Schopf, J. William 1941- (James William Schopf)

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Schopf, J. William 1941- (James William Schopf)


Born September 27, 1941, in Urbana, IL; son of James W. (a paleontologist) and Esther (a teacher) Schopf; married Julie Morgan, August, 1966 (divorced, 1979); married Jane Shen-Miller (a biochemist), January 16, 1980; children: James Christopher. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Oberlin College, A.B. (with high honors), 1963; Harvard University, A.M., 1965, Ph.D., 1968.


Office—Department of Earth and Space Science, University of California, 595 Charles E. Young Dr. E., Box 951567, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1567. E-mail—[email protected].


University of California, Los Angeles, assistant professor, 1968-70, associate professor, 1970-73, professor of paleobiology, beginning 1973, Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer, 1976, Rubey Lecturer, 1976, Golden Year Distinguished Lecturer, 1980, faculty research lecturer, 1984, Gold Shield Lecturer, 1993, Frontiers of Knowledge Lecturer, 2000, member of Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, beginning 1973, vice chair of department of earth and space sciences, 1982-83, dean of division of honors, 1983-85, director of Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, beginning 1984, member of board of trustees of university foundation, beginning 1983, member of Molecular Biology Institute, 1991—. American Institute of Biological Sciences Visiting Biologists Program, visiting lecturer, 1969-72; University of Kansas, M.W. Haas Visiting Distinguished Professor of Geology, 1979; University of Cincinnati, Sigma Xi distinguished lecturer, 1980; University of Nijmegen, extraordinary visiting professor, 1980-81; Buffalo Museum of Science, distinguished lecturer, 1982; Ohio State University, J.A. Bownocker Lecturer, 1982; Ohio Wesleyan University, C. O'Neal Lecturer, 1982; University of New Mexico, Sandia Distinguished Lecturer, 1985, Caswell Distinguished Lecturer, 2000; Oberlin College, member of board of trustees, 1992-97; University of Munich, member of scientific curatorium at Geobio Center, 2003; distinguished lecturer, visiting professor, or named lecturer at dozens of other educational institutions in the United States and abroad. National Academy of Sciences, exchange scientist with the U.S.S.R., 1975; member of Botanical Society of America delegation to China, 1978; Academia Sinica, Visiting Research Scientist in China, 1981 and 1982. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, member of Terrestrial Bodies Science Working Group, 1975-76, and Origin of Life Science Working Group, 1978-80; National Research Council, Commission on Physical Sciences, member of board on earth sciences, 1982-85, member of Space Science Board, 1983-86, and past member of other committees and subcommittees; Gordon Research Conference on the Origin of Life, chair, 1999. International Geological Correlation Program of UNESCO and International Union of Geological Sciences, past member of various working groups; International Council of Scientific Unions/Committee on Space Research, member of Subcommission on Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life, 1982—; International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, member of international committee, 1990—. Conducted field research in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Australia, India, Spain, the U.S.S.R., Japan, China, New Zealand, Israel, England, Germany, the Bahamas, South Africa, and elsewhere. Member of editorial board for geology, University of California Press, 1973-82; member of editorial board, Precambrian Research, 1973-91, Evolutionary Theory, 1973-85, Evolutionary Monographs, 1977-85, Geomicrobiology Journal, 1977-2005, Artificial Life, 1993—, Astrobiology, 2001—, and Geokimiya: International Geochemistry, 2005—.


International Association for Plant Taxonomy, International Organization for Paleobotany, International Paleontological Union, International Phycological Society, International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (fellow; president, 1999-2003), Geological Society of America (fellow), Botanical Society of America (chair of Paleobotanical Section, beginning 1983), Geochemical Society, Phycological Society of America, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Society of Naturalists, American Society for Microbiology, American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), American Association of University Professors, American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow), Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, National Academy of Sciences, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Paleontological Society, Paleontological Association, Linnean Society of London (foreign member), Sigma Xi (president, beginning 1983).


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, research grants, beginning 1969, group achievement awards, 1969, 1997, special recognition diploma, 1979; Outstanding Paper Award, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, 1968 and 1971; grants from National Science Foundation, beginning 1970; Guggenheim fellow, 1973-74, 1988; Charles Schuchert Award, Paleontological Society, 1974; Alan T. Waterman Award, National Science Foundation, 1977; G. Hawk Award, University of Kansas, 1979; American Association of Publishers awards, outstanding volume in the physical sciences, 1983, for Earth's Earliest Biosphere: Its Origin and Evolution, and outstanding volume in geography and earth science, 1992, for The Proterozoic Biosphere: A Multidisciplinary Study; Mary Clark Thompson Medal, National Academy of Sciences, 1986; A.I. Oparin Medal, International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, 1989; elected honorary foreign member of scientific council, A.N. Bach Institute of Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1995; senior research prize, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 1997; distinguished scientist award, Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, 2000; science award, Phi Beta Kappa, 2000, for Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils; Centennial Botanist Award, Botanical Society of America, 2006.



