Life in Deep Time: Darwin’s “Missing” Fossil Record, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Life in Deep Time

Darwin’s “Missing” Fossil Record, 1st Edition

By J. William Schopf

CRC Press

230 pages | 19 Color Illus. | 79 B/W Illus.

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When Darwin wrote his Origin of Species, one of his main concerns was with the perceived shortness of the fossil record of life. Until the work of J. William Schopf and his colleagues, much of this history was thought to be unknowable. This book, through a memoire of Schopf’s personal recollections, documents astonishing discoveries revealing the first 85% of the history of life. These earliest periods of life on Earth emerge as a tale of individual and internationally collaborative exploration told by a scholar whose 60 years of research contributed to the recognition of the richness and diversity which forms the foundation of today’s biodiversity.

Key Features

  • Documents, through personal narrative, a paradigm shift is the study of the earliest life
  • Summarizes a fossil record largely unknown until relatively recently
  • Addresses one of Darwin's most troubling concerns about his theory of natural selection
  • Predicts future developments in the study of first life


Bill Schopf is a remarkable man, a great scientist and a fine writer. The various threads of the tale he relates here add up to a storied saga of the evidenced-based search for the earliest life on the planet, as well as that of the distinguished if often otherwise anonymous men and women who were responsible for marking one of the greatest milestones in recent scientific history. The voice of Bill Schopf is a humble yet commanding one: it deserves to be heard.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 The Schopf Lineage

Chapter 2 Bill Schopf’s Schooling and First Year of College

Chapter 3 Earth’s Early Life – The Quest Begins

Chapter 4 The Missing Precambrian Record of Life

Chapter 5 Graduate School and Early Career

Chapter 6 The 1970s – Lucky, Time and Time Again

Chapter 7 The 1980s – The PPRG Defines the Field

Chapter 8 This Science Over the Years

Chapter 9 Today’s Status of This Science

Chapter 10 Final Comments

Addendum: Selected Relevant Literature in Chronological Order


About the Author

J. William Schopf is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at the University of California Los Angeles. He is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author or co-author of hundreds of scholarly journal articles, as well as many authored and edited books. His books have won 3 national prizes.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / General
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Evolution
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geology
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / General