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world pop: 6 billion +

urban population outnumbers rural;

Blue Marble

Mapping Demographics

there are 386 cities with a population over one million; by 2015, there will be 550;

But large swath of northern territory — Canada, Europe, former USSR, China, and Australia — now has fertility below 2.0 children per couple (Science, 312:1894, 2006).

State of the Planet, Columbia University, 2004;

UN 2004 report

On This Day in History

History in the Making

Stern's Encyclopedia of World History

Smithsonian American History Explorer

The population of the United States is projected to hit 300 million in October, 2006;

Since the start of the American Revolution in 1775, about a million Americans have died in wars. Since Henry Ford introduced his mass-produced auto in 1913, over 2.5 million Americans have died on the road. (AskMarilyn in Parade, 3/5/06)

Comparisons of gene maps show that human and chimpanzee DNA are 99% identical. For instance, we both have the ABO blood-type polymorphism. The average protein differs by only two amino acids and 29% of our proteins are identical. Comparisons of one human to another show that we are 99.9% identical (Science, 309:1468, 2005);

Humans have reached the point where they now change the Earth's surface, its waters, and its atmosphere, at a greater rate than all natural processes combined. For instance, geologist Bruce Wilkinson calculates that natural erosion lowers the land surface an average of 24 meters per million years, but human agriculture and construction averages 15 times that much (Science 307:1558, 2005).

Mike Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory), and David Rabinowitz (Yale University) discover new, 10th planet, 2003UB313, currently called "Xena." It has one moon and is 2.4 kilometers in diameter, about 5% bigger than Pluto (discovered in 1930), 2005; both demoted to "dwarf planets" in 2006;

More than 175 alien species have settled in San Francisco Bay.

more than 100 drugs combating obesity are in development;

Ivory-billed Woodpecker, largest woodpecker in North America, once known as the Lord God Bird, thought to be extinct since 1940s, found in Arkansas, 2004; more news from Cornell U; or see new page from Sibley's guide to North American birds;

Mars rover missions showing that this cold, dry planet was once warm, wet, and salty: "a candidate environment for early life." (Science, 306:2001, 2004)

human genome analyzed, all bases in proper order, less than 1 error in 100,000, est 25,000 genes, see Science, 300:409, 2003; With so few genes (and hundreds of thousands of proteins), it is clear that one gene can direct the manufacture of more than one protein. Alternative splicing of exons is one mechanism at work.

World Trade Center attacked by terrorists, 2001; total killed by terrorists that year, 2,978 (total killed by heart disease, 700,142; by accidents, 101,537; by suicide, 30,622; by homicide (excluding terrorist attacks), 17,330) (Harper's Magazine, pg 79, March, 2004);

wetlands are disappearing at a rate of 23,000 hectares a year (USFWS, USGS);

mule cloned; sheep, cows, pigs, cats, and rodents cloned;

draft of human genome, est 40,000 genes, 2000;

Despite technological advances throughout the world, a few hunter-gatherer peoples remain, such as the Arctic Inuit and other Native American tribes;

Species extinction: researchers estimate that 71% of butterflies in the U.K. have lost ground, 28% of native plant species have declined; 30% of the 5700 known species of amphibians worldwide are vulnerable to extinction (Science, 306:2016, 2004);

of 4795 known species of land mammals world-wide, 25% are at risk of extinction (Science, 309:546, 2005);

The total number of great apes in world is fewer than the population of Brighton, England or Abilene, Texas; est. 100,000 gorillas, 100,000 chimpanzees, 10,000 bonobos, and 30,000 orangutans survive in the wild (Science, 309:1457, 2005)

Dolly euthanized, 2003;

A new monkey species (Lophocebus kipunji), the highland mangabey, discovered (Science, 308:1103, 2005), or new genus, Rungwecebus, Africa's first new primate genus in 83 years (Science, 312:1378, 2006);

chimpanzees filmed making and using more than one kind of tool to collect termites for food (American Naturalist, 11/04);

Africa is the continent with the fastest growing population -- increasing food production at the same great rate is difficult;

Despite technological advances throughout the world, a few hunter-gatherer peoples remain, such as the San and other African tribes;

Worldwide, efforts to clone mammals mostly fail. Major steps are insertion of DNA into host egg cell, stimulating cell division, inserting blastula into host mother and have pregnancy "take," and finally have pregnancy go to term and live birth. Here are some species and their overall success rates:
  • mouse-1%
  • cat-0.5%
  • sheep-2%
  • cow-1%
  • human-4% to cell division stage and not attempted beyond that

(Wired, p48, 4/06)

Reproductive Technology from PBS

First dog, Snuppy, cloned in Korea, 2005, possible fraud being investigated, 2006;

Mouse cloned in Japan by combining haploid genome from each of two egg cells (no sperm) (Science, 304:501, 2004)

Tool use in a dolphin -- Bottlenose Dolphins off Western Australia are breaking off sponges, wearing them on their noses, and using them to probe the seafloor for fish. The skill seems to have been culturally transmitted within one genetically related family (Science 308:1545, 2005)

Despite technological advances throughout the world, a few hunter-gatherer peoples remain, such as the Australian Aborigines;

Global Warming —

NASA reports 2005 hottest year on record.

Average global temperature was 57.96ºF in 2005, up from 56.60ºF in 1880.

The late-April weather in the Netherlands has warmed about 4ºC during the past 20 years, so caterpillars are emerging earlier. Pied flycatchers migrate north from Africa in the spring, cued mostly by daylength, so they are arriving as usual to find their caterpillars gone. No food and the flycatcher population is down 90% (Science News, 169:276, 2006).

The waters of North Sea warmed 1°C between 1977 & 2001 — plot temperature changes for any part of the world

World-wide sea-level rising an average of 2 millimeters per year (Science 311:1698, 2006).

Humans now consume the equivalent of 13 trillion watts of power, 85% from fossil fuels. The USA is opening natural gas plants at the rate of about one every 3.5 days (China just as fast). Carbon dioxide levels are now at their highest point in 125,000 years, and we aren't actually running out of fossil fuels. There is an estimated 50 years' supply of oil, 200 years' supply of natural gas, and 2000 years' supply of coal available world-wide (Science, 309:548, 2005).

"Although replacing gas-powered U.S. automobiles with hydrogen-powered ones might slow global warming, generating the necessary hydrogen would require building either a million new wind turbines . . . or a thousand additional nuclear-power plants." (Atlantic Monthly, Jan/Feb, 2005, p54) Right now, solar and wind energy contribute about 0.1% each of total US energy consumption.

The average American produces 12,000 lbs of carbon dioxide every year (The New Yorker, May 9, 2005, p54).

Hurricane Katrina floods New Orleans; meteorologists report 80% increase in most powerful hurricanes, typhoons, & cyclones (categories 4 & 5) over last 35 years. These storms draw their energy from warm ocean water. (Science, 309:1807, 2005)

Environmental Impacts of Hurricane Katrina

Average decrease in Antarctic ice mass is 36 cubic miles per year — for comparison, Los Angeles uses about 1/5 cubic mile of water per year. Arctic ice cap is smallest ever measured. (The New Yorker, 3/20/06, p67).

Of 244 glaciers on Antarctic Peninsula, 87% are shrinking (Science, 308:541, 2005)

Larson B ice shelf, about size of Rhode Island, broke off Antarctica, 2002;

Glaciers are shrinking world-wide. Compare photos of U.S. and Canadian glaciers, taken between 1883 and 1995.

Glaciers in the European Alps are losing more than 1.5 billion tons of ice each year or 155 cubic kilometers since 1850. This loss of weight has allowed the Alps to rise or gain altitude averaging 0.15 mm per year. Mont Blanc is the tallest peak in the Alps; it is rising about 0.9 mm per year.

