— Milestones in Evolution and History —
  discs fill with colour as time passes towards the present (boxed discs popup timeline are clickable, further explanation bottom below); targets random age explore random ages; go down to next section, up to top of current section, to Summary to Summary, and to Synopsis to Synopsis; click on to go to the location in Google Earth (desk browser or mobile App)
popup timeline13,800,000,000 Big Bang singularity, cosmic inflation, creation of all particles of matter and counterpart antimatter, and the laws of physics governing their interactions; expansion and cooling of space → formation of the observable Universe, its galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, moons, asteroids and comets
13,550,000,000 ignition of hydrogen stars, bathing the Universe in first light of cosmic dawn → helium in stars fusing into carbon, leading to stellar nucleosynthesis of all elements; earliest galaxies and black holes forming 320 million and 400 million years after the Big Bang
13,000,000,000 aggregation of stars into the Milky Way galaxy: now a warped disc of 100 billion stars, one of 200 billion galaxies in the observable Universe
12,200,000,000 earliest water: an interstellar vapour, and repository for oxygen
4,570,000,000 formation of the Sun and Solar System within the Milky Way, orbiting a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, at its Galactic Centre every 220 million years
4,510,000,000 formation of the Moon from a massive impact of protoplanet Theia with proto-Earth, during chaotic instability of the giant planets
4,500,000,000 formation of planet Earth with 510 million km² of surface area, orbiting the Sun on a yearly cycle, rotating eastward on a day-night cycle around a tilted axis that perpetuates opposing polar seasons
4,400,000,000 formation of Earth’s oceans and moist atmosphere, protected from solar wind and cosmic rays by Earth’s magnetosphere generated by its iron core
4,400,000,000 earliest subduction of Earth’s crust → continental plate tectonics by at least 3.5 billion years ago, unique to Earth in the Solar System
4,300,000,000 basaltic rock glass catalyses formation of RNA (Hadean Eon): long-strand molecules carrying information across self-replicating generations and synthesising peptides → pre-biotic RNA world?

1. Evolution of life on Earth to Summary  

popup timeline4,000,000,000 earliest life on Earth: single-celled prokaryotic Archaea (Hadean Eon, 3.7-4.2 billion years ago), with inherited genes composed of stable DNA instructing the translation of RNA in ribosomes into proteins that perform cell functions → planet Earth harbouring the only life in the Universe?
3,500,000,000 photosynthesising bacteria amongst the Archaea (Archean Eon), converting sunlight into chemical energy to fuel cellular activity → cyanobacteria the most abundant of all organisms ever existing on Earth
3,400,000,000 earliest atmospheric oxygen, present at low levels (Archean Eon)
popup timeline3,200,000,000 emergence of Earth’s first continents from the ocean (Archean Eon, 3.2 to 3.3 billion years ago), supporting microbial mats in Earth’s first land ecosystem
2,330,000,000 the Great Oxygenation Event: 1-10 million years of rapidly accumulating atmospheric oxygen (Proterozoic Eon), a product of photosynthesis and energy source for complex life
popup timeline2,100,000,000 early multicellular life, with cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated responses (Proterozoic Eon) → 37 trillion mutually-dependent cells in an adult human body, plus 10 trillion commensal microbes without which we die
1,640,000,000 earliest Eukaryotes amongst the Prokaryotes (Proterozoic Eon), arising from the merger of an archaeon with a bacterium: single-celled and multicellular; sexual reproduction with meiosis and recombination of genetic material from two parents
1,500,000,000 giant viruses associating with red algae (Proterozoic Eon): viruses present from the dawn of cellular life?
1,000,000,000 earliest fungi amongst the Eukaryotes (Proterozoic Eon): shallow-water estuarine Ourasphaira giraldae
popup timeline890,000,000 earliest Metazoa – animals – amongst the Eukaryotes: ctenophore ‘comb jellies’ with neurones and muscles, segregating from fungal lineages (Proterozoic Eon?)
