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



chapter 1|10 pages

The Schopf Lineage

chapter 3|16 pages

Earth’s Early Life – The Quest Begins

chapter 4|24 pages

The Missing Precambrian Record of Life

chapter 5|14 pages

Graduate School and Early Career

chapter 6|46 pages

The 1970s – Lucky, Time and Time Again

chapter 7|22 pages

The 1980s – The PPRG Defines the Field

chapter 8|32 pages

This Science Over the Years

chapter 9|36 pages

Today’s Status of This Science

chapter 10|6 pages

Final Comments