Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso

Geological Timescale

  • Felix M. Gradstein
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_642-3


The Geologic Time Scale is the framework for deciphering and understanding the long and complex history of the Earth. Understanding the physical, chemical, and biological processes since the Earth formed requires a detailed and accurate timescale. The timescale is the tool “par excellence” of the geological trade (Gradstein et al. 2004; Ogg et al. 2008).


British geologist Arthur Holmes (1890–1965) was the first to combine radiometric ages with geologic formations in order to create a geologic timescale. His book, The Age of the Earth (1913, 2nd edition 1937), written when he was only 22, had a major impact on those interested in geochronology. For his pioneering scale, Holmes carefully plotted four radiometric dates, one in the Eocene and three in the Paleozoic from radiogenic helium and lead in uranium minerals against estimates of the accumulated maximum thickness of Phanerozoic sediments. If we ignore sizable error margins, the base of Cambrian interpolates at...


Geologic Time Scale Rock Record Geologic Timescale Radiogenic Helium Boundary Stratotypes 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Gradstein FM, Ogg JG, Smith AG, Agterberg FP, Bleeker W, Cooper RA, Davydov V, Gibbard P, Hinnov L, House MR, Lourens L, Luterbacher HP, McArthur J, Melchin MJ, Robb LJ, Shergold J, Villeneuve M, Wardlaw BR, Ali J, Brinkhuis H, Hilgen FJ, Hooker J, Howarth RJ, Knoll AH, Laskar J, Monechi S, Powell J, Plumb KA, Raffi I, Röhl U, Sadler P, Sanfilippo A, Schmitz B, Shackleton NJ, Shields GH, Strauss H, Van Dam J, Van Kolfschoten T, Veizer J, Wilson D (2004) A geologic time scale 2004. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 589, 200 figs and tablesGoogle Scholar
  2. International Commission of Stratigraphy (ICS) geological timescale at http://www.stratigraphy.org/
  3. Ogg JG, Ogg G, Gradstein FM (2008) The concise geologic time scale. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 177 pGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OsloBlindemNorway