717,000,000 massive volcanism and outgassing triggers Snowball Earth glaciation lasting 56 million years: the most extreme interval of icehouse climate in Earth’s history → further brief snowball episodes
700,000,000 Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event: 100 million years of rising photosynthesis with lengthening days as Earth’s rotational speed slows, improving conditions for complex life
635,000,000 earliest stem Cnidaria amongst the animals (early Ediacaran Period), ancestor of jellyfish and immortal hydra: nervous system and sleep/wake cycle → without sleep we die
550,000,000 earliest bilaterian animals, with left-right symmetry (Ediacaran Period): burrowing Ikaria with mouth and gut for scavenging, segmented Yilingia with paired legs and musculature for roaming
540,000,000 explosion in animal diversification over 20 million years (earliest Cambrian Period); emergence of modern body plans, resolving to phyla over 40 million years
535,000,000 earliest chordates amongst the bilaterians (Early Cambrian Period): notochord and pharyngeal gill slits
popup timeline520,000,000 ancestral vertebrates amongst the chordates (Cambrian Period), with stomach, gill arches, camera-type eyes, and olfactory organ → human olfaction connecting directly to memory and emotion
520,000,000 earliest acute visual perception: compound and stalked eyes of stem arthropods (Cambrian Period) → vision catalysing animal diversification
popup timeline500,000,000 first colonisation of land by plants: algae of the Middle Cambrian Period, probably facilitated by fungicontinental greening that creates soils, Earth’s single most biodiverse habitat, and meanders rivers
480,000,000 radiation of vertebrates (Ordovician Period), possibly facilitated by genome duplication: aquatic with a mineralised skeleton, armour and scales
popup timeline445,000,000 mass extinction in two pulses across 1 million years, eliminating more than three-quarters of all species (Late Ordovician Period), linked to volcanic activity
420,000,000 earliest jawed vertebrates amongst the fishes (Late Silurian Period) → diversification of feeding niches; capacity for yawning and empathy, omnipresent across disparate modern lineages; synovial joints
407,000,000 earliest acoustic communication, by aquatic vertebrates (Early Devonian Period): sound production and hearing for signalling, displaying and surveillance
407,000,000 earliest woody stems of vascular plants (Early Devonian Period) → evolution driven by hydraulic constraints, pre-adapting plants for taller morphologies
394,000,000 earliest tetrapods amongst the vertebrates (Devonian Period): limbs replacing paired fins; still fully aquatic
390,000,000 earliest forests (Devonian Period, Britain ) → three-dimensional terrestrial habitat, trees connected by mycorrhizal fungi; rising atmospheric O₂ and diminishing CO₂
380,000,000 earliest vertebrate multi-chambered heart (placoderm fish, Devonian Period) → the human heartbeat a hearty, heartless or heartfelt rhythm, broken by emotional trauma
popup timeline375,000,000 mass extinction in a series of pulses across 20 million years, eliminating more than two-thirds of all species (Late Devonian Period), linked to climatic cooling
350,000,000 earliest land vertebrates (Early Carboniferous Period): semi-aquatic amphibian tetrapods, with blinking eyes and tongues → human tongues detecting sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury tastes
popup timeline340,000,000 earliest fully terrestrial tetrapod vertebrates, laying amniote eggs (Carboniferous Period)
305,000,000 earliest evidence of parental care of offspring by a tetrapod: a varanopid synapsid (Carboniferous Period, Nova Scotia)
popup timeline251,900,000 Earth’s largest mass extinction, eliminating nine tenths of all species during 61 thousand years (Permian-Triassic transition), caused by hot and acidifying volcanic CO₂ emissions from the Siberian Traps → rapid bounce-back of species
233,000,000 dawn of the modern world: major biological turnover linked to volcanism (Late Triassic Period) → rapid diversifications and originations of conifers, insects, dinosaurs, reptiles and stem mammals
popup timeline201,300,000 mass extinction event, eliminating more than two-thirds of all species (Triassic-Jurassic transition), linked with volcanic CO₂ equivalent to projections for CE 21ˢᵗ century anthropogenic emissions
200,000,000 earliest warm-blooded stem mammals (Late Triassic): faster metabolism sustaining endothermy in a cooler climate
popup timeline178,000,000 earliest true mammals amongst the terrestrial vertebrates (Jurassic Period): lactation, fur and endothermy; REM sleep; natural lifespan of 3,200 somatic mutations → humans averaging 47 annually
popup timeline150,000,000 evolutionary transition to birds from therapod dinosaurs (Late Jurassic): Archaeopteryx, with feathered body and wings, active flight, toothed beak and bony tail
135,000,000 major radiations of flowering plants and their insect pollinators in the Early Cretaceous Period: an “abominable mystery” (Charles Darwin, 1879)
101,500,000 aerobic bacteria embed into oxic sediment of the South Pacific Gyre , reviving after 101.5 million years to grow into microbial communities
90,000,000 earliest mammal louse (Cretaceous Period) → body-, pubic- and head-lice, bedbugs, screwworms and botflies, fleas, ticks, scabies and chiggers amongst the ectoparasites of modern humans, with 300 worm and 70 protozoan endoparasites
