Timeline of the Human Condition

......Years ago

Historical event

13,800,000,000 Big Bang singularity, expansion of space, formation of the observable universe, galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, moons, asteroids, and the laws of physics
12,600,000,000 formation of the Milky Way galaxy of 200 billion stars, now one of 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe
4,600,000,000 formation of the Sun and Solar System within the Milky Way, orbiting a supermassive black hole at its Galactic Center every 240 million years
4,500,000,000 formation of planet Earth with 510 million km² of surface area, orbiting the Sun on a yearly cycle and rotating about its own axis on a daily cycle
4,400,000,000 formation of Earth's water and atmosphere
3,800,000,000 earliest life on Earth, single-celled Prokaryotes
3,500,000,000 earliest atmospheric oxygen
1,600,000,000 earliest Eukaryotes amongst the Prokaryotes, sexual reproduction with meiosis and recombination
670,000,000 earliest Metazoa amongst the Eukaryotes: worms and jellyfish
550,000,000 earliest chordates amongst the metazoans (late Cambrian period), filter-feeding proto-vertebrates
500,000,000 earliest vertebrates amongst the chordates (Ordovician period), jawless predatory Conodonts
330,000,000 earliest fully terrestrial vertebrates, laying amniote eggs (late Carboniferous period)
200,000,000 earliest mammals amongst the terrestrial vertebrates (late Triassic period), fur and endothermy
65,000,000 dinosaur extinctions, Tertiary radiation of mammals (late Cretaceous period)
55,000,000 earliest prosimian primates amongst the mammals (Eocene period), brachiation
36,000,000 earliest monkeys amongst the primates (early Oligocene period), colour vision, opposable thumb, social
25,000,000 earliest apes amongst the primates (early Miocene period), enlarged brain
15,000,000 earliest hominids (great apes) amongst the apes
4,200,000 earliest hominins (Australopithecus spp) amongst the hominids in Africa, bipedal, larger brain
2,600,000 earliest co-existing hominin genus (Paranthropus)
2,600,000 earliest stone tools (Ethiopia): Oldowan tools, chopping through flesh, bone, bark
2,580,000 start of the current geological period of Quaternary glaciation
2,100,000 earliest human (Homo habilis) amongst the hominins in Africa, stone tools for cleaving meat from bone
2,000,000 earliest direct ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus (South Africa), coexisting with Australopithecus and Paranthropus
1,600,000 earliest stone hand axes (Tanzania), for butchering, skinning, cutting, stripping, hammering, drilling → population mobility
1,500,000 replacement of Homo habilis by Homo erectus, probable use of speech
1,200,000 extinction of Australopithecus
1,000,000 migrations of Homo erectus to Europe and Asia from Africa, even 1.8 million years ago?
600,000 extinction of Paranthropus, our last remaining sibling genus; rise of Homo heidelbergensis, probable ancestor of Homo sapiens
400,000 archaic Homo sapiens in Africa, use of fire, huts
350,000 Homo heidelbergensis in northern Spain (Sierra de Atapuerca)
200,000 Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalis) in Europe and Asia, even since 400,000 years ago. Out of Africa?

