Timeline of
Evolution and Paleontology
Science Pre 19th Century

Timeline : Pre 19th Century

The following time line is based on a number of seperate ones, to show how all of these ideas and discoveries intermixed and influenced boths cience and popular culture

610-546 BCE: Greek philosopher, astronomer and biologist Anaximander argues that all lifeforms evolved from fish in the seas and underwent modification once it established itself on land. Anaximander also believed in an early concept of abiogenesis which stated that primitive life on earth formed from mist. (EvoWiki)

570-480 BCE: The Greek philosopher and student of Anaximander Xenophanes developed Anaximander's theories further. Xenophanes was one of the first people in history to observe the fossil record and he concluded that most of the world was covered by water in the past by observing the fossil record. (EvoWiki)

Empedocles cycle of Love and Strife

fl. 450 BCE: Empedocles, the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher who developed a cyclic cosmology based on the four classical elements and the polarity of primal powers called Love and Strife, which bring about the mixture and the separation of the elements respectively. Empedocles proposed that chance combinations of organs once arose, but died out due to lack of adaptive function. This was among the first to speculate on a natural theory of evolution . (Wikipedia, EvoWiki)

Links: Internet Encyclopeadia of Philosophy - Empedocles; The Big View - Empedocles

Graphic: Empedocles's Cosmic Cycle, ©: Gordon Campbell; Internet Encyclopeadia of Philosophy.

fl. 99-55 BCE: Lucretius argues that life postdates the formation of the earth, and changes according to random variation. (EvoWiki)

800s c.e.: The medieval Muslim scientist and philosopher Al-Jahiz first describes the struggle for existence which was similar to natural selection. (EvoWiki)

1000s c.e.: The Muslim scholar Ibn al-Haitham elaborates Al-Jahiz's theories and writes a book that explicitly argued for biological evolution (although not by natural selection). (EvoWiki)

c. 1025: Abu Rayhan al-Biruni publishes the Kitab fi Tahqiq ma li'l-Hind (Researches on India), in which he discusses the geology of India and hypothesizes that it was once a sea. (Salam 1984). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1027: The Persian naturalist, Avicenna, explains how the stoniness of fossils is caused in The Book of Healing, proposing the theory of petrifying fluids (succus lapidificatus). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology) . In the same work he also hypothesizes on two causes of mountains (), and proposes the law of superposition and the concept of uniformitarianism (). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1031-1095: The Chinese naturalist, Shen Kuo, uses the evidence of marine fossils found in the Taihang Mountains to infer the existence of geological processes of geomorphology and shifting of seashores over time (in Dream Pool Essays), and using his observation of preserved petrified bamboos found underground in Yan'an, he argues for a theory of gradual climate change (Needham, 1986). (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1320-1390: Avicenna's theory of petrifying fluids (succus lapidificatus) is was elaborated on by Albert of Saxony in the 14th century. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

16th century: The theory of petrifying fluids (succus lapidificatus) is accepted in some form by most naturalists by this time. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1556: Agricola publishes De re metallica. This book acts as the standard mining and assaying text for the next 250 years.(Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1650: Anglican Archbishop James Usher of Ireland states that the universe was created in 4004 BCE, in direct conflict with the former prevailing Aristotlian view of a cyclical and eternal earth. (Wikipedia)

1669: Nicolas Steno puts forward his theory that sedimentary strata had been deposited in former seas, and that fossils were organic in origin. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1676: Part of a bone, now known to have been the femur of a Megalosaurus, was recovered from a limestone quarry at Cornwell near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England. The fragment was sent to Robert Plot, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and first curator of the Ashmolean Museum, who published a description in his Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1677. He correctly identified the bone as the lower extremity of the femur of a large animal, and recognized that it was too large to belong to any known species. He therefore concluded it to be the thigh bone of a giant human similar to those mentioned in the Bible. (Wikipedia - Dinosaur)

1690-1740: height of British Deism. the 17th century Age of Reason and 18th century Age of Enlightenment, led, via Newton and others, to Deism, the theory that God, the divine clockmaker, created the universe at the beginning, but did not interfere in any way since. Central to Deism and other forms of progressive 18th and 19th century theism is the idea of God as the supreme designer.

1701: Edmund Halley suggests using the salinity and evaporation of the Mediterranean to determine the age of the Earth. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1730: Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation "became, very soon after its publication, the focal center of the deist controversy. Because almost every argument, quotation, and issue raised for decades can be found here, the work is often termed 'the deist's Bible'."

1735: Linnaeus publishes the first edition of his Systema Naturae, the primary antecedent of the modern science of taxonomy. Linnaeus believed in an early concept of common descent, with all plants having evolved from a common ancestor but humans and animals having been directly created by God. (EvoWiki)

1743: Dr Christopher Packe produces a geological map of south-east England. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1746: Jean-Étienne Guettard presents the first mineralogical map of France to the French Academy of Sciences.(Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1760: John Michell suggests earthquakes are caused by one layer of rocks rubbing against another. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1764-6: The fossilised bones of a huge animal (later (in 1822 named Mosasaurus) are found in a quarry near Maastricht in the Netherlands. The first remains known to science were a fragmentary skull from a chalk quarry in the St Pietersberg, a hill near Maastricht, Netherlands, found in 1764 and collected by lieutenant Jean Baptiste Drouin in 1766. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology, Wikipedia - Mosasaurus)

1770: Baron d'Holbach one of the first atheists in the Western world publishes The System of Nature which contains early evolutionary concepts such as the idea that humans evolved over the course of time and that every living thing changes in response to its environment. (EvoWiki)

1776: James Keir suggests that some rocks, such as those at the Giant's Causeway, might have been formed by the crystallisation of molten lava. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1779: Comte de Buffon speculates that the Earth is older than the 6,000 years suggested by the Bible. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

1785: - James Hutton presented his theory of uniformitarianism, in the Theory of the Earth, explaining that the Earth must be much older than previously supposed to allow time for mountains to be eroded and for sediment to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land. (Wikipedia)

Late 18th century: German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) developed a distinct form of science very different to the Netwonian model, "Goethe's science is essentially qualitative and teleological in the Aristotelian sense in which processes are understood as a manifestation of "form," which is not to be explained only in causal terms. (Hjalmar Hegge - Transcending Darwinism in the Spirit of Goethe's Science: A Philosophical Perspective on the Works of Adolf Portmann). His focus on morphology and what was later called homology influenced 19th century naturalists, although his ideas of transformation were about the continuous metamorphosis of living things and did not relate to contemporary ideas of "transformisme" or transmutation of species. Homology, or as Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire called it "analogie", was used by Charles Darwin as strong evidence of common descent and of laws of variation. In 1790, he published his Metamorphosis of Plants. (Wikipedia) Goethian philosophy was to be very influential in German Naturphilosophie and more recently Anthroposophy

1794: to 1796: - Erasmus Darwin published Zoönomia with ideas on evolution and all warm-blooded animals arising from one living filament. (Wikipedia)

1795: Georges Cuvier identifies the Mosasaur skull found in the Netherlands as belonging to an extinct reptile.. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Paleontology)

1799: William Smith produces the first large scale geological map, of the area around Bath. (Wikipedia - Timeline of Geology)

contact us

content by MAK110418, long quotes from Wikipedia.

Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise noted, the material on this page may be used under the terms of a
Creative Commons License.