popup timeline66,000,000 abrupt mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, with three-quarters of all species, following the springtime impact of a 9-km wide asteroid at Chicxulub, Mexico (Cretaceous-Paleogene transition) → rapid diversification of flowering plants and mammals
65,000,000 radiation of placental mammals (post-Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary): placenta, and birth of well-developed young → now occupying every continent and ocean
popup timeline55,000,000 earliest primates amongst the mammals (Eocene Epoch): brachiation
44,000,000 divergence of Old World from New World primates (Eocene Epoch): colour vision, opposable thumbs, sociality; capacity to grieve, as in other mammals, and to recognise deceptions; extended sexuality → extreme in humans
34,000,000 freezing over of Antarctica, henceforth shrouding the continental landmass in ice
30,000,000 a virus embeds its DNA into a primate’s genome, evolving into an endogenous retrovirus → active in modern humans: domesticated and territorial, protecting the placenta
popup timeline25,200,000 earliest hominoids (apes) amongst the Old World primates (Tanzania, Oligocene Epoch): tailless, enlarged brain; dawn of speech in contrasting vowel sounds – no language without vowels
16,800,000 earliest hominids (great apes) amongst the hominoid gibbons in Asia: larger body size and sexual dimorphism; complex tool kits; play, empathy, gesturing, long-distance communication by drumming; capacity for self-medication, as in other animals
13,000,000 hominids Pierolapithecus catalaunicus in Spain, and Nyanzapithecus alesi in Kenya, possible ancestors of hominins and modern apes respectively, the former with upright posture; capacity for playful teasing
popup timeline7,000,000 earliest hominin Sahelanthropus, then Orrorin and Ardipithecus, amongst the hominids in Africa: reduced canines, arboreal habit, bipedal capability
4,200,000 replacement of the earliest hominins by Australopithecus spp. in Africa: fully upright, bipedal and free-striding gait
3,300,000 earliest knapped stone artefacts (Kenya ): Lomekwian tools: hominin technological behaviour?Paranthropus sp. using Oldowan tools by c. 2.8 million years ago
2. Human evolution to Summary  
popup timeline2,800,000 earliest human, Homo sp., amongst the hominins (Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia ): rounded chin as Australopithecus afarensis, but smaller and slimmer molars as the later Homo habilis
2,700,000 range expansion of hominin genus Paranthropus (East Africa), co-existing with humans
2,600,000 incorporation of meat and marrow into generalist diets of hominins (Africa); hunting by ambush, stalking, and endurance pursuit of prey?
2,600,000 earliest stone tools produced by humans (Gona, Ethiopia ): Oldowan tools, chopping through flesh, bone, bark
2,588,000 start of the current geological period of Quaternary glaciation, possibly initiated by a supernova blast 150-300 light-years away, luminous as the full Moon
2,400,000 Homo habilis in Africa, using stone tools for cleaving meat from bone
2,120,000 earliest evidence of human ancestors outside of Africa: tool-using hominins in Shangchen, northern China
popup timeline2,000,000 early Homo erectus, direct ancestor of modern humans, coexisting with Australopithecus – soon extinct, and Paranthropus (South Africa): delayed maturity, enlarged brain and smaller teeth
1,800,000 migrations of Homo erectus from Africa to Eurasia (Georgia ; to Lantian in northern China by 1.63 million years ago; to Java by 1.5 million years ago?); ecological success underwritten by postmenopausal care of young?
1,700,000 earliest stone hand axes (Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania ): Acheulean tools, standardised for butchering, cutting, stripping, hammering, drilling → population mobility
popup timeline1,500,000 earliest control of fire, by Homo erectus (Koobi Fora, Kenya ): uniquely human capability, extending the day with firelight → cooked food improving nutrient uptake by 780,000 years ago; widespread use of fire by 400,000 years ago
1,500,000 male-male alliances in Homo erectus social groups (Ileret, Kenya ): cooperative networks, perhaps including unrelated individuals
1,450,000 hominins butchering and consuming other hominins (Koobi Fora, Kenya)
1,400,000 earliest organic tools: a hand axe made from hippopotamus bone (Konso-Gardula, Ethiopia ); perhaps conscious symbolism, or proforma: copying multistep know-how from others → cumulative culture by 600,000 years ago
1,400,000 replacement of Homo habilis by Homo erectus in Africa, also dispersing into eastern Europe and spreading west, establishing in Europe at least by 900,000 years ago
popup timeline1,000,000 extinction of Paranthropus (South Africa), our last remaining sibling genus
1,000,000 ancestral humans undergo the first of a series of bifurcations into weakly differentiated populations connected by gene flow (pan-Africa) → no single birthplace of modern humans
900,000 population bottleneck for the ancestors of modern humans in Africa, reducing from c. 100,000 to 1,300 individuals, persisting for c. 100,000 years during drastic climate change → diaspora from Africa to Europe
900,000 Homo antecessor in western Europe (Gran Dolina, Spain ), closely related to the last common ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans and modern humans
900,000 flint scrapers associated with Homo antecessor (Gran Dolina, Spain), suitable for preparing animal hides → clothing?
800,000 earliest cannibalism, in Homo antecessor (Gran Dolina, Spain), practised throughout human history; social motivation?
