Timeline of
Evolution and Paleontology
Science Late 20th Century

Timeline : Late 20th Century

1950: Barbara McClintock publishes evidence of movable genes called transposable elements (EvoWiki).

1951: Alfred Rittmann links subduction, volcanism and the Wadati-Benioff zone. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1953: Maurice Ewing and Bruce Heezen discover the Great Global Rift running along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1953: Francis Crick and James Watson publish a paper describing the structure of DNA, creating the field of molecular biology (EvoWiki).

1953: First volume of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (or TIP) published by the Geological Society of America and the University of Kansas Press, edited by Raymond C. Moore, appears in print - Part G. Bryozoa, by Ray S. Bassler

1954: A. S. Romer publishes his legendary work, Osteology of the Reptiles, a book whose masterly scholarship future students of the subject are forever indebted to (EvoWiki).

1954: The Japanese sci fi movie Godzilla (American release 1956) portrays a huge dinosaur-like prehistoric creature that go on rampages after being awakened by atomic bomb tests, creating one of the most charismatic and recognisable monster-heros of the modren world. Ironically, Godzilla is a more sympathetic figure than the demonic raptors of Crichton and Speilberg's Jurassic Park more than a quarter of a century later. The 1998 American remake of Godzilla takes itself much too seriously and is a huge dissapointment (MAK)

1956: de Beer presents compelling evidence for the neotenic status of the paleognathous palate in a monographic treatment of ratite evolution (EvoWiki).

The March of Progress1956: The March of Progress, one of the most iconic scientific illustrations ever produced, drawn by Rudolph Zallinger fpr Time-Life Books Early Man volume more

1959: Mary Leakey discovers "Nutcracker Man", Australopithecus boisei (EvoWiki).

1960: Homo habilis is discovered in Tanzania by the Leakeys. Initially, four specimens are recovered (EvoWiki).

1960: Harry Hess proposes that new sea floor might be created at mid-ocean rifts and destroyed at deep sea trenches. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1960: The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr. reinvigorated the creationist movement. (Wikipedia). Young Earth Creationism, which claims scientific credentials, make the rather extraordinary claim that the entire geological column, with the complete fossil record it contains, is an aberration of Noah's flood!  (this is known as flood geology - link wikipedia; link evowiki) The reasoning goes like this: dinosaurs were slower and clumbsier than mammals; they could not escape the rushing waters and were quickly overwelmed; thus their fossils occur in lower (Mesozoic) rocks. The agile mammals and birds made it to higher ground before they too were swept away; their remains thus occur in higher (Cenozoic) rocks. And so on. Disproof of this thesis is easy and has already been pointed out by Stephen Jay Gould and others. Pterosaurs could fly; some dinosaurs were very agile, some mammals very slow. Why aren't fossil sloths found with brontosaurs, hypsilophodons (a fast running dinosaur) with gazelles, and pteranodons with albatrosses? And what about invertebrates and marine life?  A single modern mammal in Cambrian rocks would be sufficent to disprove evolution - none has been found. Links: The Talk Origins Archive - Exploring the Creation-Evolution Controversy - gives good arguments refuting Creationism. The arguments can also applies to other poor alternatives like Anthroposophy and Brahma Kumaris (Raja Yoga). See especially: The Age of the Earth by Chris Stassen - refutation of the Creationist arguments for a young Earth. MAK980528 MAK110419.

1963: Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews explain the stripes of magnetized rocks with alternating magnetic polarities running parallel to mid- ocean ridges as due to sea floor spreading and the periodic geomagnetic field reversals (Vine–Matthews–Morley hypothesis). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1964: William D. Hamilton formulates inclusive fitness and kin selection (EvoWiki).

1964: John H. Ostrom discovers Deinonychus antirrhopus from late Lower Cretaceous sediments of the Cloverly Formation, in Montana (EvoWiki).