Ice status from U of Waterloo, Ontario

Weather & pollution from UCAR;



Scientific understanding of the world expanded more during this century than during all of earlier history.

How Stuff Works

Museum Of Retro - Technology

world pop:

1999-6 bil

1987-5 bil

1974-4 bil

1960-3 bil

1930-2 bil

1900- 1,650 million

1 in 2 lived in cities (1990)

Not only is the universe expanding but it is expanding at a faster and faster rate. Is there an "anti-gravity" force that is causing this phenomenon? (Science, 309:75-102, 2005);

Google launched, 1998;

Yahoo! and Amazon incorporated, Internet Explorer launched, AltaVista largest search engine, 1995;

Kary Mullis and polymerase chain reaction, 1983, Nobel Prize, 1993;

WorldWideWeb, 1992;

Human Genome Project, 1990;

Exxon Valdez 40 million liter oil spill in Alaska, 1989;

Apple Macintosh, 1984;

Internet, 1983;

first IBM PC, 1981;

Three Mile Island nuclear accident, 1979;

first consumer micro-computer, Apple II and TRS80, 1977;

Viking landers touch down on Mars, 1976;

first microcomputer, Altair 8800, Intel 8080, 1975;

Apollo 11, man on the moon, 1969 (NASA history of space flight)

(Encyclopedia Astronautica);

Arpanet, forerunner of Internet, 1969;

USCU, Union, SC 1965;

Carl Sagan and SETI, 1934-1996 -- Astrobiology Magazine;

Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, 1962;

first mini-computer, Digital PDP-1, 1960;

Hawaii, 50th state, 1959;

Alaska, 49th state, 1959;

Fred Hoyle & W.A. Fowler show that the heavier elements could have formed, as the Universe first took shape, at the high temperatures within supernovae, 1957;

Charles D. Keeling began making atmospheric measurements of carbon dioxide content in 1955 and on Mauna Loa in Hawaii in 1958. Carbon dioxide concentrations were about 315 parts per million at the time.

  • preindustrial - 280ppm
  • 1958 - 315ppm
  • 2005 - 380ppm
  • 2050 est - 500ppm

This increase in carbon dioxide concentration is predicted to result in a 5°C increase in average global temperature. In the entire history of the human species it has never been more than 2 - 3 degrees warmer than it is now. (New Yorker, pg 64, 5/2/05)

As a NOAA scientist said: "It's true that we've had higher carbon dioxide levels before. But then, of course, we also had dinosaurs."

Linus Pauling (1901-1994) and covalent chemical bond; Nobel Prize, 1954;

successful kidney transplant, 1954;

Ray Kroc opens first McDonald's, 1954;

Jonas Salk and polio vaccine, 1953;

Scrabble produced by Selchow & Righter, 1953;

first Swanson TV dinner, 1953;

Stanley Miller and Harold Urey simulate the atmosphere of early Earth, provide energy in form of electric spark, and form organic molecules from inorganic, a first step in the abiotic origin of life, 1952;

Barbara McClintock and mobile genes, 1951, Nobel Prize, 1983;

first general purpose computer, Whirlwind, 1948;

William Shockley, Walter Brattain, and John Bardeen invent transistor, 1947;

ENIAC, electronic numerical integrator and computer, 1946;

Percy Spencer stands next to a magnetron, and a candy bar in his pocket melts. A year later, he presents his 750-lb microwave oven, 1946;

nuclear technology and atom bomb, 1939-1945;

R. Daly proposes theory that a huge collision with the Earth formed the Moon, 1940s;

NBC first television network to broadcast on a regular basis, 1939;

Wallace Crothers invents nylon, 1934;

first Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical — Flying Down To Rio, from RKO, 1933;

kudzu imported from Japan, 1930s;

Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto, ninth planet, 1930;

first movie to feature both song and talk — The Jazz Singer, from Warner Bros., 1927;

Philo T. Farnsworth first transmits a television image (a horizontal line), September 7, 1927. (RCA broadcast to 2,000 receivers at the 1939 New York World's Fair, but TV didn't become popular until after WWII.)

Albert Sabin and the oral polio vaccine, 1906-1993;

Philip Smith (1884-1970) and the "master" pituitary gland;

Jack London (1876-1916) is best known for his books The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea-Wolf, and a few short stories, such as "To Build a Fire" and "The White Silence;

first crossword puzzle, in New York World, 1913;

Orville and Wilbur Wright, first manned airplane flight, 1903;

Kellogg brothers invent corn flakes, 1902;

Dolly the sheep, first mammal cloned from adult cell by Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, 1997;

Jeanne Calment dies in France at 122 years of age, longest-living human ever documented, 1997;

Otzi, the Iceman of the Alps, 5,300 year old frozen mummy, 1991;

Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen, and ethology, Nobel Prize, 1973;

Melvin Calvin and photosynthesis, Nobel Prize, 1961;

Hans Krebs and oxidative metabolism, Nobel Prize, 1953;

Francis Crick, James Watson and DNA, 1953, Nobel Prize, 1962;

Each human consists of about ten thousand trillion cells, each cell containing 46 strands of DNA that together would extend to about six feet. If all of an indivudual's DNA were laid end to end, it would extend 20 million kilometers, enough to stretch from Miami to Los Angeles and back 2,270 times. (Bill Bryson)

Rosalind Franklin performs X-ray crystallography on DNA, 1951-1953

Hans Spemann proposes concept of cloning, 1938;

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi discovers vitamin C, 1932;

R.A. Fisher reconciles genetics and natural selection, 1930;

Edwin Hubble argues that universe is expanding, 1929;

Alexander Fleming and penicillin, 1928;

Georges Lemaitre and the Big Bang Theory, 1927;

Edwin Hubble recognizes Andromeda galaxy, first outside our own, Milky Way, 1923; (Hubble Space Telescope launched, 1990)

Spanish Flu responsible for half the deaths of American GIs in WWI, infects half the world population, and kills 50 millions worldwide, 1918;

Alfred Wegener and continental drift, 1912; Europe and America are moving apart at about the speed that a fingernail grows, about 2 yards in an average human lifetime.

Albert Einstein and Special Theory of Relativity, 1905;

  • E = mc2

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, 1917;

  • Space and time are not absolute but relative to observer. Effects become more pronounced as approach speed of light. Time is a component of space, a fourth dimension. Mass distorts space-time. Gravity is the distorting of space-time.

Einstein Year

Ernest Rutherford discovers atomic nucleus, 1911;

Ernest Rutherford and half-life and radioactive dating, 1904;

Max Planck and quantum science, 1900;

The first person known to be infected with HIV, human immuno-deficiency virus (the AIDS virus), was a man who lived in the Congo, 1959. This virus seems to have originated in chimpanzees from Cameroon (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), who originally acquired their version, SIV (simian immuno-deficiency virus), from similar viruses infecting monkeys in west-central Africa. Perhaps someone in Cameroon was bitten or was cut while butchering one of these chimps and then passed the virus on to other humans. Ironically, SIV doesn't much bother the chimps, whereas by the 1980s, HIV became a deadly human pandemic.

Public Health

Mary and Louis Leakey unearth first of many human fossils in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, 1959;

Ramond Dart finds remains of Taung child, Australopithicus africanus, in South Africa, 1924;

USSR dissolved, Gorbachev resigned, 1991;

Chernobyl nuclear accident, 1986;

Sputnik, first artificial satellite launched, 1957, (see more from Russian Space Web);

Satellite Tracking from NASA

Alexander Oparin and abiotic origin of life;

Russian revolution and establishment of USSR, 1917;

Western processed foods lead to widespread obesity and life expectancy of 55 on Nauru

Ozone Hole discovered over Antarctica, 1985;

Ozone Watch


world pop:

1 billion

1 in 50 lived in cities (1800)

George Washington Carver, agricultural research including crop rotation, 1896;

Union’s Central School (public), SC,1891;

John Pemberton creates Coca Cola, 1886;

Clifford Female Seminary, Union, SC, first college, 1884 -- Narratives of American South;

Thomas Edison founds journal Science, 1880;

Thomas Edison and electric light bulb, 1879;

Thomas Edison and the first phonograph, 1877;

Edwin Drake (1819-1880) and first oil well;

margarine created from beef suet and milk, 1869;

Civil War, 1861–1865;

potato chips first cooked by George Crum in NY, 1853;

NY Times, 1851;

Mormons found Salt Lake City, 1847;

Alamo falls to Mexico, 1836.