1. Hunter-gatherer nomads

177,000 earliest anthropogenic constructions, by Neanderthals (stalagmite circles, Bruniquel Cave, France)
115,000 earliest symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments, by Neanderthals (Los Aviones Cave, Spain)
64,800 earliest symbolic painting, by Neanderthals (La Pasiega Cave, Spain)
60,000 colonisation of Australia by Homo sapiens (ancient Sahul): maritime exploration
60,000 burial of dead by Neanderthals (La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France)
57,000 earliest notation, with notched-bone tally marks (Lebombo mountains, South Africa) → record keeping
50,000 earliest use of cord: three-ply bark fibres (Abri du Maras, France)
45,000 Cro-magnons (Homo sapiens sapiens), the first anotomically modern humans in Europe. Out of Africa? Interbreeding with H. sapiens neanderthalis
44,000 earliest figurative painting (Sulawesi Island, Indonesia), of therianthropes hunting anoa and pigs: narrative and mythological artwork
42,000 earliest musical instruments, flutes made from bone and ivory (Swabian Jura, Germany) → concept of harmony?
40,000 earliest figurative sculpture (Hohlenstein, Germany), an ivory figurine of a therianthrope with lion's head and human torso
35,000 earliest fully human sculpture and female imagery: a mammoth-ivory 'Venus' figurine (Hohle Fels, Germany) → fertility totems
34,000 Cro-magnons replace Neanderthals in Europe. Bone tools, full language
33,000 earliest settlements in the Americas (Chiquihuite Cave, Mexico): maritime expeditions from Asia or Europe?
30,000 earliest woven fabrics, made from dyed fibres of wild flax (Georgia) → baskets, textile clothing
30,000 latest record of Homo erectus (Asia), our last remaining sibling species
29,000 earliest fishing-net sinkers (South Korea) → modern industrial fishing in 55% of ocean area (4× agricultural area)
28,000 earliest stone statuette: ochre-tinted limestone 'Venus of Willendorf' (Austria)
20,000 earliest pottery vessels (Xianrendong Cave, China), cooking food during the Last Glacial Maximum
15,000 Mongoloids colonise North America from Asia over Bering land bridge
14,000 domestication of dogs (China) → 700 million dogs by the 21st century, as companion animals or feral populations
12,000 colonisation of South America from Mexico; humans henceforth occupying every continental landmass on Earth, except Antarctica
12,000 extinction of woolly mammoths (America and Europe), caused by climate change and hunting

2. Agricultural farming and settlements

11,000 domestication of sheep (Iraq) → milk, meat, hide, wool and capital from 1.2 billion sheep by 2018
11,000 earliest continuous settlement (Palestine): Jericho, walled city of up to 3,000 people → 20th-century cities of 30 million people
11,000 earliest metallurgy, with copper (Anatolia)
10,500 domestication of cattle from aurochs (Anatolia and Pakistan) → milk, meat, hide and capital from 1.5 billion head of cattle by 2018
10,000 domestication of goats (Iran) → milk, meat, hide and capital from 1.0 billion goats by 2018
10,000 domestication of pigs (Thailand) → meat, hide, bristles, medical research and capital from 1.0 billion pigs by 2018
10,000 continental ice-sheets withdraw from Europe and North America
9,500 earliest use of bricks: adobe earth and reeds (Tell Aswad, Tigris) → fired bricks (China, 6,400 years ago)
9,500 cultivation of wheat and barley (Mesopotamia) → 773 million tonnes of wheat per year by 2017, using 218 million ha of land
8,000 domestication of chickens from red junglefowl (Southeast Asia) → meat and eggs from 23.7 billion chickens by 2018, 5× the biomass of all wild birds
8,000 foraging for honey (Mesolithic painting in the Araña caves, Spain) → 92 million beehives by 2018
8,000 earliest weaving of spun wool (Mesopotamia)
7,900 start of the Copper Age (Fertile Crescent), spread of copper smelting for weapons and tools
7,550 flooding of the Black Sea from the Mediterranean Sea: the biblical flood of Noah's Ark
7,500 cultivation of millet and rice (China) → 770 million tonnes of rice per year by 2017, using 166 million ha of land

world population of humans passes 5 million

6,350 domestication of horses (Ukraine) → transport, meat and capital from 58 million horses in 2018


cultivation of maize (Mexico) → 1.2 billion tonnes of maize per year by 2017 using 197 million ha; with wheat and rice accounting for half of all human calory intake, and using 4% of global land area
5,400 earliest wheeled wagons (north Germany, Slovenia, Carpathians, southern and western Caucasus, Mesopotamia)
5,400 earliest numeral system, to base 60 (Mesopotamia) → decimal system by 5,100 years ago in Egypt
5,300 earliest writing systems, on clay (Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs)
5,300 start of the Bronze Age (Egypt, Indus Valley), bronze replacing copper for weapons, tools, utensils
5,100 earliest use of wheel and axle, for pottery (Ur, Mesopotamia) → wheeled transport
5,100 development of systems of governance, with the beginnings of the Old Kingdom (Egypt); Sumer civilisation and Ur, city of 30,000 people (Mesopotamia); Indus cities (India and Pakistan)
5,000 cultivation of oil palms (Egypt) → 71 million tonnes of palm oil per year by 2018 using 19 million ha, largely converted tropical forest
5,000 global agricultural land use per person peaks at 2.72 ha → 0.76 ha by 2003 with improvements in yield
5,000 earliest written words: record keeping in hieroglyphics (Egypt), cuneiform (Mesopotamia)
4,700 earliest monuments: pyramids (Egypt)
4,600 earliest bookkeeping of transactions (Babylonia)
4,500 earliest writing on papyrus (Diary of Merer, Wadi al-Jarf, Egypt) → parchment by 2,200 years ago in Pergamon, Greece; paper from pulp by 1,800 years ago in China
4,400 earliest use of the abacus (Mesopotamia)
4,200 first code of law, applying general principles to particular cases (Ur-Nammu, King of Ur)
4,100 earliest fictional story: Epic of Gilgamesh (in cuneiform, from Ur, Mesopotamia)
4,000 invention of ice-cream (China) → joyful indulgence

