• George H. Shaw
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


When looking at events with a geological perspective a “moment” might be a very long period of time. The events discussed here range in absolute time from seconds or days to as long as tens of millions of years. The geologic record is very sparse for extremely old events on Earth, and virtually non-existent for times before the solar system formed. The earliest events, such as the Big Bang origin of the Universe, production of heavy elements in stars, and the formation of the Sun and Solar System can only be understood by general principles of physics, with observation of the current state and activity on astrophysical scales. This early (astro)physical viewpoint shifts to considerations of chemistry and biochemistry even before we arrive at the point where there is a geological record preserved in rocks. Past that point we can describe several important transition points where life turned a corner, and subsequent history of the planet and life entered a new phase. There were bursts of biological innovation and maybe extinction events before we arrived at our current state. What the future holds may well depend on how we apply what we have been able to learn about the past, and how life has responded to changed conditions.


Astrophysics Chemistry Biochemistry Geology Extinctions 

Suggested Reading

  1. The following readings are of a general nature, covering broad aspects of the origin and history of life. A few cover certain specific aspects in detail greater than that attempted in this small book. Several cover larger philosophical issues. There are additional reading suggestions given at the end of most of the chapters which look more deeply into the chapter topic. In most cases I have tried to find readings accessible to the general reader, but in a few instances I have also included references to more technical works.Google Scholar
  2. The Meaning of Evolution, George Gaylord Simpson, 1967, Yale U. Press.Google Scholar
  3. Life at the Edge, Readings from Scientific American, James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould, eds., 1989, Freeman & Co.Google Scholar
  4. The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins, 1987, W.W. Norton Co.Google Scholar
  5. Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth, Richard Fortey, 1999, Vintage.Google Scholar
  6. The Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan, 1977, Random House.Google Scholar
  7. Major Events in the History of Life, J. William Schopf, ed., 1992, Jones and Bartlett.Google Scholar
  8. Life Evolving, Christian de Duve, 2002, Oxford.Google Scholar
  9. Life Ascending, Nick Lane, 2009, Norton.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • George H. Shaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Geology DepartmentUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

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