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.
- 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
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
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.
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.
"This retrospective might provide an important test case for philosophers of science interested in questions about optimism versus pessimism in reconstructing the deep past. This is a case where methodological innovation has enabled scientists to extract more information about life in deep time than earlier researchers ever suspected was possible, but new discoveries continuously highlight remaining gaps in our understanding of life’s early history." - Derek D. Turner and Ahmed AboHamad, Philosophy, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut