Timeline of Human Ancestry, Evolution and Cultural Development

Years ago

Historical event



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


formation of the Sun and its Solar System within the Milky Way

4,500,000,000 formation of planet Earth orbiting the Sun
4,400,000,000 formation of Earth's water and atmosphere



earliest recorded life on Earth, single-celled Prokaryotes

3,500,000,000 earliest atmospheric oxygen


earliest Eukaryotes, sexual reproduction with meiosis and recombination


earliest Metazoa amongst the Eukaryotes: worms and jellyfish


earliest chordates amongst the metazoans (late Cambrian period), filter-feeding proto-vertebrates


earliest vertebrates amongst the chordates (Ordovician period), jawless predatory Conodonts

330,000,000 earliest fully terrestrial vertebrates, laying amniote eggs (late Carboniferous period)


earliest mammals amongst the terrestrial vertebrates (late Triassic period), fur and endothermy


dinosaur extinctions, Tertiary radiation of mammals (late Cretaceous period)


earliest prosimian primates amongst the mammals (Eocene period), brachiation


earliest monkeys amongst the primates (early Oligocene period), colour vision, opposable thumb, social


earliest apes amongst the primates (early Miocene period), enlarged brain

15,000,000 earliest hominids (great apes) amongst the apes


earliest hominins (Australopithecus spp) amongst the hominids in Africa, bipedal, larger brain

2,600,000 earliest co-existing hominin genus (Paranthropus)


start of Quaternary ice-age, earliest stone tools (Ethiopia): Oldowan tools, chopping through flesh, bone, bark


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), co-habiting with Australopithecus and Paranthropus
1,600,000 earliest stone hand axes (Tanzania), for butchering, skinning, cutting, stripping, hammering, drilling → population mobility


replacement of Homo habilis by Homo erectus, probable use of speech


extinction of Australopithecus


migrations of Homo erectus to Europe and Asia from Africa, even 1.8 million years ago?

600,000 extinction of Paranthropus, rise of Homo heidelbergensis, probable ancestor of Homo sapiens


archaic Homo sapiens in Africa, use of fire, huts

350,000 Homo heidelbergensis in northern Spain (Sierra de Atapuerca)


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
60,000 burial of dead by Neanderthals (La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France)
50,000 earliest use of string: three-ply cord of bark fibres (Abri du Maras, France)
45,000 Cro-magnons (Homo sapiens sapiens), first modern human in Europe. Out of Africa? Interbreeding with H. sapiens neanderthalis
40,000 fipple flutes made from bone by Neanderthals
34,000 Cro-magnons replace Neanderthals in Europe. Bone tools, full language


earliest figurative art by Cro-magnons (Chauvet caves at Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, France)


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)


earliest representational art: sculptured 'Venus of Willendorf' (Austria)

20,000 earliest pottery vessels (Xianrendong Cave, China), cooking food during the Last Glacial Maximum


Mongoloids colonise North America from Asia over Bering land bridge, or from Europe by boat 17,000 years ago?


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
12,000 ealiest woven textiles (Peru)


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: Jericho, Palestine, 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


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)


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 chicken 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


earliest weaving of spun wool (Mesopotamia)


flooding of Black Sea from Mediterranean: the biblical flood of Noah's Ark


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


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


earliest use of the wheel (Mesopotamia), → transport and pottery


earliest writing on papyrus (Egypt) → paper


earliest use of a number system: decimals (Egypt)


beginnings of 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


earliest written words: record keeping in hieroglyphics (Egypt), cuneiform (Mesopotamia)


earliest monuments: pyramids (Egypt)

4,600 earliest bookkeeping of financial transactions (Babylonia)
4,400 earliest use of the abacus (Mesopotamia)
4,100 earliest fictional story: Epic of Gilgamesh (in cuneiform, from Ur, Mesopotamia)


invention of ice-cream (China)


start of the bronze age (Europe), earliest metallic money

3. Empires and conquests


beginning of Shang dynasty (China), Babylonian civilisation (Mesopotamia)

3,800 earliest records of contraception
3,550 reckoning with fractions and geometry (Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, Egypt)


earliest alphabet (North Semitic, Palestine and Syria)

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


sea-going trade, in dyes (Phoenicians, Mediterranean)


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


first Jewish temple (Jerusalem), King Solomon and rise of Judaism


first Olympic games (Greece)


start of the iron age (Europe)


peak of Greek civilisation: democracy (508 BCE), ethics, poetry, drama, philosophy

2,500 collection of the Torah and other Hebrew scriptures into the Hebrew Bible → Christian Old Testament


rise of Buddhism (India), Confucianism (China)

2,500 earliest use of natural gas (Sichuan, China), to boil water for salt production → exceeding 3.7 trillion m³/year globally by 2017
2,350 earliest watermills (Persian Empire)
2,300 development of formal systems of reasoning using logic (Aristotle, Greece) → scientific disciplines


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


Great Wall of China (Emperor Qin Shi Huang) 1,900 km → 21,196 km by Ming Dynasty to 1644


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 Silk Road overland trade routes established between East Asia and Southern Europe
2,050 rise of the Roman Empire (Europe)


beginnings of Christianity in Europe with the death of Jesus of Nazareth and transcribing of his life in the New Testament


use of porcelain (China)


use of magnetic compass (China)

1,700 earliest oil wells (China, 347), to fire water evaporation plants for salt production → 5.0 billion tonnes/year of global oil extraction by 2018


rise of Islam in Arabia with the death of the prophet Muhammad (Mecca, 632) and transcribing of his revelations in the Quran


earliest block printing on paper (China)

1,120 earliest use of statistical inference (al-Kindi, Iraq, 841)


first use of explosives in warfare: gunpowder (China, 904)

1,100 earliest windmills (Khorasan, Iran-Afganistan)
930 invention of the astronomical clock (China, 1092)
810 first declaration of human rights: Magna Carta (King John of England, 15/6/1215) → Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
730 first mechanical clocks, using an escapement mechanism (Europe)
680 accretion of personal wealth from gold: Mansa Musa I (c. 1280 - 1337), Emperor of Mali and richest person in history


Black Death bacillus Yersinia pestis carried by rats kills half of the human population across much of Europe, 1347-51


birth of the Renaissance (Italy), rise of individuality, imagination, innovation, capitalism


first moveable-type printing (Europe)

520 technical drawing of anatomical features and engineering designs (Leonardo da Vinci, Italy)
520 European mariners reach the Americas (Christopher Columbus from Spain, 1492) and India (Vasco da Gama from Portugal, 1498) → global sea trade


Reformation, splitting the universal Christian world into sects (Martin Luther, Germany, 1517)

500 first circumnavigation of the globe (Ferdinand Magellan from Spain to Philippines, Juan Sebastián Elcano return to Spain, 1519-22)

4. Scientific Revolution


theory of Earth revolving around the Sun (Nicolaus Copernicus, Poland, 1543)

440 introduction of Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory XIII, 1582) → de facto international standard for civil calendars
410 invention of the telescope (Hans Lippershey, Netherlands, 1608)
410 first universal clock, calibrated on orbital periods of Jupiter's moons (Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1612) → determination of longitude, birth of modern science
400 distances of planets from the Sun measured relative to Earth's distance of 1 astronomical unit (Johannes Kepler, Germany, 1619)


world population of humans passes 500 million

340 first determination of the speed of light (Ole Rømer, Denmark, 1676) → 299,792 km/s, light-year astronomical distance of 9.46 × 10¹² km


formulation of laws of motion and gravitation (Isaac Newton, UK, Principia 1687) → foundation of classical mechanics, European Age of Enlightenment


rapid colonisation of Americas and India by Europeans


cataloguing of organisms by genera and species (Carl Linnaeus, Sweden, Systema Naturae 1735)

260 first observed transit of Venus across the Sun (1761) → 1 astronomical unit equal to 149,597,870.691 km
260 invention of the spinning jenny (James Hargreaves, UK, 1764), mechanising the weaving of cloth


invention of the steam engine (James Watt, UK, 1769), → powered machinery, steamships