3. Empires and conquests

3,800 beginnings of the Shang dynasty (China), and the Babylonian civilisation (Mesopotamia)
3,800 earliest manufacture of steel, for ironware (Kaman-Kalehöyük, Turkey)
3,800 earliest records of contraception
3,550 reckoning with fractions and geometry (Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, Egypt)
3,500 earliest alphabet, Proto-Sinaitic phonetic script (Sinai peninsula, Egypt)
3,500 earliest planetary observations, of the motions of Venus (Babylonians of Mesopotamia)
3,400 earliest notated music: Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal (in cuneiform, from Ugarit, Syria)
3,400 earliest concrete (Mycenaeans), bonding rock aggregates with lime mortar → dominant building material of modern times
3,200 sea-going trade, in dyes (Phoenicians, Mediterranean)
3,100 start of the Iron Age (Aegean), iron replacing bronze for tools and weapons

world population of humans passes 50 million

3,000 earliest use of coal as fuel (Fushun, China), for smelting copper → peak global coal production of 8.2 billion tonnes/year in 2013
2,950 first Jewish temple (Jerusalem), King Solomon and rise of Judaism
2,800 first Olympic games (Greece)
2,700 earliest use of metalic money (Lydians of Anatolia): stamped gold and silver coins
2,600 peak of Greek civilisation: democracy (508 BC), ethics, poetry, drama, philosophy
2,550 earliest professional army (Sparta, Greece)
2,500 collection of the Torah and other Hebrew scriptures into the Hebrew Bible → Christian Old Testament
2,500 earliest use of natural gas (Sichuan, China), to boil water for salt production → exceeding 3.7 trillion m³/year globally by 2017
2,500 earliest cast iron artefacts (Jiangsu, China)
2,500 Confucius (551 to 479 BC, China) lays the foundations of Confucianism
2,450 Siddhārtha Gautama (~480 to 400 BC, Ancient India), later known as Buddha, lays the foundations of Buddhism
2,400 fusion of Indian cultures and traditions into Hinduism → third most populous religion of the modern era, after Christianity and Islam
2,400 earliest in-patient hospitals (King Pandukabhaya, Sri Lanka) → professional care for the sick
2,400 Plato's academy of philosophy (Greece) → formal schooling
2,350 earliest watermills (Persian Empire)
2,300 development of formal systems of reasoning using logic (Aristotle, Greece) → scientific disciplines
2,300 postulation of Euclidean geometry (Euclid of Alexandria, Greece)
2,250 first estimation of π within known limits (Archimedes, Greece) → method of calculus
2.250 invention of Archimedes' Screw for pumping water uphill
2,200 Great Wall of China (Emperor Qin Shi Huang) 1,900 km → 21,196 km by the Ming dynasty to 1644
2,200 invention of the architectural arch, invention of the first accurate calendars (Egypt)
2,100 earliest promisory notes (on leather, Han dynasty, China) → banknotes
2,100 establishment of Silk Road overland trade routes between East Asia and Southern Europe
2,050 rise of the Roman Empire (Europe), engineering of efficient road and aqueduct systems
AD 50 beginnings of Christianity in Europe with the death of Jesus of Nazareth and transcribing of his life in the New Testament
100 use of porcelain (China)
300 use of the magnetic compass (China) for geomancy, later for navigation
347 earliest oil wells (China, 347), to fire water evaporation plants for salt production → 5.0 billion tonnes/year of global oil extraction by 2018
600 rise of Islam in Arabia with the death of the prophet Muhammad (Mecca, 632) and transcribing of his revelations in the Quran
800 earliest block printing on paper (China)
841 earliest use of statistical inference (al-Kindi, Iraq, 841)
904 first use of explosives in warfare: gunpowder (China, 904)
900 earliest windmills (Khorasan, Iran-Afganistan)
1065 first hospice, dedicated to palliative care (Malta, 1065) → professional care for the dying
1092 invention of the astronomical clock (China, 1092)
1215 first declaration of human rights: Magna Carta (King John of England, 15/6/1215) → Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
1290 first mechanical clocks, using an escapement mechanism (Europe)
1337 accretion of personal wealth from gold: Mansa Musa I (c. 1280 - 1337), Emperor of Mali and richest person in history → peak of inequality amongst individuals
1347 Black Death bacillus Yersinia pestis carried by rats kills half of the human population across much of Europe, 1347-51
1400 birth of the Renaissance (Italy), rise of individuality, imagination, innovation, capitalism
1420 accurate geometrical perspective in painting (Filippo Brunelleschi, 1420)
1470 first moveable-type printing (Europe)
1492 European mariners reach the Americas (Christopher Columbus from Spain, 1492) and India (Vasco da Gama from Portugal, 1498) → global sea trade
1500 technical drawing of anatomical features and engineering designs (Leonardo da Vinci, Italy)
1517 Reformation, splitting the universal Christian world into sects (Martin Luther, Germany, 1517)
1522 first circumnavigation of the globe (Ferdinand Magellan from Spain to Philippines, Juan Sebastián Elcano return to Spain, 1519-22)