700,000 rise of Homo heidelbergensis in Africa and Europe, possible ancestor of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis; supplementing meat with starchy plants
700,000 diminutive Homo floresiensis on the Indonesian island of Flores , probable descendent of Homo erectus
500,000 earliest abstract markings: a zigzag engraving on a freshwater-mussel shell by Homo erectus (Trinil, Java ) → uniquely human capacity for abstraction
500,000 earliest use of stone-tipped spears, by Homo heidelbergensis (Kathu Pan, South Africa ) for hunting large game
476,000 earliest wooden construction (Kalambo Falls, Zambia ), of interlocking logs joined by a cut notch: walkway, platform, or shelter?
450,000 rise of Neanderthals Homo neanderthalensis across Europe: similar brain size but fewer neurones compared to modern humans
430,000 Denisovans diverge from Neanderthals (southern Siberia) → Tibetan Plateau and Laos by 160,000 years ago; subsequent interbreeding, possibly also with Homo erectus
400,000 multiple hominin dispersals across Arabia (Nefud Desert ), during windows of desert greening at four-, three-, two- and one-hundred thousand years ago
400,000 earliest evidence of food storage for later consumption: bone marrow (Qesem Cave, Israel ) → food economy, incentivised by anticipation of future need
320,000 long-distance transport of obsidian for fine blades and points, and ochre for pigments (Olorgesailie, Kenyan rift valley ): trade? → technological transition to Middle Stone Age during intensifying climate swings
popup timeline315,000 earliest evidence of our species, Homo sapiens (Jebel Irhoud, Morocco ): facial and dental structure similar to modern humans, yet still archaic elongation of the braincase
300,000 wood age of Homo heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis (Schöningen, Germany ): spears, throwing sticks, shafts, digging and piercing sticks, designed and carved from fire-hardened wood
250,000 replacement of Homo heidelbergensis by Homo neanderthalensis in Europe, and by Homo sapiens in Africa over the subsequent 100,000 years
230,000 earliest anatomically modern Homo sapiens, in eastern Africa (Omo-Kibish, Ethiopia ): chin and tall cranial vault
210,000 Homo sapiens enter Eurasia (Greece ): first of multiple dispersals out of Africa by humans with early modern traits, including globular braincase and descended larynx facilitating spoken language
200,000 recurrent interbreeding of Homo sapiens with Homo neanderthalensis (Eurasia and subsequently Siberia) → accumulation of modern traits through gene flow
200,000 earliest adhesive: birch tar used by Neanderthals for hafting stone tools (Campitello, Italy ) → pyrotechnology

3. Hunter-gatherer nomads to Summary  

176,000 earliest social construction: underground edifices built from broken stalagmites by Neanderthals (Bruniquel Cave, France ) → material culture, augmenting the natural space
popup timeline170,000 widespread use of clothing, setting humans apart from all other animals, evidenced in the divergence of clothing lice from head lice (Africa)
160,000 coastal shellfish harvested by Homo sapiens in southern Africa , and by Neanderthals in the western Mediterranean  → fatty acids boosting cognitive development
popup timeline142,000 earliest symbolic ornaments: marine-shell beads made by humans in Morocco , spreading to the Levant: conscious experience of selfhood; painted beads by Neanderthals in Spain by 115,000 years ago
126,000 Homo with mix of archaic-human and Neanderthal traits (Nesher Ramla, Israel ): stone-tool industry, cooking meat; cultural exchange with humans?
125,000 prelude to Earth’s Last Glacial Period: global average temperature never again as high until CE 2021, during intensifying anthropogenic warming
125,000 Neanderthals living and working in large groups (northern European plain ), evidenced by butchered 13-tonne elephants, each provisioning 100 people for a month
120,000 burial of dead, by anatomically modern humans in Qafzeh Cave, Israel , and by Neanderthals in Tabun Cave, Israel : mortuary rituals, mourning the dead
popup timeline110,000 last appearance of Homo erectus (Ngandong, Java ), 1.89 million years after its first appearance → the longest enduring species of human
105,000 hoarding of non-utilitarian objects by Homo sapiens: crystals and ostrich eggshell fragments (Kalahari, southern Africa )
100,000 possible first arrival of Homo sapiens in East Asia , attracted to verdant landscapes produced by strengthening monsoons
100,000 toolkit for mixing and storing pigments: ochre, charcoal, bone, hammerstones, grindstones and abalone-shell containers (Blombos Cave, South Africa ) → complex human cognition
100,000 earliest human etchings on rock: cross-hash decorations or symbols (Blombos Cave, South Africa) → conceptual imagination
90,000 manufacture of bone harpoons, for hunting catfish (Semliki river, DR Congo )
90,000 fisher-hunter-gatherer Neanderthals eating mussels, crab, eels, sea bream and shark, dolphins and seals, hoofed game and waterfowl; pine-nut economy (Figueira Brava, Portugal )
78,000 earliest symbolic human burial, a 3-year old Homo sapiens (Panga ya Saidi Cave, Kenya ): funerary practices by our ancestors
77,000 construction of bedding from sedges, topped with aromatic leaves containing insecticidal and larvicidal chemicals (Sibudu rock shelter, South Africa )
77,000 early modern Homo sapiens present in southeast Asia (Tam Pà Ling Cave, Laos ), possibly migrating through as early as 86,000 years ago, settling at least by 68,000 years ago
75,000 earliest jewellery fashions: shifts in styles of threaded shell beads (Blombos Cave, South Africa)
popup timeline73,000 earliest drawing by humans: criss-crossed lines on a grindstone drawn with red-ochre crayon (Blombos Cave, South Africa)
71,000 earliest heat-treatment of bladelets, for atlatl darts or arrows (Pinnacle Point, South Africa ): communication of complex technology → emergence of the modern mind
70,000 cooking of crushed pulse seeds by Neanderthals (Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan ): tolerance of bitter and astringent tastes → food culture
65,000 rapid colonisation of Australia by humans during 5,000 years (ancient Sahul): maritime exploration; transecting the continent along superhighways
64,800 earliest symbolic cave paintings by Neanderthals (La Pasiega Cave, Spain )?