250 discovery of the law of conservation of mass (Antoine Lavoisier, France, 1773): the amount of matter cannot change


independence of North American colonies (1776) → economic super state of USA

240 first national nature reserve (Bogd Khan Uul, Mongolia, 1778)

5. Industrial Revolution


factory production of mechanically spun textiles (UK, 1780), steam power and iron production (UK, 1800) → economies of scale


spread of Republicanism (French Revolution, 1789)

220 first electrochemical battery (Alessandro Volta, Italy, 1800) → mobile energy storage
210 discovery of atoms, uniquely defining each chemical element of ordinary matter (John Dalton, UK, 1808) → atomic masses of Earth's 94 elements
205 invention of the bicycle (Karl von Drais, Germany, 1817) → the most efficient human-powered land vehicle
200 first demonstration of an electromagnetic rotary device (Michael Faraday, UK, 1821) → dynamo, electric motors

first prediction of Earth's greenhouse effect (Joseph Fourier, France, 1822) → empirical measurements (John Tyndall, Ireland, 1859)

195 first permanent photograph taken by a camera (Nicéphore Niépce, France, 1825)


first public railway for steam locomotives (George Stephenson, UK, 1825)

185 first scheduled trans-Atlantic steamers (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, UK, 1836) → globalisation of economies


invention of the Analytical Engine (Charles Babbage, UK, 1837) → computers (1930s), programmable computers (1940s)


theory of evolution by natural selection (Charles Darwin, UK, Origin of Species 1859), unifying explanation for the diversity of life → population genetics


factory production of internal-combustion engines (Jean J. Lenoir, Belgium, 1860) → vehicular transport, electricity generators


invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell, USA, 1876)

145 invention of the phonograph (Thomas Edison, USA, 1877), first practical sound recording → record player
140 invention of the electric light bulb (Thomas Edison, USA, 1879)
140 invention of the photophone (Alexander Graham Bell, USA, 1880), transmitting sound on a beam of light → fibre-optics
140 adult literacy reaches 20% of the global population (83% in USA) by 1880 → 85% globally by 2010
140 first commercially viable power stations, coal-fired (London and New York,1882) → electrical grid
140 first hydroelectric power station (Jacob Schoelkopf, USA, 1882) → 16% of global (and 98% of Norway's) electricity generation by 2017
135 first rooftop photovoltaic solar array (Charles Fritts, USA, 1884) → 2% of global electricity generation by 2017, rising 10-fold every 6 years from 1992
135 postulation of dark bodies (Lord Kelvin, UK, 1884) → dark matter accounting for 85% of matter in the universe

first car powered by internal combustion engine (Karl Benz, Germany, 1885) → global production of passenger cars exceeds 70 million per year by 2016

135 first wind-powered turbine for production of electricity (James Blyth, UK, 1887) → 4% of global electricity generation by 2017


centralised sewage treatment plants (UK and USA), preventing spread of diseases

125 first transmission of telegraph signals by radio waves (Guglielmo Marconi, Italy, 1894) → radio communication, radar detection
125 first public screening of motion-picture films (Auguste and Louis Lumière, France, 1895) → birth of cinema
125 first detection of a fundamental (subatomic and indivisible, elementary) particle: the electron (Joseph Thomson, UK, 1897)
120 Planck's law: every physical body emits electromagnetic radiation (Max Planck, Germany, 1900) → quantum mechanics, explaining the subatomic workings of the universe
120 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
115 first powered flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft (Orville and Wilbur Wright, USA, 1903) → 4.7 billion airline passengers per year by 2020
115 theory of special relativity (Albert Einstein, Switzerland, 1905): time-dilation of moving clocks, length-contraction of moving objects, energy-mass equivalence → nuclear physics
115 first fully synthetic organic polymer, bakelite plastic (Leo Baekeland, USA, 1907) → large-scale production of plastics from 1950
110 first people to set foot on Earth's Poles (North Pole: Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, 1909; South Pole: Roald Amundsen, 1911)


World War I (1914-18), 32 nations participate, 20 million killed


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


Russian Revolution (1917) → first communist state (USSR, 1922-1991)