4. Scientific Revolution

1543 theory of Earth revolving around the Sun (Nicolaus Copernicus, Poland, 1543)
1582 introduction of the Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory XIII, 1582) → de facto international standard for civil calendars
1608 invention of the telescope (Hans Lippershey, Netherlands, 1608)
1609 inversion of the telescope to make a compound microscope (Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1609)
1612 first universal clock, calibrated on orbital periods of Jupiter's moons (Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1612) → determination of longitude, birth of modern science
1619 distances of planets from the Sun measured relative to Earth's distance of 1 astronomical unit (Johannes Kepler, Germany, 1619)
1632 basic principle of relativity: the laws of nature apply equally to any frame of reference in constant linear motion, regardless of its speed (Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1632)
1660 world population of humans passes 500 million
1676 concept of Gross Domestic Product: annual value of produce or income (William Petty, UK, 1676) → standard index of regional economic growth
1676 first determination of the speed of light (Ole Rømer, Denmark, 1676) → 299,792 km/s, astronomical distance of 1 light-year = 9.46 × 10¹² km
1687 formulation of laws of motion and gravitation (Isaac Newton, UK, Principia 1687) → foundation of classical mechanics, European Age of Enlightenment
1700 rapid colonisation of Americas and India by Europeans from the early 1700s
1735 cataloguing of organisms by genera and species (Carl Linnaeus, Sweden, Systema Naturae 1735-1768) → taxonomic classification of all organisms
1761 first observed transit of Venus across the Sun (1761) → 1 astronomical unit equal to 149,597,870.691 km
1764 invention of the spinning jenny (James Hargreaves, UK, 1764), mechanising the weaving of cloth
1769 invention of the steam engine (James Watt, UK, 1769), → powered machinery, steamships
1773 discovery of the law of conservation of mass (Antoine Lavoisier, France, 1773): the amount of matter cannot change
1776 independence of North American colonies (1776) → economic superstate of the USA
1778 first national nature reserve (Bogd Khan Uul, Mongolia, 1778)

