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Helz Lecture - Andrew H. Knoll

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Andrew H. Knoll discussing "blueberries" on Mars

Fossils of shells, bones, tracks and trails record a history of animal evolution nearly 600 million years in duration. Earth, however, is 4 and a half billion years old. What kinds of organisms characterized our planet's youth and middle age? And how do we establish the nature of life and environments on the early Earth? The paleontological record shows that life has been present for most of our planet's history and that for most of that history, life was microbial. Animals are evolutionary late comers, radiating only during an interval of pronounced environmental change more than 3 billion years after the first microorganisms initiated Earth’s evolutionary odyssey.

Andrew Knoll is the Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University and recent recipient of the Crafoord Prize of the Swedish Academy of Sciences (the highest honor bestoyed on a geoscientist worldwide). Knoll’s research focuses on the early evolution of life, Earth’s environmental history and, especially, the interconnections between the two. For the past decade, he has served on the science team for NASA’s MER mission to Mars.

Knoll’s honors include the Walcott Medal and the Mary Clark Thompson Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science (for his 2003 book Life on a Young Planet), the Moore Medal of the Society for Sedimentary Geology, the Paleontological Society Medal, and the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London. Knoll is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Microbiology. He received his B.A. in geology from Lehigh University and his Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University.


Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center

Thursday, April 4, 2024

3:30 p.m. Reception, 2nd floor Concourse

4 p.m. Lecture, Room 2208

Edward St. John Learning & Teaching Center (Floor Map)

If you have a question about this event, including disability accommodations, please contact Alan J. Kaufman at or 301-405-0395.


For disability accommodations, please contact Alan Jay Kaufman at

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