William Morton (1819-1868) and ether anesthesia;

Cyrus McCormick and mechanical reaper, which cuts, threshes, and bundles grain, 1831;

Webster’s dictionary, with about 70,000 entries, 1828;

Pres. Jefferson buys then Louisiana from the French for three cents an acre–$15 million.

Webster's first dictionary, with about 28,000 entries, 1806;

first home icebox patented, 1803;

Lewis & Clark head west, 1803;

USC founded as South Carolina College, 1801;

Thomas Jefferson, gentleman scientist (and third president, 1800);

Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852 - 1934), Spanish neuroanatomist, proposes that memories involve making neural connections, 1899;

J.J. Thomson discovers electron, 1897;

Hanri Becquerel and radioactivity, 1896. He and Marie & Pierre Curie received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903. (Marie died of leukemia in 1934 — even now, her lab notebooks are too radioactive to handle without protection.)

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824 - 1907) formulated the "Second" Law of Thermodynamics: Any time work is done, some energy is always lost as heat. Thus "perpetual motion" is impossible. The "First" Law, recognized later, says that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form (e.g. electricity) to another (e.g. spinning motor or light).

Lord Kelvin tried to calculate the age of the solar system — 24 million years, 1897, a great underestimate. He assumed that any greater age would leave the Sun depleated of whatever fuel burned there. He didn't know about nuclear fusion.

British Poetry in the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837–1895

William Rontgen and X-rays, 1895;

Svante Arrhenius, of Sweden, warns that the release of carbon dioxide during the burning of fossil fuels will result in global warming, 1895;

first use of word, "chromosome," 1890;

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) and antiseptic surgery;

J. D. Hooker (1817- 1911) and botanical taxonomy;

Dmitri Mendeleev publishes Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements, 1869; 63 of the 92 naturally occurring elements were known;

Francis Galton (1822 - 1911) and eugenics, 1869;

Alfred Nobel patents dynamite, 1866;

Ernst Haeckel publishes evolutionary tree for mammals and remarkably recognizes close relationship between hippos and whales, 1866;

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) and genetics, 1865;

Fossil of Archaeopteryx, link between reptile and bird, found in Germany, 1861;

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and the germ theory of disease; pasteurizes milk, 1860;

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) publishes On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, 1859;

  • Grandchildren like grandfathers
  • Tendency to small variation
  • Great fertility in proportion to support

Darwin Digital Library

Literature.org– Darwin

evolution resources from the U.S. National Academies; from U.C. Berkeley; from Talk-Origins;

Alfonso Corti, Italy, describes cochlea of inner ear, 1851;

Little Ice Age, 1580 - 1850;

Irish potato famine kills one million, 1845-48;

first electric telegraph, 1844;

wood-pulp paper, 1844;

first photography, 1839;

first bicycle, 1839;

Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann and cell theory, 1839;

Louis Agassiz argues for existence of Ice Age, 1837;

Charles Lyell publishes Principles of Geology, 1831 - 1833. He expounded on Hutton's theory of uniformitarianism (vs. catastrophism). Not only are the Earth's changes gradual, uniform, steady, but everything that has happened in the past can be explained by processes that are still occurring now (like erosion and mountain building). His view was extreme, for volcanos do erupt, comets strike, ice ages come and go, and species go extinct. But much of the Earth's history is long and gradual. Darwin took the book with him on his Beagle voyage around the world and used Lyell's ideas to help formulate his theory of natural selection.

Friedrich Wohler synthesizes organic compound, urea, 1828;

Hans Oersted and electromagnetism, 1820;

first use of term, "biology," 1819;

Bio Ed Online

Luddites destroy industrial machinery in northern England, 1811;

British History Online

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) publishes Zoological Philosophy: evolution by means of inheritance of acquired characteristics, 1809;

John Dalton and atoms and molecules, 1808;

Alessandro Volta and electric battery, 1806;

Napolean Bonaparte, Emperor of France, 1804 - 1815;

Lorenzo Avogadro finds that two equal volumes of any gases, at same temperature and pressure, will contain the same number of molecules, 1811, later found to be 6.02 x 1023 (This is about the number of cups of water in the Pacific Ocean.)

Benjamin Thompson, Count von Rumford (1753 - 1814) and drip coffeemaker, ~ 1800;

Hong Kong colonized by Britain, 1842;

Singapore colonized by Britain, 1819;

Europeans in Micronesia

Edward Bransfield sights the continent of Antarctica, 1820;

Tambora volcano erupts on Indonesian island of Sumbawa, kills 90,000, and causes global cooling — largest and deadliest eruption in recorded history, 1815;


world pop:

650 million

Benjamin Banneker, "first African-American man of science," publishes astronomical and mathematical almanacs, 1791-1802;

Thomas Paine and The Rights of Man, 1790;

Columbia chosen capital of SC, 1790;

First fossil dinosaur bone found in Woodbury Creek, NJ, 1787;

Union Co, 1785;

John James Audubon, 1785-1851;

Revolutionary battles of Cedar Springs and Musgrove’s Mill in Union Co., King’s Mt., 1780;

Thirteen colonies declare independance of Britain, 1776.

Revolution against Britain, 1775-83;

342 chests of tea dumped into Boston Harbor; coffee becomes popular, 1773;

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) flies his kite: lightening is electrical, 1752;

Scotch-Irish settlers into Union County, 1751;

Age of Enlightenment — loosening of religion and faith and strengthening of secular reason;

perfectly preserved mammoth found frozen in Siberia, 1799;

Edward Jenner and vaccination, 1796;

James Hutton (1726-1797) publishes A Theory of the Earth with Proofs and Illustrations, 1795. He noticed that soil was formed by erosion and that erosion carried that soil away. Given that, the Earth's surface should be flat. Yet there are still hills and mountains. There must be some uplifting process to counteract the down-wearing erosion.

first gas light, 1792;

metric system, 1790;

James Watt, steam engine, coal as fuel, 1785; Dutch chemist, Paul Crutzen suggests that this event marks the transition from the Holocene geological epoch (period since last glaciation) to the Anthropocene (the current period in which man can alter the planet on a geological scale);

Malthus (1766-1834) and over-population;

first manned free flight in hot air balloon, 1783;

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon made first scientific attempt to measure the age of the Earth, 1770s. He measured the rate at which heated spheres cooled. He assumed the Earth began as a molten mass and calculated how long it would have taken to cool to its present temperature — 75,000 – 168,000 years, a great under-estimate. What he didn't realize is that radioactive decay continues to produce heat and keep the plante's interior hot.

John Wesley (1703-1791) and Methodism;

Encyclopédie edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert, published 1751 - 1777;

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743 - 1793), father of modern chemistry, 1769; Law of Conservation of Mass;

first vol of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1768;

Samuel Johnson publishes his dictionary — 42,773 words and 1st with illustrative quotations, 1755.