5. Industrial Revolution

1780 factory production of mechanically spun textiles (UK, 1780), steam power and iron production (UK, 1800) → economies of scale, rising polarisation of rich and poor nations
1789 spread of Republicanism (French Revolution, 1789)
1800 first electrochemical battery (Alessandro Volta, Italy, 1800) → mobile energy storage
1808 discovery of atoms, uniquely defining each chemical element of ordinary matter (John Dalton, UK, 1808) → atomic masses of Earth's 94 elements
1817 invention of the bicycle (Karl von Drais, Germany, 1817) → the most efficient human-powered land vehicle
1821 first demonstration of an electromagnetic rotary device (Michael Faraday, UK, 1821) → dynamo, electric motors
1822 first prediction of Earth's greenhouse effect (Joseph Fourier, France, 1822) → empirical measurements (John Tyndall, Ireland, 1859)
1825 first permanent photograph taken by a camera (Nicéphore Niépce, France, 1825)
1825 first public railway for steam locomotives (George Stephenson, UK, 1825)
1836 first scheduled trans-Atlantic steamers (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, UK, 1836) → globalisation of economies
1837 invention of the Analytical Engine (Charles Babbage, UK, 1837) → computers (1930s), programmable computers (1940s)
1848 scale of absolute temperature (Lord Kelvin, UK, 1848): fundamental limit to degree of coldness at 0 K = -273°C
1850 principles of conservation of energy and gain of entropy (Rudolf Clausius, Germany, and Lord Kelvin, UK, 1850) → laws of thermodynamics
1859 theory of evolution by natural selection (Charles Darwin, UK, On the Origin of Species 1859), unifying explanation for the diversity of life → population genetics
1860 factory production of internal-combustion engines (Jean Lenoir, Belgium, 1860) → vehicular transport, electricity generators
1876 invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell, USA, 1876)
1877 invention of the phonograph (Thomas Edison, USA, 1877), first practical sound recording → record player
1879 invention of the electric light bulb (Thomas Edison, USA, 1879)
1880 invention of the photophone (Alexander Graham Bell, USA, 1880), transmitting sound on a beam of light → fibre-optics
1880 adult literacy reaches 20% of the global population by 1880 → 85% globally by 2010
1882 first commercially viable power stations, coal-fired (London and New York, 1882) → electrical grid
1882 first hydroelectric power station (Jacob Schoelkopf, USA, 1882) → 16% of global (and 98% of Norway's) electricity generation by 2017
1884 first rooftop photovoltaic solar array (Charles Fritts, USA, 1884) → 2% of global electricity generation by 2017, rising 10-fold every 6 years from 1992
1884 postulation of dark bodies (Lord Kelvin, UK, 1884) → dark matter neither emitting nor absorbing electromagnetic radiation, 85% of matter in the universe
1885 first car powered by internal combustion engine (Karl Benz, Germany, 1885) → global production of passenger cars exceeds 70 million per year by 2016
1887 speed of light is invariant to source and observer motion (Albert Michelson and Edward Morley, USA, 1887) → upper limit to speed of matter and information
1887 first wind-powered turbine for production of electricity (James Blyth, UK, 1887) → 4% of global electricity generation by 2017
1890 centralised sewage treatment plants (UK and USA), preventing spread of diseases
1894 first transmission of telegraph signals by radio waves (Guglielmo Marconi, Italy, 1894) → radio communication, radar detection
1895 first public screening of motion-picture films (Auguste and Louis Lumière, France, 1895) → birth of cinema
1895 discovery of X-rays and production of X-ray images (Wilhelm Röntgen, Germany, 1895) → radiography
1896 discovery of radioactivity (Henri Becquerel, France, 1896) → radioisotopic labelling and dating
