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Discoverer of Earth's Oldest Fossils Speaks at OWU for SNC


October 9, 2001

[ Dr. J. William Schopf Photo ]DELAWARE, OHIO -- Dr. J. William Schopf, Director of the Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life and Professor of Paleobiology of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, will speak at Ohio Wesleyan's Sagan National Colloquium Public Affairs Series on Thursday, Oct. 11. His presentation will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center. Schopf, who is OWU's Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, will lecture on "Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils: Solution to Darwin's Dilemma." Schopf, in fact, is credited, along with fellow researchers, with discovering Earth's oldest fossils dating back some three billions years.

In his new book, Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils, published by Princeton University Press and winner of the 2000 Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science, Schopf explains how he and other scientists, after three decades, solved Charles Darwin's challenge of not being able to explain the absence of any fossil record prior to 550 million years ago. But, as Schopf says, researchers were asking the wrong questions. He and his colleagues began looking for fossils of the microorganisms -- undetectable with conventional equipment -- that populated the Earth for most of the first 85 percent of its history, and were able to produce evidence of these microscopic cellular organisms dating back some 3.5 billion years.

One of the world's leading experts in Precambrian paleobiology, Schopf received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1968. Recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, and several other major awards, he has pursued geological and biological field studies in Australia, India, China, Europe, South Africa, North America and the former Soviet Union.

The Sagan National Colloquium is in its 16th year at OWU. Lectures are free of charge and open to the public. For more information, call the Office of University Communications at 740-368-3335 or visit snc.owu.edu.