100 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
95 Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (1926) → commitments from 99 of 195 countries by 2013
95 every quantum entity has dual nature, as both wave and particle (Erwin Schrödinger, Switzerland, 1926; Niels Bohr, Denmark, 1927) → complete explanations of all phenomena
95 Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (Werner Heisenberg, Germany, 1927): every particle has a constant product of its variances in position and momentum no precisely determinable universe
90 prediction of positron particles (Paul Dirac, UK, 1928) → antimatter in the early universe, cosmic rays, positron emission tomography


isolation of first antibiotic: penicillin (Alexander Fleming, UK, 1928)

90 Great Depression (1930s, symbolised by US stock market crash 29/10/1929), 15% drop in worldwide GDP
90 postulation of neutrinos (Wolfgang Pauli, Austria, 1930), one of the most abundant particles in the universe


beginnings of television broadcasting (1930s)

80 first turbojet powered aircraft (Heinkel He 178, Germany, 1939) → jet planes


World War II (1939-45), 184 nations participate, 60 million killed, including genocide of 6 million Jews in Holocaust 1941-45

80 first binary-logic digital programmable computer: Z3 (Konrad Zuse, Germany, 1941)
75 first electronic digital programmable computer: Colossus (Tommy Flowers, UK, 1944), used for code-breaking


first use of a nuclear weapon: atomic bomb killing 130,000 outright in Hiroshima (6/8/1945) → the atomic age

75 establishment of the United Nations (UN, 1945), with a mission to maintain international peace, security and cooperation

6. Technological Revolution

75 first proposed electronic calculator (Alan Turing, UK, 1945) → modern stored-program computers
73 first supersonic flight in a rocket-powered aircraft (Chuck Yeager in Bell X-1, USA, 14/10/1947) → space exploration
72 invention of the transistor (Bell Labs, USA, 1947) → integrated circuit (1960s), microprocessor (1970s), consumer electronics
71 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 10/12/1948): all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
71 invention of the barcode (Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver, USA, 1949) → automated product tracking
69 genocide becomes a crime under international law (UN, 1951)


chemical structure of DNA revealed (James Watson and Francis Crick, UK, Nature 25/4/1953) → access to the genetic code of relatedness, form and function for all organisms

67 ascent to the highest point on Earth: Mount Everest 8,848 m (Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, 29/5/1953)
66 first nuclear power plant (Obninsk, USSR, 1954) → advent of clean energy, nuclear disasters (Chernobyl, Ukraine, 26/4/1986)
64 first shipment of freight in standardized intermodal containers (Malcom McLean, USA, 1956) → globalisation of commerce


first orbiting space satellite (Sputnik 1, USSR, 4/10/1957) → global telecommunications, Global Positioning System (GPS), Earth observation

60 descent to the deepest point in the ocean: the Mariana Trench 10,911 m (Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh in the bathyscaphe Trieste, 23/1/1960)
60 first laser beam (Theodore Maiman, USA, 16/5/1960) → reading/writing data, precision surgery, cutting, welding, printing, detection

first public use of oral contraceptives (approved by US FDA, 1960)

60 formation of The Beatles rock band (UK, 1960) → globalisation of musical influence


first astronaut in space (Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1, USSR, 12/4/1961)

56 origin of mass explained by the Higgs mechanism (Peter Higgs, UK, and others, 1964) → Standard Model of particle physics


first astronaut on the Moon (Neil Armstrong in Apollo 11, USA, 20/7/1969)

50 proof of the beginnings of the universe in a spacetime singularity (Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, UK, 1970)
50 first optical disc encoding binary data (James Russell, USA, 1970) → digital data storage, sound recording and playback
47 global average human life expectancy exceeds 60 years by 1973 → 70 years by 2008 and rising for all countries
45 fraction of global population overweight or obese (BMI > 25 kg/m²) rises above 20% by 1975 → 38% by 2014
45 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)

first human born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF, UK, 1978)