  • The King James Bible contains about 8,000 different words; Shakespeare's vocabulary is about 20,000; the average adult today uses 50,000; and the OED and Webster's 3rd New International contain about 500,000 (but technical and scientific terms would add maybe millions more).

first female M.D., Germany, 1754;

Karl Scheele first manufactures phosphorus matches, 1750s;

Leonhard Euler derives the number e = 2.71828. . . , natural log base, 1748;

Nitrous oxide used as anesthetic, 1846;

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) publishes Systema Naturae: taxonomy, 1735;

Robert Brown and Brownian movement, 1827;

Daniel Fahrenheit and mercury thermometer, 1714;

rise of atheism;

British rule in India, 1765 – 1947;

First Russian prisoners sent to Siberia, 1709;

Western settlers to New Zealand, 1790;

British First Fleet into Australia, first convicts transported, 1788;

Capt Cook arrives in Australia, 1770;

Capt Cook arrives on Easter Is, Easter Day, 1722, to find the island utterly treeless and eroded to resemble sand dunes; he found no wood for fuel and little fresh water but hundreds of stone images, some as tall as houses;


1/2 billion

William & Mary College, VA, 1692;

Charleston, S.C. founded, 1670;

Hudson’s Bay Co., 1670;

Montreal founded, 1642;

Harvard College founded, 1636;

first Thanksgiving celebrated, 1621;

Mayflower lands on Cape Cod and establishes colony at Plymouth, MA, 1620;

first African slaves arrive in Virginia, 1619;

English settlement in Bermuda, 1609;

founding of Jamestown, VA, 1607;


Sir Isaac Newton publishes Principia Mathematica: laws of motion, gravity, and scientific method, 1687;

The Culture of Science

John Ray classifies 18,600 plant species, 1686;

Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) and microscopy, 1676;

Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz invent calculus, 1670;

blood transfusion between a sheep and a human, 1667 (it didn’t work);

Robert Boyle publishes The Sceptical Chymist, the first work to distinguish between chemistry and alchemy, 1661;

Royal Society chartered in England, 1660;

Pierre de Fermat and Blaise Pascal develop basis for theory of probability, 1654;

First coffee house opened in England, 1652;

Archbishop James Ussher publishes Annals of the Old Testament, 1650. He used the Bible and other historical documents to calculate the age of the Earth. He concluded it was created on October 23, 4004 B.C. His estimate was not widely accepted. A Rev. William Bickland noted in the 1800s that the Bible does not suggest that God made Heaven and Earth on the first day but only "in the beginning." That beginning may well have lasted "millions upon millions of years."

Redi (1626-1697), biogenesis, and the scientific control;

Evangelista Torricelli and atmospheric barometer, 1643;

Rene Descartes and skepticism in analysis, 1637;

William Harvey and human circulatory system, 1629;

Francis Bacon promotes careful study and inductive reasoning as a basis for scientific study, 1620;

Galileo identifies four moons of Jupiter, 1610; his trial;

Harvey (1578-1657) and blood circulation;

King James translation of Bible, 1611;

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and elliptical orbits, 1609;

Hans Lippershey makes first telescope, 1608;

Robert Cawdrey and first English dictionary, The Table Alphabeticall, only 2,521 entries, 1604.

William Gilbert postulates that the Earth is a big magnet, 1600;

China open to foreign trade, 1685;

dodo extinct, 1680;

Ming dynasty replaced by Manchu, 1644;

first English settlement in India, 1624;

British East India Company into India, 1612;



460 million

Mercator uses name America for first time, 1538;

two million Indians die in SA of typhoid;

Portuguese colonize Brazil, 1530;

Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon of Spain, first European in SC, Winyaw Bay, 1521;

Europeans arrive in SA, 1519;

Shakespeare's Globe Theater built outside London, 1599. He wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and other poems. Some 2000 English words were first used by him.

John Harington invents toilet in England but not widely used for centuries, 1596;

Zacharias Janssen builds first microscope, 1590;

Molecular Expressions, a microscopy site

Bernard Palissy suggests that fossils in the soil represent extinct forms of life, 1570;

Galileo, 1564-1642;

Shakespeare, 1564-1616;

Bartholomeo Eustachi, human anatomy, ~1560;

Andreas Vesalius publishes human anatomy text and displaces Galen as authority, 1543;

human anatomy illustrations from U of Toronto;

first pencil;

first Caesarian section;

first bottled beer;

first fork; Feeding Desire, eating utensils timeline

William Tyndale, beautiful translation of New Testament from original Greek and Hebrew into English. King Henry VIII's court found him guilty of heresy in 1536 and strangled him. King Henry's marital difficulties led to Protestantism in England and many translations of the Bible followed. In 1611, the King James version retained much of Tyndale's language.

Martin Luther and Reformation, demands nailed to Catolic church door, 1521, Bible translated into German, development of Protestantism;

Copernicus (1473-1543) and heliocentric universe;

vodka Spain into Philippines, build Manila;


360 million

Cahokia (Illinois) abandonded, probably due to deforestation and other environmental pressures.

Population of Americas as high as 100 million, more than Europe, before Old World diseases strike, 1491;

Machu Picchu occupied in Peru, Incan, 1450-1575;

great syphilis epidemic, 1495;

Christopher Columbus, 1451-1506; lands on San Salvador, 1492;

Standard =Modern English begins to form, 1480 (and would develop for ~300 years before being really recognizable);

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519;

Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468) and movable type, flatbed printing press in Germany, 1453. William Caxton ran the first press in England (1476). This technology led to efforts to standardize spelling so books could be widely read (at the time, there were over 500 different spellings of "through" and over 60 of "she.")

William Tell;

beginnings of ballet in Italy;

A wedding at Hvalsey Church in 1408 provides the last historical account from Greenland. 190 Viking settlements were deserted as the Little Ice Age began;

coffee first brewed Chinese encyclopedia of 22,937 vol (only 3 copies made);

Russians begin to explore Siberia;

The last palm tree is cut on Easter Island, the logs used to move and erect the 1000 giant stone images carved to honor various clan ancestry; on such a small island, those who cut this tree could see that it was the last, but they cut it anyway (Ronald Wright, "Fools' Paradise," Times Literary Supppl, 5303:16, 11-19-2004);


400 million

Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan; Dante’s Divine Comedy;

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) and Canterbury Tales, 1390, written in Middle English — has never been out of print.

Robin Hood;


John Wycliffe (d. 1384) organized the first English translation of the Latin Bible, ~ 1370. In 1415, he was condemned as a heretic. His bones were exhumed and burned.

Black Death, Pasteurella pestis, kills 75 million, including 1/3 of Europe's population at the time, 1350;


380 million

Aztec culture in Mexico;

complex Amazon society, Mato Grosso, Brazil, towns of up to 5,000, circular plazas, broad straight roads, bridges, moats, canals, and ponds, agriculture, pottery, and managed forest, 1250 - 1600 AD (Science, 301:1710-1714, 2003);

great drought and Anasazi disappear from American SW;

William of Ockham (1285-1349) argues for simplicity in all explanation;

first coal mine in England;

Marco Polo, 1254-1324;

earliest sections of what is now the Louvre Museum built, 1230;


idea of zero first appears in Europe;

rise of Islam in India;

Genghis Khan;

Humans to New Zealand.

Human population on Easter Island reaches 10,000 (on 66 square miles); eventually more than 1000 stone images or moai would be carved, the tallest 65 ft and 200 tons;


310 million

severe drought in western USA from 900 to 1300 (Science, 306:1015, 2004) crusades;

Notre Dame, Paris;

glass windows in England;


Oxford U founded, 1166;

King Henry II, first of the Plantagenets and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine crowned, 1154. English acquires new words from French, including language of romance, ushering in Age of Chivalry — legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table grows.

Kentish Homilies published, earliest example of a Middle English text, 1150;

playing cards Humans to Easter Island, most remote habitable land in world, 1,300 miles away from nearest neighbor (Science 311:1603, 2006);


280 million

Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, Anasazi.

Height of Mayan civilization in the Yucatan.

Erik the Red's son, Lief Eriksson, colonizes Newfoundland.