61,700 bow-and-arrow technology, with bone arrowhead (Sibudu rock shelter, South Africa); a sprung bow the earliest instrument to hold energy for controlled release
60,000 earliest number symbols: notched-bone tally marks by Neanderthals (Les Pradelles, France ) → uniquely human number culture, record keeping, seasonal calendars
60,000 symbolic burial of dead by Neanderthals (La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France ): funerary practices
60,000 beginning of range expansion by modern humans out of Africa into Eurasia, enduring 10,000 years → ancestors of all modern non-Africans; onset of behavioural modernity
54,000 modern humans, Homo sapiens, settling briefly in western Europe (Grotte Mandrin, France )? – preceded by and preceding Neanderthal settlements
popup timeline51,200 earliest representational art: figurative painting of anthropomorphic figures with a pig, telling a narrative story (Leang Karampuang, Sulawesi ) → thinking in abstract terms
51,000 a giant deer’s phalanx bone becomes a Neanderthal artist’s canvas, prepared by scraping and boiling before etching (Harz Mountains, Germany )
50,000 earliest use of string: a cord of three-plied bark fibres (Abri du Maras, France ) → clothing, mats, baskets, nets, rope and ladders, bowstrings, snares and fishing lines, watercraft
50,000 earliest eyed needle, made from bone by Denisovans (Denisova Cave, Siberia ), suitable for tailoring garments
50,000 Neanderthal fire-lighting technology (France): striking flint axes with mineral pyrite → wood the predominant fuel for cooking and heating until the CE 19ᵗʰ century
50,000 Eurasian Homo sapiens co-existing with Homo floresiensis (soon extinct) and Homo luzonensis, interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans
48,500 a giant virus freezes into permafrost of Yukechi alas, Siberia , melting back to virulent activity 48,500 years later
48,000 self-medication by Neanderthals, with pain-killing salicylic acid in poplar leaves, and antibiotic-producing Penicillium mould (El Sidrón, Spain )
46,000 anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens, established in Europe (Bacho Kiro, Bulgaria ; Ilsenhöhle, Germany ), mating with Neanderthals, spreading eastwards.
46,000 complex processing of food plants by anatomically modern humans (Niah Cave, Borneo ): detoxifying yam, Dioscorea hispida
45,000 extinction of giant flightless mihirung thunder birds, hastened by human exploitation of their eggs (Australia)
44,000 figurative painting of therianthropes hunting anoa and pigs (Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4, Sulawesi ): mythological stories
42,000 earliest musical instruments: bone and ivory flutes (Swabian Jura, Germany), stirring the emotions with harmony, melody, rhythm, timbre → no human society without music
42,000 earliest record of fish-hooks, manufactured from broken shell (Jerimalai shelter, East Timor ): deep-sea fishing for pelagic tuna and parrotfish, sharks and marine turtles
41,500 most recent reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles, lasting 500 years, degrading stratospheric ozone, driving global climate shifts and extinction events
40,000 anatomically modern humans replace Neanderthals, our last remaining sibling species
popup timeline40,000 full development of language; personal names facilitating efficient social bonding through gossip → now over 7,000 living languages, over 2,000 vanishing
40,000 earliest habitual footwear (Tianyuan, China ), opening permafrost regions to occupancy; widespread across Russia  by 27,000 years ago → hay socks by 5,000 years ago
40,000 earliest figurative sculpture: an ivory figurine of a therianthrope with lion’s head and human torso (Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany )
40,000 earliest images of human form: hand stencils (Maros karsts, Sulawesi ; Lubang Jeriji Saléh, Borneo )
37,000 earliest artistic representation of human form: engravings of vulvas (Abri Castanet, France ): fertility symbol?