1897 first detection of a fundamental (subatomic and indivisible, elementary) particle: the electron (Joseph Thomson, UK, 1897)
1899 Planck units (Max Planck, Germany, 1899), natural units for length, time, mass and temperature → fundamental limit to degree of heat = 1.42 × 10³² K
1900 Planck's law: every physical body emits electromagnetic radiation (Max Planck, Germany, 1900) → quantum mechanics, explaining the subatomic workings of the universe
1900 fraction of global population living in poverty, on less than US$2/day (2005 prices), drops below 50% by 1900 → 13% by the year 2000, amid rising geopolitical concentrations of wealth
1903 first powered flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft (Orville and Wilbur Wright, USA, 1903) → 4.7 billion airline passengers per year by 2020
1905 theory of special relativity (Albert Einstein, Switzerland, 1905): time-dilation of moving clocks, length-contraction of moving objects, energy-mass equivalence → nuclear physics
1907 first fully synthetic organic polymer, bakelite plastic (Leo Baekeland, USA, 1907) → large-scale production of plastics from 1950
1909 first people to set foot on Earth's Poles (North Pole: Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, 1909; South Pole: Roald Amundsen, 1911)
1914 World War I (1914-18), 32 nations participate, 20 million killed
1916 theory of general relativity (Albert Einstein, Germany, 1916), explaining the mechanism of gravity as a distortion of spacetime by massive objects → unresolved incompatibility with quantum mechanics
1917 Russian Revolution (1917) → first communist state (USSR, 1922-1991)
1918 Spanish flu pandemic (multiple waves 1918-20), H1N1 influenza virus infects one third of the global population and kills 50-100 million, mostly in the 2nd wave
1924 every quantum entity has dual nature, as both wave and particle (Louis de Broglie, France, 1924, Erwin Schrödinger, Switzerland, 1926) → complete explanations of all ordinary matter and light
1926 Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (League of Nations, 1926) → commitments from 99 of 195 countries by 2013
1927 every particle has a constant product of its variances in position and momentum (Werner Heisenberg, Germany, 1927) → no precisely determinable universe
1928 prediction of positron particles (Paul Dirac, UK, 1928) → antimatter dominating in the early universe, cosmic rays, positron emission tomography
1928 isolation of the first antibiotic: penicillin (Alexander Fleming, UK, 1928)
1929 Great Depression (1930s, symbolised by the US stock market crash 29/10/1929), 15% drop in worldwide GDP
1930 postulation of neutrinos (Wolfgang Pauli, Austria, 1930), one of the most abundant particles in the universe
1932 discovery of neutrons (James Chadwick, UK, 1932), with protons constituting the nuclei of atoms → atomic energy, nuclear fission, nuclear chain reactions, atomic bombs
1935 concept of the ecosystem (Arthur Tansley, UK, 1935), a community of organisms that interact with each other and their environment → value of nature
1935 beginnings of television broadcasting (1930s)
1939 first turbojet powered aircraft (Heinkel He 178, Germany, 1939) → jet planes
1939 World War II (1939-45), 184 nations participate, 60 million killed, including genocide of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust 1941-45
1941 first binary-logic digital programmable computer: Z3 (Konrad Zuse, Germany, 1941)
1944 first electronic digital programmable computer: Colossus (Tommy Flowers, UK, 1944), used for code-breaking
1945 first use of a nuclear weapon: atomic bomb, killing 130,000 outright in Hiroshima (6/8/1945) → the atomic age
1945 establishment of the United Nations (UN, 1945), with a mission to maintain international peace, security and cooperation