William the Conqueror and Normans (French of Norse ancestory) invade Britain and defeat King Harold and most of his earls at Battle of Hastings, 1066. Much French is incorporated into English and Latin components strengthened.

A supernova creates the Crab Nebula, 1054.


Harp arrives in Europe.

Consecration of Westminster Abbey.

Medieval Warm Period from 900 to 1300.

Brian Boru unites Ireland, 1002.

Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), Persian poet and astronomer;

Two-pronged fork in use in Byzantium.

Avicenna (b. 980) writes over 100 books of medicine and philosophy, including Canon of Medicine, which remained popular throughout western world into the 17th century.

Timbuktu grows from desert camp to permanent settlement and trade center on southern edge of Sahara (today, town of 15,000 in Mali).


First water-driven mechanical clock.


Toltecs move into the Yucatan Peninsula (formerly Mayan) and found their empire, 987.

Vikings colonize Greenland, Eric the Red;

Cahokia culture (Illinois) builds 4-sided, flat-topped pyramids — largest in Americas and larger footprint than any in Egypt.

Erik the Red colonizes Greenland, 985, during Medieval Warm Period (890 - 1170);

beer (with hops);

a London bridge;

Beowulf, greatest Old English poem;

St. Marks Cathedral, Venice;

organ with 400 pipes at Winchester Monastery;

Vikings colonize Iceland;

beginnings of Arabian A Thousand and One Nights;

Al-Azhar, world's oldest university, founded in Cairo.

flowering of rationalism among Arab Muslims, science, math, medicine;

Chinese encyclopedia of 1000 vol;

Cyrillic alphabet formed from Greek;


A variety of corn appropriate to American midwest introduced into Illinois and establishment of Cahokia on Mississippi R. Two or three hundred years later, this settlement would have 25,000 residents and be the most active population center north of the Rio Grande.

The Incan Empire, centered in Peru, was the largest in the Americas. It lacked a written language but used khipu, knotted strings, for record-keeping.

Oldest large-scale brewery in Peru: multi-room, supports for 20, 50-liter vessels, production of chicha from fruits and grain and spiced with pepper seeds (Science, 305:774, 2004).

urban centers of 60,000 people;

Alfred the Great rallies the English, beats the Danes at Ethandune, and saves the English language.

Charlemagne crowned first holy Roman Emperor;

Norse settle Iceland;

Vikings from Norway and Denmark overrun Britain with their Old Norse language.

crossbow in France;

earliest Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament; Medieval society of Angkor, a Khmer kingdom that covered much of today's Cambodia, Thailand, and southern Vietman, established — immense palaces, temples, and waterworks, population of hundreds of thousands, and Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Abandoned about 1500. Human emigration from central South Pacific into eastern — Cooks, Society Is., Marquesas, and Hawaii.


Casa Grande in Arizona;

turkeys domesticated;

Scribes begin to put spaces between words and to use capitalization and punctuation.
first printed newspaper


city of Teotihucan, Mexico, pop as much as 200,000; First English school at Canterbury;

Glass windows;

Old English script and alphabet of 24 letters formed from Roman alphabet.

Muhammad and Islam: at present, second largest religion:

Christianity—2 bil

Islam—1.3 bil

Hinduism—900 mil

Buddhism—360 mil

book printing;

petroleum used as fuel;

sophisticated plastic and other surgery in India;



Anasazi pottery, bow and arrow Augustine arrives in Kent in Britain with Church Latin and Greek and script writing (characters composed of flowing lines suitable for writing on parchment), 597.

King Arthur;

New Testament in Greek and Latin;

Rome falls;

decline of paganism gunpowder;

chess invented in India;


maize in NA Attila the Hun died, 453;

Venice founded by refugees from Attila’s Huns, 452;

The English language begins as a Germanic dialect, brought to Britain by warrier tribes (449) and by peaceful immigrant farmers, the Saxons, Angles, Jutes, and others — included runic writing (characters composed of straight lines, suitable for carving). The native Celtic languages survived in the Gaelic of Wales, Cornwall, and N. Scotland, and some Celtic words were absorbed into "Old English."

Romans depart England, 407;

Lowercase letters of the alphabet emerge as Roman capitals rendered in just one or two pen strokes, 300 - 800, and formalized in later Middle Ages when movable type was invented;

beginnings of alchemy


idea of zero first appears in Americas in Mayan carving, 357; Christianity state religion in Roman empire.

Bowling is religious ritual in German monasteries;

scrolls replaced by books;

beginning of transformation of Latin into Romance (as in "Rome") languages ~200 - 800 AD

Huns invade;

horse collar in China


Mayan script (800 pictures and syllable glyphs);

maize in NA;

Diophantus and first book on algebra, 250;
first windmills in Persia and China;


oldest Mayan monuments, 164; Galen (131-200), Greek physician;

Ptolemy (100-170) and geocentric universe;



world pop:

130 million

eastern woodland tribes in NA Pompeii buried, 79;

Romans learned use of soap, 50;

London founded, 43;

humans first into Madagascar;

100 BC

SW Anasazi in NA; Caesar invades Britain, 54 BC; Jesus Christ born, 4 BC; powdered chrysanthemum, insecticide, 100 BC;

Chinese dictionary of 10,000 characters, 149 BC;

200 BC

Mayan hieroglyphs, 250 BC; Greeks practice crop rotation, 250 BC;

Romans rule Italy, prelude to empire, 250 BC;

Euclid uses mathematical axioms and logical deduction for geometric proofs;

Archimedes, 287-212 BC;

Eratosthenes proves Earth is spherical and calculates circumference at 25,000 mi;

Baghdadis first harnessed electricity using clay pots lined with copper, 230 BC (Harper's Magazine,
Great Wall, 1,400 miles, 215 BC;

300 BC

Tobacco use documented in Vermont, 300 BC;

Mexican Sun Temple, world's third largest pyramid, built at Teotihuacan, a capitol city of 200, 000 people, 300 BC;

Euclid, 325-270 BC;

Aristotle, 384-322 BC, first to argue that logical reasoning could lead to an understanding of the universe;

Heraclides teaches heliocentric system, 350 BC;

first wall in China against Huns, 356 BC;

400 BC

Leucippus and Democritus present the earliest known version of atomic theory, that all matter is made up of tiny, indestructible particles, 499-300 BC;

Plato, 427-347 BC, focuses on logic, reason, the value of theory, and the nature of wisdom;

logical fallacies

Hippocrates (460-370 BC), Greek phsician;

History of Medicine

Socrates, 470-399 BC;

500 BC

Mayan civilization in Mexico; Pythagoras, 560-480 BC;

first Roman stone bridge;

public libraries in Athens;

Greek writing settles on left-to-right format (earlier, it ran either way);

Phoenicians circumnavigate Africa;

struggle in Middle East of monotheism over polytheism;

many books of Old Testament first written down in Hebrew;

Necho II of Egypt attempted unsuccessfully to dig a navigable canal from the Nile to the Red Sea;

Confucius in China, 551-479 BC;

Buddha in India, 563-483 BC, good and compassionate life leads to nirvana; again tolerance of multiple gods;

cataract surgery in India;

Aesop’s Fables;

tea brewed;

600 BC

Olmec culture in Central America, first written language in New World, glyphs dated to 650 BC; Thales(624-546 BC), founder of Greek science;

Spartans become unusually militaristic, boys trained from age 7 to fight to the death -- military leader in Greece;

Athens abolishes monarchy and focuses on commercial success;

Romans adopt Etruscan alphabet;

China enters iron age;

700 BC

Etruscans (Italy) copy Greek alphabet;

Rome founded 753 BC;

first recorded Olympic Games, 776 BC;