35,000 earliest animation in cave art (Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, France ): breaking down animal movement, prefiguring cinema; earliest proto-writing system
35,000 earliest fully human sculpture and female imagery: a mammoth-ivory ‘Venus’ figurine (Hohle Fels, Germany ): fertility totem?
34,000 cultural identity exhibited in personal ornaments fashioned from stone, shell, ivory, bone, and teeth from humans and animals (Gravettian technocomplex, pan-European)
32,600 processing of heat-dried wild oats with grindstones (Grotta Paglicci, Italy ; soon appearing across Europe, Australia), to make flour for storage and cooking
32,000 fruits of the campion Silene stenophylla freeze in Siberian tundra , regenerating from cryobiosis 32,000 years later into fertile plants
32,000 possible first human incursions into the Americas (Mexico ), certainly within the next 11,000 years (New Mexico ), migrating along the coast from Siberia?
31,000 earliest surgical amputation, of a child’s lower leg (Liang Tebo, Borneo ); the amputee surviving for 6 to 9 years, then burial
30,000 earliest woven fabrics, made from dyed fibres of wild flax (Georgia ) → baskets, textile clothing
29,500 earliest stone statuette: ochre-tinted oolitic limestone Venus of Willendorf (Austria )
27,000 possible first human incursions into South America (Santa Elina, Brazil ); colonising Peru by 15,000 years ago; humans henceforth occupying every continent except Antarctica
25,000 a coronavirus epidemic sweeps through East Asia, driving genetic adaptations still present in modern humans
24,000 use of poison arrows, with wooden ricin applicator (Lebombo mountains, South Africa )
24,000 a bdelloid rotifer freezes into ice in the Alayeza river (Russian Arctic ), reviving 24,000 years later to full vigour
23,000 fisher-hunter-gatherer brush huts (Sea of Galilee, Levant ): sealed floor, hearth, berry and seed stockpiles, grindstones, sleeping area with grass bedding
23,000 earliest fishing-net sinkers (Sea of Galilee, Levant) → modern industrial fishing currently in 55% of ocean area, covering agricultural area
popup timeline23,000 first domestication: dogs from grey wolves Canis lupus (Siberia or Japan), for companionship, hunting technology, and pulling sledges → 700 million dogs by CE 21ˢᵗ century
20,000 earliest pottery vessels (Xianrendong Cave, China ): cooking food in pots during the Last Glacial Maximum → Early-Holocene cultural transmission across Northern Eurasia
20,000 beginning of sea-level rise from deglaciation in a warming global climate; stabilising at today’s 120-m higher levels by c. 10,000 years ago
19,000 replacement of early modern humans across Eurasia by the ancestors of today’s populations
15,000 introgression of last remaining Denisovans into the modern human genome? Anatomically modern humans henceforth the only hominin
15,000 colonisation and occupation of North America by humans, from northeastern Siberia over the Bering land bridge, bringing their dogs
15,000 semi-permanent forager settlements of Natufians (Ain Mallaha, Levant ), evidenced by presence of house mice
15,000 earliest record of a string instrument: the musical bow (cave painting at Trois Frères, France ) → music initiated outside the body
15,000 earliest thaumatrope (Laugerie-Basse rock shelter, France ): an optical toy, creating movement by juxtaposition of images
14,400 evidence of baking bread: unleavened flatbread from wild einkorn and club-rush tubers (Shubayqa, Jordan ); caries from consumption of starchy foods
14,000 earliest lime plaster, used as an adhesive for hafting (Kebaran culture, North Sinai ) → mortar by 1000 BCE
13,400 earliest evidence of large-scale inter-communal violence: projectile and blunt-force trauma (Jebel Sahaba, Sudan ) → warfare and conflict driving human misery; language of hate rooted in morality
13,000 earliest record of ritual torture, by strangulation (Addaura Cave engravings, Sicily )
13,000 earliest record of artistic expression through dance, as rite of passage (engravings in Sicily ; paintings in India ): rhythms that elevate the spirit → collective desire for cosmic order
12,800 climate shift contributing to megafaunal extinctions and human cultural changes (Younger Dryas): triggered by a comet airburst over North America and Europe?