1965: Rudolph Zallinger's iconic March of Progress appears in the Time-Life Book Early Man. One of the most iconic scientific illustrations ever produced, , depicting a line of human evolutionary forebears as if marching in a parade from left to right, and copied and parodied countless times

1966: George C. Williams publishes his Adpation and Natural Selection, effectivly putting to rest the ostensible role of group selection in evolutionary history (EvoWiki). Williams strongly critiqued explanations of adaptations worded in terms of "survival of the species" (group selection arguments). Such explanations were largely replaced by a gene-centered view of evolution, epitomized by the kin selection arguments of W. D. Hamilton, George R. Price and John Maynard Smith. (Wikipedia)

1966: Keiiti Aki discovers the seismic moment (M0). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1966: Cladistic methodology for phylogenetic reconstruction gains popularity following the translation of German entomologist Willi Hennig's tome, Phylogenetic Systematics (EvoWiki).

1966: British fantasy film One Million Years B.C. that helped popularise the idea that cavemen and dinosaurs lived at the same time. The movie, with an utterly forgettable storyline, was made famous by Raquel Welch in a fur bikini. Special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen used stop motion photography to recreate the dinosaurs. The movie was a remake of a 1940 Hollywood film of the same name. The influence of Conan Doyle's The Lost World is obvious in all these movies. It was released in the United States in 1967.

1969: Ostrom describes Deinonychus antirrhopus, sparking a revolution in dinosaur paleontology and single-handedly resurrecting the theropod origin of birds (EvoWiki).

1969: American western-fantasy film The Valley of Gwangi features a cowboy and dinosaur mash up (perhaps analogous to the more recent Cowboys and Aliens). It was filmed in Technicolor and is known for its creature effects provided by Ray Harryhausen, being the last prehistoric-themed film he animated. Wikipedia

1970: The Ghugua Fossil Park set up in Madhya Pradesh, India after the discovery of plant and fish fossils found in the area (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1972: Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge first argue for a drastically modified concept of punctuated equilibrium, in which bradytely is discounted. They argued that there was a pattern of fossil species that remained largely unchanged for long periods (stasis), interspersed with relatively brief periods of rapid change during speciation (EvoWiki, Wikipedia).

1973:, Leigh Van Valen proposed the term "Red Queen", which he took from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, to describe a scenario where a species involved in one or more evolutionary arms races would have to constantly change just to keep pace with the species with which it was co-evolving. Hamilton, Williams and others suggested that this idea might explain the evolution of sexual reproduction: the increased genetic diversity caused by sexual reproduction would help maintain resistance against rapidly evolving parasites, thus making sexual reproduction common, despite the tremendous cost from the gene-centric point of view of a system where only half of an organism's genome is passed on during reproduction. The gene-centric view has also led to an increased interest in Darwin's old idea of sexual selection, and more recently in topics such as sexual conflict and intragenomic conflict. (Wikipedia)

1974: Donald Johanson and Tom Gray discover a 3.5 million-year-old female hominid fossil that is 40% complete and name it "Lucy". (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1974: Bakker and Galton propose the monophyly of the Dinosauria, rekindling a notion discredited in the modernist consensus on archosaur phylogeny (EvoWiki).

1975, E.O. Wilson published the influential and highly controversial book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis which claimed evolutionary theory could help explain many aspects of animal, including human, behavior. (Wikipedia)

1975: Allan Wilson and Marie-Claire King discover the astonishing similarity between human and chimp DNA (EvoWiki).

1976: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins summarizes and popularizes the gene-centered view of evolution

1977: Walter Gilbert & Frederick Sanger devise methods for sequencing DNA (EvoWiki).

1977: Carl Woese defines Archaebacteria by molecular phylogeny of 16S ribosomal RNA, a technique pioneered by Woese and now standard practice (Wikipedia)

1978: term "Epic of Evolution" used by Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson to refer to a 'myth' in the sense of a grand narrative that provides a people with a meaningful placement in time, (Wikipedia)

1979: Austrian astrophysicist Erich Jantsch lectures in System Science at the University of California in Berkely, tthe following year these were expanded and published as The Self-Organizing Universe by Pergamon Press, providing a unifying evolutionary paradigm that incorporates cosmology, biology, sociology, psychology, and consciousness.

1979: Thomas C. Hanks and Hiroo Kanamori, Moment magnitude scale (MW), it succeeds the Richter magnitude scale. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1980: Physicist Luis Alvarez, his son geologist Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel propose that that the impact of a large extraterrestrial object such as a giant comet or asteroid may have struck the Earth approximately 65 million years ago thereby causing massive extinctions (including the extinction of the dinosaurs) and enriching the iridium in the K-T boundary. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology, Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1983: Phil Gingerich discovers the oldest known whale, Pakicetus (EvoWiki).