Celts into England;

prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea argue that religion is not only for the temple but for everyday life: love, justice, compassion for all; Hinduism begins to develop in India, yoga, impersonal divine power, trinity of Brahman, Shiva, and Vishnu, but tolerance of multiple gods;

800 BC

wood and reed huts in CA; Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, 800 BC;

Greek alphabet formed from Phoenician, 26 letters;

Assyrians learn to mount and ride horse; zero invented in India;

900 BC

Olmec culture at peak, Mexico;
Solomon reign over Israel, time of maximum territory and prosperity, 962-922 BC;

ancient Hebrew script formed from Phoenician alphabet, 950;

iron-working in Gabon, 961 BC;

1,000 BC

pop 50 million

Mexican Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacan;

plains tribes in NA;

midwest and eastern mounds in NA;

sunflower in NA;

tobacco seeds from cave in New Mexico dated to 1040 BC;

Olmec culture, Mexico, cities, first technologically complex society in the Americas, 1800 BC;

Trojan War, 1200 BC;

Iron Age, 1200 BC;

Zeus, god;

Santorini erupts on Greek isle of Thera spreading ash worldwide — frost-damaged trees in Ireland and California, 1625 BC;

distilled liquor in Greece;

Israelite Exodus from Egypt under Moses, 1200 BC;

carbonized iron or steel, 1300 BC;

Amenophis IV rules Egypt, first monotheist, renames himself Akhenaton or "servant of Aton, sun-god", 1379-1362 BC;

Hammurabi and first legal system, 1728 BC;

Abraham and grandson Jacob settled West Bank, 1800 BC, patriarchs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam;

contraceptives used;

Phoenicians copy Egyptian alphabet and make it their own;

four elements known: earth, air, fire, water;

Shang dynasty rules 5 million people, already most populous kingdom;

first Chinese dictionary;


use of horse and chariot in battle;

Humans begin to arrive in Polynesia and Micronesia;

The long delay seems to have been caused by the melting of the great ice sheets after the last glaciation and consequent high sea levels. The eastern Pacific islands were still under water. Still later, the removal of that weight of ice allowed the earth’s crust to rebound and shift, and the islands rose above the sea. As soon as they did, humans arrived to take advantage of the new living space.

Years Before Present (YBP)

pop 30 million

cotton cultivation in Peru;


beginnings of agriculture in eastern NA;

oldest New World astronomical observatory (and temple) found in Andean foothills of Peru, 4,200 YBP;

major urban society in Peru, 2900-1800 BC, one of world's few "cradles of civilization" eg. Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India (Science, 307:34, 2005);




weaving loom;

Stonehenge built between 3,000 and 1,500 BC;

rock carving of skiing in Norway;

agriculture spreads to Scandinavia;



first novel;

first library;

first calendar;

first New Year's resolution;

Old Kingdom pyramids;



irrigation along Nile;

Sumerian flood discovered by Woolley, 300 miles by 100 miles, 25 feet deep; possible origin of worldwide flood myth;

first phonetic alphabet formed by Semitic peoples in Egypt, just 27 symbols, one per sound rather than one per syllable or per word as earlier; ancestor of all Western scripts today;




5,000 YBP

pop 14 million





turkeys in NA;

second human migration from Asia, Eskimos;

construction begun on Hypogeum, an underground temple believed to be the oldest known human-made structure in the world— labyrinth of chambers and passageways carved in the limestone of Malta with simple bone and stone tools, 3,600 BC;

sheep, goats, cattle, pigs introduced;

wheel and plow;


potter’s wheel;

sorghum and donkey in Africa;

Egyptian city-states unify into first "nation"

first writing and start of "historic" age: Sumerian cuneiform in Middle East (over 400 signs each representing a syllable or word), hieroglyphics in Egypt ( about 700 signs), and Indus River script (but this one consists of relatively few signs and relatively short "texts" and might not be writing; (Science 306:2026, 2004);

Sumerian number systems based on 12, 60, and 360;

Physics Through the Centuries

After mid-Holocene humid period (~6,000 YBP), arid conditions developed and Sahara Desert formed —largest warm-climate desert on Earth— but desert conditions have come and gone there for at least 7 million years (Science 311:821, 2006);



mung beans

Chinese writing system eventually incorporates 60,000 logograms;

6,000 YBP

pop 10 million

Sumerians, first great civilized culture, cities of 100,000;



melons in Africa;

Proto-Indo-European spoken language -- later gave rise to Indian and to Romance, Germanic, Slavic, Celtic and other European languages;

horse domesticated;

wheat and buckwheat;


lactose-tolerance gene appears (and ability to digest milk as adult) between Urals and Volga R (Science, 306:1285, 2004); the gene is found in a variety of groups whose ancestors were herders;

7,000 YBP

pop 5 million

chili peppers;



llamas and alpacas;

wheat in Egypt;

Sumerians in M.E.

sailing ships;



horse domesticated;

banana in New Guinea

8,000 YBP

sea level rise separates Britain from continent cattle;


rafts used on rivers;


flax perhaps first crop grown other than for food (linen);

arboriculture in Thailand;

evidence of dental work in Pakistan, holes drilled in molars with sharpened flint points;

9,000 YBP

9,400 year-old Kennewick Man, one of oldest skeletons in NA, discovered in 1996;

maize and squash first domesticated in Mexico;

potato in SA

Middle East agriculture spreads to Europe; metalworking;

sheep and goats;

pigs domesticated;


city-states established along Euphrates and Nile rivers;

first city: Çatal Hüyük in Turkey;

Jericho, 10 acres and 2500 population;

chickens agriculture in New Guinea

10,000 YBP

most large mammals extinct, mammoths, camels, mastodons, horse, etc.
Jericho, first walled town;

barley for ale;

wheat first domesticated in Middle East;

You can recognize domesticated grain in that wild seed heads shatter easily and leave smooth abscission scars, while domestic cereals need to be threshed and leave jagged scars.


cats domesticated by this time in Cyprus (Science 304:189, 2004);

Sahara gradually changes from grassland to desert;

rice grown in paddies in China

11,000 YBP

last of ice age glaciers retreat worldwide; sea levels rise, isolating Britain, Japan, Tasmania; creation of Eden myth reflecting transition from freedom of hunting/gathering to servatude of agriculture;

figs domesticated, 11, 400 YBP — "oldest evidence for deliberate planting of a food-producing plant" Science 312:1292, 2006;

development of agriculture in Fertile Crescent between Tigris and Euphrates rivers and independently along the banks of the Nile;

Science of Gardening

evidence of algae in diet;

development of agriculture in China;

12,000 YBP

goats domesticated;

bow and arrow;

first pottery;

13,000 YBP

Clovis Man;

14,000 YBP

Nenana culture in Alaska;

stone tools in Allendale Co SC;

human colonization of the Americas across the Bering Land Bridge;

dog first domesticated from ancient wolves, 12,000-135,000 years ago (Science, 298:1540, 2002); earliest known dog burial, 14,000 years ago in Germany;

hunting and gathering;

15,000 YBP

possible pre-Clovis site in Chile

16,000 YBP

Famous cave paintings at Altair, Spain, 16,000 ybp;

Sophisticated rock art in Australia, called the Bradshaw paintings after their discoverer in 1891;

17,000 YBP

18,000 YBP

controversial human site at Cactus Hill, VA, 18,000 ybp;
big game hunting in South Africa
Homo floresiensis, small (3 ft.) decendent of H. erectus (as is Homo sapiens) still present in Indonesia until about 18,000 years ago;

How remarkable, for we know that full-sized Homo sapiens reached Australia and New Guinea long before, that most large mammals then went extinct, and that humans exterminated competing humans even more vigorously than they have non-human mammals. How did the floresiensis survive the coming of sapiens? (see Science 306:789 & 2047, 2004; 307:1386, 2005; 308:242, 2005)

