approaches to hominin evolution, ecological models for human evolution, phylogenetic methods for analysing technological, cultural, social and linguistic evolution, the multiple dispersal model of human origins, and multi-disciplinary approaches to the evolution of human diversity.
His research combines traditional palaeoanthropological investigations with emerging approaches such as ancient DNA, agent-based modelling and human behavioural and cognitive experiments. This research has included early African hominins, the evolution of modern humans, and more recent prehistory and anthropology. Current research is focused on developing comparative and quantitative approaches to human evolution, including genotype-phenotype relationships. He has carried out field projects in Africa and Melanesia. He is currently involved in major field projects in northern and central Kenya. His books include Off-Site Archaeology, Another Unique Species: Patterns in Human Evolutionary Ecology, Humans before Humanity, and Principles of Human Evolution.