12,300 earliest evidence of humans using tobacco (West Desert, North America )
12,000 domestication of Cannabis (East Asia) → breeding for hemp-type and drug-type varieties by c. 1800 BCE
12,000 earliest record of a culturally transmitted ritual practice (Cloggs Cave, Australia ): ceremonial use of fat-smeared sticks, through 12,000 years at least to 1887
12,000 extinction of megafauna including woolly mammoths from continental Eurasia and North America, caused by human hunting and climate change
11,700 start of the Holocene Epoch within the Quaternary Period, characterised by warm and stable climate until the late CE 20ᵗʰ century
11,700 in the North American Mojave desert , a seed germinates and grows into a deadly creosote bush, which segments to sprout new stems, sprouting and segmenting for 11,700 years
11,600 earliest monumental ritual art (Shigir, Siberia ): 5-m tall larchwood plank carved with human forms and signs → complex ideas expressed by hunter-gatherers
4. Agricultural farming and settlements   to Summary  
BCE 9500 cultivation of wild barley and oats around village settlements (Fertile Crescent) → dawn of farming on the Anatolian peninsula; storable grains sustaining population growth
9500 earliest monumental temple (Göbekli Tepe, Anatolia ): carved stone stelae up to 4-m tall serving ritualistic purposes; associated skull cult; ceremonial porridge and beer
9500 earliest use of brick architecture: sun-dried mudbricks (Anatolia and the Levant, spreading to Mesopotamia) → fired bricks by 3000 BCE (China)
9000 earliest continuous settlements (southern Levant), including Jericho : stone and mudbrick architecture developing into a walled city of up to 3,000 people → modern cities of 30 million people
9000 domestication of grapes (Western Asia and Caucasus): selection for palatability, hermaphroditic reproductive mode, muscat flavour and skin colour
9000 earliest record of storytelling in an extended narrative scene (Sayburç, Anatolia ): the subject as the body of the work, the art as the spirit that animates it, sustaining its relevance through the ages
9000 earliest artistic representation of human sexual intercourse: 10-cm phallic sculpture of sensual and tender intimacy (‘Ain Sakhri, Levant )
9000 earliest record of fire-stick farming (Australia ): mosaics of frequent and low-intensity fires set early in the dry season, reducing the intensity of subsequent natural fires
8400 domestication of goats and sheep (Fertile Crescent and Anatolia) → milk, meat, wool, hide and capital from 1.2 billion sheep and 1.1 billion goats by CE 2019, rising trend
8100 global population of humans passes 5 million; annual energy use per person averages 1,700 kWh, 2.4× the resting metabolism
8000 continental ice-sheets withdraw from Europe and North America
8000 domestication of cattle, from aurochs (Near East and Indus Valley) → haulage, milk, meat, hide and capital from 1.5 billion head of cattle by CE 2019, rising trend
8000 domestication of wheat (Mesopotamia): hybrid vigour efficiently converting solar energy into food energy, aided by earthworms → 772 million tonnes per year by CE 2017, using 218 million ha of land: peak production?
8000 domestication of the bottle gourd Lagenaria siceraria, indigenous to Africa, in the Americas from Asian stock: global diffusion for containers, musical instruments, fishing floats
7500 domestication of cats, from Near Eastern wildcats Felis silvestris lybica (Middle East) → 400 million domestic cats by CE 20ᵗʰ century, a substantial threat to wildlife
7200 earliest large-scale representations of complete human forms: lime plaster statues 1-m tall (‘Ain Ghazal, Jordan )
7000 domestication of maize (Mexico) → 1.15 billion tonnes per year by CE 2019 using 197 million ha; with wheat and rice accounting for 60% of all human calorie supply, using 4% of global land area
7000 domestication of the potato (Andes, southern Peru) → 370 million tonnes per year by CE 2019, using 17 million ha of land; a food-security crop worldwide, not a globally traded commodity
7000 domestication of pigs (Anatolia and China) → meat, hide, bristles, medical research and capital from 1.0 billion pigs by CE 2015: peak production?
7000 big-game hunting practised by males and females (Wilamaya Patjxa, Andean highlands ) → hunting mostly not the preserve of men in recent hunter-gatherer societies
7000 emergence of privilege and elite status within communities (Ba`ja, Jordan ), evidenced by an elaborate necklace in a child’s tomb
7000 rise of Transeurasian languages, with the spread of millet farming from the Liao River Valley (north-eastern China) → 80 languages now spoken from Tokyo to Istanbul
6900 earliest use of bee products: beeswax lining pottery vessels (Çatalhöyük, Anatolia ), spreading rapidly across Eurasia from the 5ᵗʰ millennium BCE for technological and cultural functions
6700 extinction of woolly mammoths (northeast Siberia), caused by human hunting, following millennia of climate-driven habitat loss and fragmentation
6500 earliest mining of metal: heating, hammering and grinding copper into projectile points (Great Lakes, North America )
6500 earliest cattle dairying (north-western Anatolia), for milk and its products of cheese and ghee: protein and fat obtained without killing the capital asset
6500 beginning of a wave of migrations from the Middle East northwest through Anatolia, spreading farming practices into Europe