(And contributor) Earth's Earliest Biosphere: Its Origin and Evolution, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1983.

Major Events in the History of Life, Jones and Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1992.

(With Cornelis Klein) The Proterozoic Biosphere: A Multidisciplinary Study, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

(With John H. Campbell) Creative Evolution?!, Jones and Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1994.

(With Charles R. Marshall) Evolution and the Molecular Revolution, Jones and Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1996.

(With Arnold B. Scheibel) The Origin and Evolution of Intelligence, Jones and Bartlett (Boston, MA), 1997.

Evolution! Facts and Fallacies, Academic Press (San Diego, CA), 1999.

Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.


Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1999.

Contributor to books, including Origins of Life: Proceedings of the First Conference, edited by L. Margulis, Gordon & Breach, 1971; Geology Today, CRM Books, 1973; Evolutionary Biology Seven, edited by T. Dobshansky, M.K. Hecht, and W.C. Steere, Plenum, 1974; Mineral Deposits and the Evolution of the Biosphere, edited by H.D. Holland and M. Schidlowski, Springer Verlag, 1982; and The Biology of Cyanobacteria, edited by N.G. Carr and B.A. Whitton, Blackwell Scientific, 1982. Contributor of nearly 150 articles to scientific journals and popular magazines, including Scientific American and Nature. Associate editor, Origins of Life, beginning 1973, and Paleobiology, 1974-80.

Schopf's writings have been widely translated, including editions in Japanese, Spanish, Polish, and Italian.


J. William Schopf is known for his geological and biological field studies and for discovering what were, at the time, the oldest fossils known on Earth. "Schopf, the world's leading expert on Precambrian fossils (0.5 to 4.5 billion years old), has written an exceptional description of the field that is accessible to any educated lay reader," noted Lloyd Davidson in a Library Journal review of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils. Critics were largely positive in their assessment of the work. A Publishers Weekly critic mentioned feeling that the work is somewhat too casual in its prose, but nonetheless concluded that the book is "a very clear introduction to the first living things." Davidson noted many aspects of the work, including Schopf's chapter on the evolution of biochemical pathways, which he called "a fascinating and wonderfully clear exposition of a difficult topic."

Schopf told CA: "My primary motivation for writing is to communicate clearly to my fellow scientists the findings—the facts—so that they can verify the work and understand the bases on which conclusions have been drawn; and to communicate to the general public what seems to me to be ‘known’ and the excitement and joy—the sheer fun—of 'doing science."

"Influences on my work include my teachers, of course, but perhaps even more so, my students—my hope being that the students can be equipped to do a far better job than have I and my colleagues. I have tried to convey this hope, and respect, in the dedication of Cradle of Life.

"As a serious scientist—in the lab seven days a week—it is terrifically difficult for me to find time to write, and it is an art in which folks such as I are unlikely to have been properly trained. Still, just like science, it is a wonderfully demanding challenge, and I think that most of us try our very best to meet that challenge. Some succeed; many don't. I have a number of friends who have quit, even with book manuscripts two-thirds finished. I have great respect for anyone who can carry such a task to fruition.

"I've had such a wonderful time discovering new things, helping to begin to figure out life's earliest history, that I wanted to share my fun with others, students and lay persons both. Moreover, I've wanted to break down the barriers between the life and physical sciences—contrary to popular myth and the structure of universities, nature is not compartmentalized—as well as those between the sciences and humanities (we scientists have the same fears and foibles as everyone else; despite what one might imagine, we are not nerdy nabobs privy to secret or special knowledge).

"Thankfully, my writing may be getting better. I continue to try, as I imagine we all do. If I am any better now than I used to be, it is chiefly a function of experience. If I could now do Cradle of Life again, it would be just like redoing my doctoral thesis. I would like to think that I could now do either, or both, in half the time and twice as well."



BioScience, December, 1992, George Theokritoff, review of Major Events in the History of Life, p. 875.

Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Lloyd Davidson, review of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils, p. 105.

New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1999, Simon Conway Morris, review of Cradle of Life, p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1999, review of Cradle of Life, p. 230.

Science, January 8, 1993, Andrew H. Knoll, review of The Proterozoic Biosphere: A Multidisciplinary Study, p. 250.

Times Literary Supplement, August 10, 1984, review of Earth's Earliest Biosphere: Its Origin and Evolution, p. 903.

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Schopf, J. William 1941- (James William Schopf)

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