Ever wonder how people figured out there used to be such things as dinosaurs? Curious about how scientists learned to reconstruct fossil skeletons? The knowledge we take for granted today was slow in coming, and along the way, scientists and scholars had some weird ideas.

Travelogues: Cradle of Humankind Burgess Shale ROM Galápagos UK Darwin Groupie 1 2 3

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Ammonites Griffin statuette Sea serpent v. cetaceans Fossil reconstructions

Featured in the Goof Gallery

Fire-breathing dragon Pithecanthropus alalus Beasts of Egypt Hallucigenia

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Ernst Haeckel Andrew Carnegie Tradescant and Ashmole Francis Galton

Timeline Tidbits

610-425 BC-Philosophers Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Herodotus propose that marine fossils found inland lived in the sea, and that the now dry land was once underwater. This correct supposition will be forgotten for centuries.

1667-Niels Stensen (Steno) describes his dissection of the head of a giant white shark and correctly identifies shark teeth, still generally thought (despite arguments to the contrary from Rondelet and Colonna in the preceding century) to be serpent tongues.

1670-Agostino Scilla publishes Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense arguing for the organic origin of fossils.

1972-Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge publish their theory of punctuated equilibrium, stating that evolution often occurs in short bursts, followed by long periods of stability.

Things you should know about this site

This is not a comprehensive history of paleontology or biology, nor is it the result of systematic research. It's not the work of a professional scientist, educator or historian. It's just an eclectic collection of old illustrations and information.

Although this site focuses more on the history of science than on evolution, it treats evolution as a scientific fact, not "just a theory."