19,000 YBP

20,000 YBP

grinding stone in Isreal used to mill barley and wheat: first evidence of processed food, 22,000 YBP (Science, 305:940, 2004);

maximum glacial advance, 20,000 - 25,000 ybp Neanderthals disappeared, 30,000 YBP;

Paleolithic human settlement on Yana R. in Siberia, near Alaska, 30,000 ybp The Cave of Chauvet, with paintings 31,000 years old.

the oldest musical instrument, flutes fashioned from bird bones, found in Germany, 32,000 ybp (but first instruments probably more perishable and much older) (Science 306:1120, 2004)

cave paintings, 40,000;

bead decoration in Africa, 42,0000; first hints of culture, perhaps of language that dealt with more than the immediate present;

Genetic evidence of major back-migration from Asia into Africa, 50,000 YBP;
humans into New Guinea, 45,000; most large animals extinct in Australia, 46,000

the successful expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa beginning about 60,000 years ago, from National Geographic; humans arrive in China, 60,000 humans arrive in Australia, 56,000

Homo sapiens skulls found in Israel, 90,000 YBP;

snail-shell bead jewelry, found in east Africa, 75,000 YBP (Science, 304:404, 2004)

oldest known jewelry, snail-shell beads in Isreal, 115,000 YBP (Science News, 170#2:30, 7/8/06)

Homo sapiens in eastern Africa, 160,000 YBP Third expansion of Homo from Africa into Asia between 150,000 and 80,000 YBP

Homo erectus extinct, 250,000 YBP

pop 1 million

grammatical language, 300,000 YBP hackberry seeds roasted and eaten

Neanderthal Man split from modern humans, first humans to bury their dead, 350,000 YBP;

first to discover gods?

Homo disappears from Britain during ice ages. No further continuous presence until 12,000 YBP.

Homo, Boxgrove Man, in England, 500,000 YBP

Homo sapiens emerging from Homo erectus, 500, 000 YBP

first of series of ice ages; Homo makes shelters of rock and hides, uses caves, 600,000 YBP

Homo in England, tools, 700,000 YBP
Second expansion of Homo from Africa into Asia between 840,000 and 420,000 YBP
pop 100,000
Homo erectus in Europe, 1.2 million YBP

Tautavel man in France

Australopithicus extinct, 1 million YBP

fire used, 1.5 million YBP; no other genus than Homo has been able to use fire. Stone tools in China dated at 1.36 million YBP

Homo erectus in M.E., better stone tools, big-game hunting, 1.7 million YBP Homo erectus in China and Java

graphic from Science, 308:1554, 2005)

Homo develops long-distance or endurance running ability, possibly allowing more effective scavenging. A modern human can "actually outrun a pony easily." Early humans, apes, and other mammals cannot endurance run. 2 million YBP (Science, 306:1283, 2004)

Homo in Africa, increased brain size, stone tools, 2.5 million YBP;

Comparative Mammal Brain Sizes

Brain Survey

Australopithicus afarensis

the fossil Lucy and 13 others, the "First Family," 3.2 million YBP

footprints found by Mary Leakey at Laetoli, clearly upright stride, 3.6 million YBP

Australopithicus anamensis

80 fossils found near Lake Turkana, well forested at the time, erect posture but grasping big toe like chimp, 4.1 million YBP

Ardipithecus ramidus

erect posture but thick tooth enamel like chimp, 4.4 million YBP

humans, S-shaped spinal column and fully upright posture, 5 million YBP

Some advantages of an erect posture—
  • carry food home
  • look over the tall savannah grasses
  • wade in deeper water
  • less exposure to the sun (skin pigmentation and hair on head additional protection)
  • more heat dissipation

Our great-great…(250,000 greats)… grandparents gave rise to both humans and chimpanzees, 6 million YBP.
  • hairy
  • small brain
  • knuckle walker
  • climbed trees— savannah, not forest
  • squat feeder
  • tool user and maker
  • fruit-eater, occasional hunter
  • local cultures, eg. tool and grooming habits

Tool use is not so unusual—birds use thorns to pry insects out of bark; even spiders use their webs—but tool manufacture and tool transport for future use is rare in the Animal kingdom—only humans and apes?

Sahelanthropus tchadensis, oldest known hominid?, walked upright, found in Chad in 2001, and dated to 7 million YBP (Science, 308:179, 2005);

common ancestor of humans and gorillas, 7 million YBP;

evolution/ creationism

Eon, Era,
and Period

(for more detail, visit the International Commission on Stratigraphy or The Smithsonian Institution)

Cenozoic Era
Neogene (late Tertiary/ Quaternary Period
(23 - present)
relatively complete fossil of a tree-dwelling great ape found in Spain, showing a muzzleless face and upright posture, 13 million YBP (Science, 306:1339, 2004)

common ancestor of human and orangutan, 14 million YBP — Lufengpithecus, Oreopithecus, Sivapithecus (Ramapithecus), Dryopithecus, Ouranopithecus, Kenyapithecus in Africa or Asia?

global cooling and current Antarctic ice sheet begins to form, 14 million YBP (Science, 305:1766, 2004)

great apes (e.g. gorilla) appear, 17 million YBP

Our one-million-greats grandparents were small, tree-dwelling apes, and they gave rise to the gibbons, other apes, and humans, 18 million YBP

first grasses appear, ancestors of our cereal grains, 20 million YBP

Grand Canyon excavated by Colorado River, up to 30 million YBP

Cenozoic Era
Palaeogene (early Tertiary) Period
(65 - 23)
Old-World Monkeys and hominoids (apes (pongids) and humans (hominids)) diverge, 25 - 30 million YBP

primates develop large brains, enhanced vision, finger and toe nails, and grasping hands and feet (Science, 298:1606, 2002)

diversification of bats, the only mammals capable of powered flight and use of echolocation to track prey: 18 extant and 6 extinct families known, and with 1000 species known, the second largest order in the class Mammalia (rodents are first) (Science, 307:527, 2005)

Antarctica separates from South America, connecting Atlantic and Pacific and allowing polar currents that blocked warm tropical currents. Temperatures plunged, and forest gave way to ice cap, 40 million YBP

New-World Monkeys and other monkeys & hominoids diverge (our 3-million-greats grandparent) in Africa and later raft the short distance (at that time) to South America, 40 million YBP

dominance of land by mammals, birds, and insects, 50 million YBP; Age of Mammals

Ice core measurements show high carbon dioxide levels (1000 ppm) and sea levels about 50 meters higher than present, 50 million YBP

Cetaceans (whales) evolve from even-toed, ungulate land ancestor (currently most closely related to hippos), 54 million YBP. Many fossils about this age have been found of hippo-like terrestrial animals and, at the same time, long, streamlined-bodied, whale-like aquatic animals with legs and feet. The earliest of these spent part of their time on land. Later species were more and more aquatic and the legs increasingly vestigial.

during continental drift, India colides with Eurasia and lifts Tibetan Plateau to 5,000 meters, 50 million YBP; Mt. Everest reaches to 8,850 meters (29,035 feet)

Tarsiers and other monkeys & hominoids diverge, maybe in North America, 58 million YBP

Lemurs and the rest of the primates diverge (our 7-million-greats grandparent), 63 million YBP

building of ancestral Rocky Mountains, NA still attached to Eurasia, SA split from Africa, Australia split from Antarctica, 65 million YBP

The small "shrew-like" mammals diversify into myriad modern forms, and once the dinosaurs disappeared, it happened fast, over about 5 million years.

Virtual Fossil Museum

Cretaceous Period
(145 - 65)
asteroid or comet impact near Yucatan Peninsula and major extinction — ~10% taxonomic families disappear, including dinosaurs, 65 million YBP

first primates — "tree-shrew-like" — 70 million YBP

common ancestor of rodents, rabbits, and primates, 75 million YBP

The order Rodentia (rat, mouse, beaver, squirrel, gopher, porcupine, guinea pig …) has been strikingly successful. Over 40% (about 2000) of all mammal species are rodents, making them the largest mammalian order. It is even estimated that there are more individual rodents than all other mammals combined.