40 global eradication of smallpox (WHO, 1980), after it kills 300 million and ⅓ of those infected during the 20th century, the only infectious disease of humans to have been eradicated by vaccination


first diagnosis of AIDS (USA, 1981) → identification of HIV (1984), global epidemic killing 32 million, continuing health risk


activation of standardized Internet Protocol (USA, 1983) → proliferation of email, file transfer, internet forums, information sharing


discovery of man-induced hole in the ozone layer (1984) → banning of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)


genetic engineering enters agriculture; patents for plants (1985), animals (1987)


world population of humans passes 5 billion (5,000 million, 1986)


first assessment that global climate warming has begun (James Hansen, Senate testimony to US Congress, 1988) → creation of IPCC

30 Voyager 1 photographs the sunlit Earth from a distance of 6 billion km (Pale Blue Dot, 14/2/1990) → our place in the cosmos
30 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
29 invention of the World Wide Web information system (Tim Berners-Lee, UK, 1990) → birth of the Information Age
28 first detection of exoplanets, orbiting a neutron star 2,300 light-years from the Sun (Nature 9/1/1992)


launch of online marketplace Amazon.com (Jeff Bezos, USA, 1994) → world's largest cloud-computing platform


first cloned mammal (Dolly the sheep, Roslin Institute, UK, 1996)


first robotic rover lands on Mars and transmits measurements of its surface composition (Sojourner, 4/7/1997)

20 at the turn of the century, 15% of the global population are undernourished: living in calorific deficit → 11% by 2018
19 launch of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15/1/2001), open to editing by registered users → world's largest work of general reference


publication of draft sequence of the human genome: ~25,000 genes in 3 billion base pairs (Nature 15/2/2001)

16 launch of online social networking service Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg, USA, 2004) → 1 billion users by 2012
13 human urban population exceeds half the world population (UNFPA, 2007)

first smartphone apps (iPhone App Store, 2008) → establishment of social media, 100 billion app downloads per year within 10 years

11 global Internet traffic exceeds 10¹⁸ bytes for the year 2008, rising 10-fold every 3 years from 1990 → withdrawal of journalism behind paywalls, expansion of disinformation
11 Great Recession (2008-9), free-fall of developed economies synchronised by global integration of markets


three of nine safe operating boundaries for humanity now overstepped: climate change, biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle (Science 24/9/2009)


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

8 discovery of Higgs boson (CERN Large Hadron Collider, 4/7/2012), a fundamental 'force' particle → validation of the Standard Model of particle physics
8 more than 50% of 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)

8 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)
7 first genome editing in human cell cultures using CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme (Science 15/2/2013) → cheap and accurate gene editing
7 atmospheric concentrations of CO₂ exceed 400 ppm for the first time in 3-5 million years, continuing an accelerating rise (NOAA, Hawaii 5/2013)


7. Sustainability Revolution

5 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)
5 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)
5 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
4 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
4 removal of more than 6 million ha (60,000 km²) of tropical primary forest during 2016, unprecedented in human history (WRI Global Forest Watch)
4 global land and ocean temperature anomaly for 2016 reaches 1.0°C above the long-term average for 1901-2000 (NOAA)
3 loss of ice-sheet mass triples in Antarctica and doubles in Greenland from 2006 to 2016, accelerating sea-level rise (IPCC)
3 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)
2 humans and our livestock achieve respectively 9× and 14× the biomass of all wild mammals (PNAS 19/6/2018)
1 first deployment of fully-automated self-driving minivans as a commercial taxi service (Google-Waymo, USA, 5/12/2018)
1 wood production from plantation and natural forests exceeds 2 billion m³ globally in 2018, for construction, packaging, paper, pulp, fuel
1 first picture of a black hole (Event Horizon Telescope, 10/4/2019), a supermassive black hole of 7 billion solar masses
1 first global assessment of biodiversity finds 1 million of Earth's 8 million species threatened with extinction (IPBES, 6/5/2019)
1 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
1 first global climate strike, led by school children and joined by millions of people (20/9/2019)
1 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

C. Patrick Doncaster, 25 May 2020, one of the then 7,651,762,390 (rising by 148 per minute, 77 million per year)