6. Technological Revolution

1945 first proposed electronic calculator (Alan Turing, UK, 1945) → modern stored-program computers
1947 first supersonic flight in a rocket-powered aircraft (Chuck Yeager in Bell X-1, USA, 14/10/1947) → space exploration
1947 invention of the transistor (Bell Labs, USA, 1947) → integrated circuit (1960s), microprocessor (1970s), consumer electronics
1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 10/12/1948): all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
1949 invention of the barcode (Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver, USA, 1949) → automated product tracking
1951 genocide becomes a crime under international law (UN, 1951)
1953 chemical structure of DNA revealed (James Watson and Francis Crick, UK, 25/4/1953) → access to the genetic code of relatedness, form and function for all organisms
1953 ascent to the highest point on Earth: Mount Everest 8,848 m (Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, 29/5/1953)
1954 first nuclear power plant (Obninsk, USSR, 1954) → advent of clean energy, nuclear disasters (Chernobyl, Ukraine, 26/4/1986)
1956 first shipment of freight in standardized intermodal containers (Malcom McLean, USA, 1956) → globalisation of commerce
1957 first orbiting space satellite (Sputnik 1, USSR, 4/10/1957) → global telecommunications, Global Positioning System (GPS), Earth observation
1960 descent to the deepest point in the oceans: the Mariana Trench 10,911 m (Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh in the bathyscaphe Trieste, 23/1/1960)
1960 first laser beam (Theodore Maiman, USA, 16/5/1960) → reading/writing data, precision surgery, cutting, welding, printing, detection
1960 first government-approval of oral contraceptives for use by the public (US FDA, 1960)
1960 formation of The Beatles rock band (UK, 1960) → globalisation of musical influence
1961 first astronaut in space (Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1, USSR, 12/4/1961)
1964 origin of mass explained by the Higgs mechanism (Peter Higgs, UK, and others, 1964) → Standard Model of particle physics
1969 first astronaut on the Moon (Neil Armstrong in Apollo 11, USA, 20/7/1969)
1970 proof of the beginnings of the universe in a spacetime singularity (Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, UK, 1970)
1970 first optical disc encoding binary data (James Russell, USA, 1970) → digitisation of data storage, sound recording and playback
1973 concept of natural capital (Ernst Schumacher, UK, 1973), the stock of natural resources → an economic asset, alongside material and human capitals
1973 global average human life expectancy exceeds 60 years by 1973 → 70 years by 2008 and rising for all countries
1975 fraction of global population overweight or obese (BMI > 25 kg/m²) rises above 20% by 1975 → 38% by 2014
1975 completion of the Standard Model, combining quantum mechanics with special relativity to explain how fundamental particles determine the composition of all matter and all its governing forces except gravitation (mid-1970s)
1978 first human born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF, UK, 1978)
1978 first human born on the Antarctic mainland (Esperanza Base, Argentina, 1978) → continuous human settlement of every continent on Earth
1980 global eradication of smallpox (WHO, 1980), after it kills 300 million and one-third of those infected during the 20th century, the only infectious disease of humans to have been eradicated by vaccination
1981 first diagnosis of AIDS (USA, 1981) → identification of HIV (1984), global epidemic killing 32 million, continuing health risk
1983 activation of standardized Internet Protocol (USA, 1983) → proliferation of email, file transfer, internet forums, information sharing
1984 discovery of man-induced hole in the ozone layer (1984) → banning of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
1985 genetic engineering enters agriculture; patents for plants (1985), animals (1987)
1986 beginnings of continuous colonisation of space, in low Earth orbit (Mir Space Station, USSR, 19/2/1986) → International Space Station from 2/11/2000

world population of humans passes 5 billion, with strengthening relation of fertility to poverty

1987 sustainable development enters economics, as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland Report, 1987) → ecosystems as capital assets
1988 first assessment that global climate warming has begun (James Hansen, Senate testimony to US Congress, 1988) → creation of the IPCC
1990 Voyager 1 photographs the sunlit Earth from a distance of 6 billion km (Pale Blue Dot, 14/2/1990) → our place in the cosmos
1990 launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA with ESA, 1990) → observing the birth of stars, growth of galaxies, prevalence of black holes, and exoplanet atmospheres
1990 invention of the World Wide Web information system (Tim Berners-Lee, UK, 1990) → birth of the Information Age
1992 first detection of exoplanets, orbiting a neutron star 2,300 light-years from the Sun (Nature 9/1/1992)
1994 launch of online marketplace Amazon.com (Jeff Bezos, USA, 1994) → world's largest cloud-computing platform
1995 peak of global marine fishery catch, at 130 million tonnes for the year → thereafter diminishing catch from a still expanding fishery
1996 first cloned mammal (Dolly the sheep, Roslin Institute, UK, 1996)
1997 first robotic rover lands on Mars and transmits measurements of its surface composition (Sojourner, 4/7/1997)
2000 undernourishment due to calory deficit afflicts 15% of the global population in the year 2000 → 11% by 2018
2001 launch of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15/1/2001), open to editing by registered users → world's largest work of general reference
2001 publication of draft sequence of the human genome: ~25,000 genes in 3 billion base pairs (Nature 15/2/2001)
2004 launch of online social networking service Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg, USA, 2004) → 1 billion users by 2012
2007 human urban population exceeds half the world population (UNFPA, 2007)
2008 first smartphone apps (iPhone App Store, 2008) → establishment of social media, 100 billion app downloads per year within 10 years
2008 global Internet traffic exceeds 1 trillion megabytes for the year 2008, rising 10-fold every 3 years from 1990 → withdrawal of journalism behind paywalls, expansion of disinformation
2009 Great Recession (2008-9), free-fall of developed economies synchronised by global integration of markets

evidence of humanity overstepping three of nine planetary boundaries to a safe operating space: climate change, biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle (Nature 24/9/2009)


creation of first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell (Science 20/5/2010)