1984: Hou Xianguang discovers the Chengjiang Cambrian fossil site. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1984: The International Archaeopteryx Conference convenes in Eichstatt, Germany (EvoWiki).

1986: Monophyly of Dinosauria becomes widely accepted following the work of Jacques Gauthier (EvoWiki).

1986: The Phylogenetic Species Concept is first elaborated. (EvoWiki).

1986: The first Antarctic dinosaur to be discovered, the ankylosaurid Antarctopelta oliveroi, was found on Ross Island

1988: Greg Paul's Predatory Dinosaurs of the World provides the first "field guide" to dinosaurs informed by the new feathered, endothermic proto-bird dinosaur renaissance paradigm of dinosaur physiology and evolution, as well as introducing Paul's magnificent iconographic skeleton drawings. Aimed at a popular audience, yet scientifically rigorous, this book shaped the imagination and ideas of a generation of paleo geeks (much as the artwork of Charles R Knight and Zdenek Burian had the previous generation), and remains a foundational work of modern popular paleontology. It also informed part of the Jurassic Park novel, as indicated by acknowledgement from author Michael Crichton.

1989: Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life, the first popular account of the Cambrian Explosian and the Burgess Shale. Gould was very opposed to any concept of ascent, and uncompromising rejected the idea of evolution as leading to intelligence or higher forms of life. Later Simon Conway Morris would present a counter argument. (MAK)

1980s Protein sequencing and cladistics changed the study of taxonomy by uniting molecular evolution with evolutionary biology (which had previously relied on traditional taxonomic methods such as morphology). Modern polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques increased the speed of genetic analysis and discovery of greater numbers of genes, making it easier to sequence complete genomes. (Aukland Uni)

1990: Coates and Clack describe Acanthostega gunnari, the most basal stem-tetrapod (EvoWiki).

1990: Carl Woese proposes the three-domain system (Eubacteria, Archaea, Eucarya)

1990: Michael Crichton publishes the sci fi thriller novel Jurassic Park, about cloned dinosaurs that run wild, wreaking havoc on an isolated island. Crichton either was directly influenced by, or indepedently arrived at a very similar premise, to John Brosnan's Carnosaur, a 1984 horror novel full of gratuitous gore, about theropod dinosaurs running amock. The science of Jurassic Park was actually based on a very plausible hypothesis of the time - that dinosaurs could be cloned from their DNA in the stomachs of gnats and mosquitos embedded in amber, although it was discovered that DNA quickly degrades in amber so the hard science premise is unviable (there are also inaccuracies regarding the way the dinosars are described).

1990: The Discovery Institute, a non-profit free market Christian think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of intelligent design creationism.

1991: Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson initiated the intelligent design movement at the popular level. (Wikipedia)

1992: Eco-theologian Thomas Berry and and astro-physicist Brian Swimme's The Universe Story From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos, published. This work, and others by scientists, religionists, and popular writers, that follow it, have been inspired by Teilhard de Chardin to develop a religious perspective on cosmic evolution and complexification, although at the same time rejecting Teilhard's metaphysical and eschatological ideas (Omega Point, Christogenesis, etc) and his excessive anthropocentrism. These authors use terms such as New Story, Universal Story, Great Story, and Everybody's Story, and argue that science and religious faith are not mutually exclusive. The epic of cosmic, biological, and human evolution, revealed by science, becomes the basis for an inspiring and meaningful view of our place in the universe, replacing the old supernatural model such as the literal account of Genesis. More

