Topics: Fossil Evidence of Evolution?
Engraving from William Smith’s 1815 monograph on identifying strata based on fossils. Smith (1759-1839) is known as the Father of English Geology. Source: Oxford Library.
Fossil sequences were recognized and established in their broad outlines long before Charles Darwin had even thought of evolution. Early geologists, in the 1700s and 1800s, noticed how fossils seemed to occur in sequences: certain assemblages of fossils were always found below other assemblages. The first work was done in England and France.
Then, geologists began to build up the stratigraphic column, the familiar listing of divisions of geological time Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary, and so on. Each time unit was characterized by particular fossils. The scheme worked all round the world, without fail.