2011 number of liberal and elected democracies in the world peaks at 101 in 2011, encompassing 55% of the global population
2012 discovery of Higgs boson (CERN Large Hadron Collider, 4/7/2012), a fundamental 'force' particle → validation of the Standard Model of particle physics
2012 more than half the world's population tune in to television coverage of the London Summer Olympics (27/7-12/8/2012)

first human-made object escapes our Solar System and enters interstellar space (Voyager 1, 25/8/2012)

2012 most distant galaxy, 13.2 billion light-years from Earth, revealed as it appeared only 600 million years after the Big Bang (Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, 25/9/2012)
2013 first editing of human genes using CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme in cell cultures (Science 15/2/2013) → cheap and accurate genome editing
2013 atmospheric concentrations of CO₂ exceed 400 ppm for the first time in at least 3 million years, continuing an accelerating rise (NOAA, Hawaii 5/2013)


7. Sustainability Revolution

2015 UN General Assembly of 194 countries adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, to end poverty and other deprivations, by improving health and education, reducing inequalities, addressing climate change and halting biodiversity loss (25/9/2015)
2015 UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change adopted by 196 nation states, resolving to keep global average temperature to well below 2°C in excess of pre-industrial levels, and striving to limit the increase to 1.5°C (12/12/2015)
2015 human land use, rising exponentially up to 1960, still rising in 2015 for crops (12% of global land area), livestock grazing (25%), buildings, towns and cities (0.5%); industrial fishing in 55% of ocean area
2016 detection of gravitational waves (LIGO and Virgo interferometers, 11/2/2016), ripples in spacetime generated by accelerating bodies, predicted by the theory of general relativity
2016 destruction of more than 6 million ha (60,000 km²) of tropical primary forest during 2016, an unprecedented annual loss (WRI Global Forest Watch)
2016 global land and ocean temperature anomaly for 2016 reaches 1.0°C above the long-term average for 1901-2000 (NOAA)
2016 loss of ice-sheet mass triples in Antarctica and doubles in Greenland from 2006 to 2016, accelerating sea-level rise (IPCC)
2017 accumulation of plastic waste since 1950 exceeds 5 billion tonnes in landfills and the natural environment, more than 10× global human biomass (Science Advances 19/7/2017)
2018 humans and our livestock achieve respectively 9× and 14× the biomass of all wild mammals (PNAS 19/6/2018)
2018 first commercial taxi service of fully-automated self-driving cars (Google-Waymo minivans, USA, 5/12/2018)
2018 wood production from plantation and natural forests exceeds 2 billion m³ globally in 2018, for construction, packaging, paper, pulp, fuel
2019 first picture of a black hole (Event Horizon Telescope, 10/4/2019), a supermassive black hole of 7 billion solar masses
2019 first global assessment of biodiversity finds 1 million of Earth's 8 million species threatened with extinction (IPBES, 6/5/2019)
2019 Britain generates more electricity from zero-carbon sources than from fossil fuels for the first time since the Industrial Revolution (UK National Grid, 6/2019); fossil fuels still provide 86% of global primary energy
2019 first global climate strike, led by school children and joined by millions of people (20/9/2019)
2019 first case of COVID-19 coronavirus (1/12/2019, Wuhan, China) → pandemic triggering unprecedented lockdown of nations and societies worldwide, 4.5 billion people under containment within 5 months
2020 launch of first commercial space taxi (SpaceX, 30/5/2020), taking NASA astronauts to the International Space Station

Quantities: 1 million = 10⁶; 1 billion = 10⁹; 1 trillion = 10¹² → 150 million km to the Sun from Earth; 1 billion grains of sand in 1 m³; 10 trillion km travelled by light in 1 year

Areas: 100 × 100 m = 1 ha; 100 ha = 1 km² → 3 million ha (30,000 km²) area of Belgium

Volumes: 1 billion m³ = 1 km³; 1 trillion m³ = 1,000 km³ → 2.5 trillion m³ of water in Lake Victoria

Masses: 1,000 kg = 1 tonne → 100-tonne blue whale; 500 million tonnes of global human biomass

C. Patrick Doncaster, 8 August 2020, one of the then 7,670,483,110 (rising by 148 per minute, 77 million per year)