1993: Steven Speilberg's Jurassic Park, based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name, was the first popular movie to break away from the convention set by Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World with co-existing humans and dinosaurs, and, like Chrichton, attempt to portray dinosurs in a more realistic manner. The movie, as successful in its own time as Conan Doyle's book and radio adaptations was in his, leads to an entire franchise of books, films and video games centered on a fictional theme park populated with cloned and revived dinosaurs. The story not unexpectedly focused on presenting theropod dinosaurs, especially overgrown velociraptors, as evil scary monsters chasing the protagonists around the theme park, turning door knobs and opening doors. Neverthless, the movie helped popularise dinosaurs among the general public, and played a significant part in raising public awareness of Bob Bakker's dinosaur renaissance; for the first time in a major film, dinosaurs were portrayed as intelligent, agile, warm-blooded animals; although not without scientific implausibilities, such as Bakker's 60 kph Tyrannosaurus. How Crichton and Speilberg missed the feathered dinosaurs already present in Greg Paul's Predatory Dinosaurs is not clear, but the unfortunate result is that many people still think of dinosaurs as scaly reptiles.. (MAK)

Early 1990s: (more accurate date to be confirmed) UCMP website established. This was one of the very first sites devoted to paleo subjects, and for many years provided the most comprehensive and readable coverage on the topic

1994: The discovery of Ambulocetus natans, the walking whale, is announced by Hans Thewissen (EvoWiki).

1994: The Tree of Life Web Project established. The Tree of Life, or ToL, is an ongoing collaborative peer reviewed Internet project providing information about the diversity and phylogeny of life on Earth

1994-5: The TalkOrigins Archive began in 1994 when Brett J. Vickers collected several separately posted FAQs from the talk.origins newsgroup and made them conveniently available from a single anonymous FTP site. In 1995, Vickers created the TalkOrigins Archive web site. (Wikipedia)

1996: Michael J. Behe wrote Darwin's Black Box, which proposed that some biological systems are irreducibly complex. (Wikipedia)

1996: The Structure of Big History: From the Big Bang until Today by Fred Spier offers an ambitious defense of Big History and constructs a unified account of history across all time scales. More

1996: On October 22, Pope John Paul II sent the message On Evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, stating that "fresh knowledge" requires one to realize that evolution is "more than a hypothesis." (Wikipedia)

1996: Oceans of Kansas website founded by Michael J. Everhart. The site is still the best single resource for anything concerning Cretaceous marine reptiles and the Cretaceous inland sea.

1996: After taking Tom Holtz' Topics in Dinosaur Research class, T. Mike Keesey establishes the Dinosauricon on a cladistic foundation, using ascii dendrograms ("cladograms"). The Dinosauricon was the first website devoted exclusively to dinosaur phylogeny and paleo art. (ref link)

1997: The first "downy-dino", Sinosauropteryx prima is described (EvoWiki).

1998: Simon Conway Morris's The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals, a popular science book that provides a counterpole to Gould's Wonderful Life

1999: Walking with Dinosaurs, six-part British natural history documentary television miniseries that was produced by the BBC, narrated by Kenneth Branagh. It subsequently aired in North America on the Discovery Channel in 2000, with Branagh's voice replaced with that of Avery Brooks. With its CGI dinosaurs and attempt at realism, one cannot help but see the influence of Jurassic Park, except taht the dinos are presented much more sympathetically. The programme's aim was to simulate the style of a nature documentary and therefore does not include "talking head" interviews. The series used palaeontologists such as Michael Benton, Peter Dodson, Peter Larson and James Farlow as advisors. Computer-generated imagery and animatronics were used to recreate the life of the Mesozoic, showing dinosaurs and their contemporaries as realistic animals, instead of the absurdities of Jurassic Park with its demonic velociraptors. Nevertheless, there was a lot of dramatic license taken; a lot of behavioural, colour, and other reconstructions were speculative, and for somne reason almost every animal featured had tto be described as being one and a half to twice its actual linear dimensions, or sometimes three times (who can forget the 25 meter long Liopleurodon?). The writers also seemed to feel that each episode requires an obligatory tragic ending. The series was followed by other Walking with... series, such as 2001 the sequel Walking with Beasts, set in the Cenozoic era and thankfully avoiding the tear-jeerker endings; this series featured extinct mammals and birds such as Indricotherium and Gastornis. More than a decade later, the Walking with Dinosaurs still sets the bar for paleo reconstruction.

Dec 1999: Pinnacle of the Dinosauricon

late 90s: By the late 1990s, many previously print journals were available electronically. 'Open access' online publication of journals also became more common, using a system whereby institutes pay for articles published by their staff, rather than a fixed subscription. (Aukland Uni)

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