India separates from Madagascar and moves rapidly north, 90 million YBP

flowering plants arise, 100 million YBP — USGS Botany siteBotany Photo of the Day from the U of British Columbia Botanical Garden

first snakes

Animal Sounds from the British Museum

Jurassic Period
(200 - 145)
first Archaeopteryx fossil discovered in 1861: carnivorous dinosaur skeleton but feathers and brain of bird, 147 million YBP (Science, 305:764, 2004)

North America separating from rest of Laurasia, Atlantic Ocean beginning to form (S America still attached to Africa), 150 million YBP

The length of a day was only 22 hours (Earth's rotation has been slowing down due to Moon's gravitational tug and sloshing of tides.

first ants, 150 million YBP

Madagascar & India separate from Africa, 165 million YBP

dinosaurs abundant; first birds; building of Sierra Mountains of California, 175 million YBP

Dino Directory

monotremes, marsupials, and placental mammals diverge

first lizards

Mesozoic Era
Triassic Period
(251 - 200)
major extinction — ~10% taxonomic families disappear

Continental drift separates Pangaea into two parts, Laurasia & Gondwanaland — climate very warm — 200 million YBP

Earth's continents connected in one supercontinent called Pangaea, 225 million YBP

Age of Reptiles

Permian Period
(299 -251)
millennia-long volcanic eruptions and/or monster meteorite or comet and greatest of all mass-extinctions — 95% of all species extinct — 250 million YBP

coniferous forests

building of ancestral Appalachian Mountains

Pennsylvanian Period
(320 - 299)
major extinction — ~50% taxonomic families disappear

first mammals, 300 million YBP

first reptiles — Center for NA Herpetology

coal swamps

Mississippian Period
(359 - 320)
Age of Amphibians, 310 million YBP; AmphibiaWeb

Fern forests

land snails

Devonian Period
(416 - 359)
major extinction — ~20% taxonomic families disappear

first amphibians — 365 million YBP

fossil Tiktaalik found, four-foot fish with a flexible neck and wrist and finger bones in its fins — 385 million YBP

Age of Fishes, cartilaginous and bony

Devonian Times

Silurian Period
(444 - 416)
first insects — If number of described species (~ one million) or number of known families (over 1200) is a measure of success, then this is the most successful group of all time. (Of the ~1.7 million species ever described, 9,000 are birds and 5,000 are mammals.)

Dragonflies of NA

Ordovician Period
(488 - 444)
major extinction -- ~20% taxonomic families disappear

earliest vascular plant fossils, 460 million YBP

crustaceans and molluscs abundant

Phanerozoic Eon
Paleozoic Era
Cambrian Period
(542 - 488)
first land animals (arthropods), plants, and fungi, 500 million YBP

first vertebrates (3 cm fish), 530 million YBP (Science, 305:1893, 2004)

first Chordates

beginning of Cambrian animal diversification, 542 million YBP;

Ediacaran Period
(600 - 542)
every animal phylum in existence except Chordata (our own phylum)

Higher Taxanomic Categories

earliest complex macroscopic organisms—no skeletal hard parts (Ediacaran fossil embryos, burrows, and trails: cnidaria & bilateria?), 575 million YBP

fossil lichen (fungi/algae symbiosis), 600 million YBP (Science, 308:1017, 2005)

famous fossil sites

Proterozoic Eon
Neoproterozoic Era
(1000 to 600 MYA)
first animals (Poriferans [e.g. sponges] Diploblasts [e.g. jellyfish]), 625 million YBP

oxygen levels rise

glaciation coated earth from pole to pole, 635 million YBP (Science, 308:787, 2005) Snowball Earth

first tracheophytes (vascular plants), 700 million YBP

fossil fungi dated at 850 million YBP

Proterozoic Eon
Mesoproterozoic Era
(1.6 to 1.0 BYA)
first fungi, 1 billion YBP

origin of multicellular life, 1.2 billion YBP

jellyfish; siphonophores;

Proterozoic Eon
Palaeoproterozoic Era
(2.5 to 1.6 BYA)
origin of eukaryotic life, kingdom Protista, symbiotic heterotrophic bacteria becoming mitochondria and autotrophic bacteria becoming chloroplasts, 2.1 billion YBP

oxygen levels reach 1 ppm, 2.4 billion YBP

Archean Eon
Palaeoarchaean Era
(2.8 to 2.5 BYA)
cyanobacteria and photosynthesis; oxygen beginning to be introduced into atmosphere by means of oxidation of water, 2.7 billion YBP
Archean Eon
Palaeoarchaean Era
(3.2 to 2.8 BYA)
Archean Eon
Palaeoarchaean Era
(3.6 to 3.2 BYA)
oldest fossils, 3.5 billion YBP (Science 304:503, 2004)

Paleobiology Artwork from the Smithsonian

oldest evidence of life, 3.8 billion YBP

origin of life, kingdom Eubacteria, 4 billion? YBP, kingdom Archaea bit later; Tree Of Life Project

Microbiology from the Community College of Baltimore County

Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin

Microbial Life from Woods Hole & Montana State U

life elsewhere in the Universe?

Archean Eon
Eoarchaean or Hadean Era
(4.6 to 3.6 BYA)
Outer planets disturb asteroid belt and cause bodies to crater Moon and inner planets, 3.9 billion YBP

Mars-sized object hits Earth and forms Moon.

Earth formed, 4.6 billion YBP

A cloud of gas and dust 15 billion miles in diameter began to condense. Most of it (99.9%) became our Sun. The rest coalesced by electorstatic forces into the planets.

Stars begin to form about 400 million years after Big Bang. Elements larger than hydrogen, helium, and lithium appear.
Big Bang, 13-14 billion YBP, dated from expansion rate in 1997 (a light poem). During this "bang" the matter of the universe expanded from the size of a marble to billions of light-years across in 10-35 seconds. The theory was first advanced in 1927 by Belgian astronomer, Georges Edward Lemaitre (1894 - 1966) and named "big bang" in 1948 by Russian-American physicist, George Gamow (1904 - 1968). It is estimated that there are about 400 billion stars in the Milky Way and 140 billion galaxies in the still-expanding universe. (If all the stars in the universe were the size of the head of a pin, they still would fill Miami's Orange Bowl to overflowing more than 3 billion times. — Bill Bryson, quoted by George F. Will)

Windows to the Universe

Some General References:

Kimball's Biology Pages by John W. Kimball, 2005.

1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 2005.

The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2004.

Milestones of Science, AAAS, Washington, DC, 2004.

The Adventure of English, the Biograph of a Language by Melvyn Bragg, Arcade Publ, NY, 2003.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Broadway Books, NY, 2003.

Language Visible by David Sacks, Broadway Books, NY, 2003;

"Origins of Personal Computing," M.M. Waldrop, Scientific American, p 84-91, Dec, 2001.

The Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild C. Ornelas, eds, Dambridge University Press, 2000.

Biology, Neil A. Campbell et al, Benjamin Cummings, 1999.

How Many People Can the Earth Support?, Joel E. Cohen, WW Norton & Co., 1995.

A History of God, the 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Karen Armstrong, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Asimov's Chronology of the World, Isaac Asimov, HarperCollins, 1991.

The Narrative History of Union County South Carolina, Allan D. Charles, The Reprint Co., 1987.

The Timetables of History, A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events, by Bernard Grun, Simon and Schuster, 1979.

South Carolina, A Short History, 1520-1948, by David D. Wallace, USC Press, 1961.

Harold F. Sears, Boulder, CO; email: hfsears@isp01.net

Page last modified: 9/23/06