6100 rise of languages with subject-verb-object syntax – as in English – from a subject-object-verb root (Proto-Indo-European, southern Caucasus) → carried into Europe with migrations; other syntaxes arising later
6000 domestication of rice (Asia) → 763 million tonnes per year by CE 2018, using 166 million ha of land, with potential to boost yield by more than a third through genetic modification
6000 explorations of up to 1.5 km into deep underground caves (Saint-Marcel cave network, France ): engagement with the subterranean environment
6000 foraging for honey (Mesolithic painting in the Araña Caves, Spain ) → 90 million beehives by CE 2019
6000 earliest grape wine and viniculture (South Caucasus ) → wine as a social lubricant, medicine and commodity throughout western civilisation
6000 earliest forts (central Siberian taiga ): a hunter-gatherer innovation → diversity within fortified settlements
5900 start of the Copper Age (Fertile Crescent), spread of copper smelting for weapons and tools
5800 cultivation of cotton Gossypium barbadense (north Peru); G. arboreum cultivated in Pakistan by 5500 BCE → clothing, fishing nets, sheets, towels, rugs, wadding
5600 cultivation of poppies for opium (western Mediterranean), widespread by 4500 BCE, domestication by 3100 BCE → psychoactive, medicinal and alimentary uses
5500 flooding of the Black Sea from the Mediterranean Sea: perhaps the great flood of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the biblical flood of Noah’s Ark
5500 earliest salt production, by evaporation of brine (Provadia-Solnitsata, Bulgaria ): preserving food, enhancing flavour → high consumption in Western diet, with no evolutionary precedent
5480 extraordinarily large influx of cosmic rays from an abnormal Sun, possibly caused by solar proton events → potential for DNA damage on a global scale
5200 earliest use of bitumen, for waterproofing reed-bundle boats (As-Sabiyah, Kuwait ) → 65 billion tons of asphalt in roads and pavements by CE 2020
5200 earliest seaborne trading networks (Aegean for obsidian, Persian Gulf for Ubaid pottery), with mast and sail technology: the earliest harnessing of natural forces to replace human labour
5100 ritual landscape of large-scale mustatil monuments (western Saudi Arabia ): entranceways to courtyards, chambers, orthostats; associated cattle cult
5050 earliest burials by ritualistic mummification (Chinchorro culture, Atacama Desert ), some involving disassembly of the body
5000 earliest imitation of social prestige (Iberian Peninsula): simulating amber bead jewellery from mollusc shells coated in pine resin mixed with beeswax and pigment
5000 cultivation of sugarcane (Indo-China); spreading to Africa and the Americas, slave labour providing sugar to Europe and North America from CE 16ᵗʰ century → most productive biofuel
5000 domestication of bananas from Musa acuminata and subsequent hybridisations (Papua New Guinea) → 1 trillion bananas produced annually by 2020; rising trend, subject to disease risks
5000 domestication of tobacco (Andean Highlands, South America), spreading to North America by 1520 BCE → smoking kills 100 million people worldwide in CE 20ᵗʰ century, the worst preventable killer
5000 domestication of donkeys (East Africa), spreading rapidly throughout Eurasia → first land-based transport: pack animals for carrying materials and water, transforming society
4800 earliest artistic representation of introspection: Thinker and Sitting Woman figurines (Hamangia culture, Cernavodă, Romania ) → capacity for soul-searching and contemplation
4500 monogamous relationships and patrilineal descent through seven generations of a western European farming community (Gurgy ‘les Noisats’, France )
4200 earliest construction of wheels, by potters for crafting wheel-coiled bowls (southern Levant and northern Mesopotamia)
4000 domestication of chili pepper Capsicum (Tehuacán Valley, Mexico ), spreading rapidly into South America; brought to Europe by Columbus CE 1492 → now used daily by a quarter of the global population
4000 earliest use of indigo blue, from Indigofera species, for dyeing cotton fabric (Huaca Prieta, Peru ); use in Egypt by 2400 BCE, China by 1000 BCE
4000 earliest folk tale? A smith willingly trades his soul with the devil for skill to weld together any materials; his wish comes true, he welds the devil to a tree and keeps his soul (Indo-European)
4000 earliest board games (Egypt), moving pieces on a track according to outcomes determined by a throw stick → computers outperform humans in all board games by CE 2016 and in strategy games by CE 2022
3600 earliest direct evidence of malaria infection (Leubingen, Germany ) → by 2020 malaria sickening 240 million people worldwide, killing 600,000
3600 earliest engineering of water delivery and storage, for people, animals and irrigation (Jawa, Jordan ) → landscape engineering of dams, levees, ditches in China by 3100 BCE
3500 earliest ploughs for tilling soil (Italy ): harnessing domestic animals for work; landscape engineering for crops
3500 rising human fertility, enabled by earlier weaning of babies fed with milk of domestic ruminants (southern Britain)
3500 domestication of horses (Central Asian steppes), revolutionising mobility, economy, warfare → widespread mobility from 2200 BCE; transport, haulage, cavalry, meat and capital; 59 million horses by CE 2019
3400 earliest wheeled wagons (Germany, Slovenia, Near East) → breakthrough in haulage and locomotion: mechanical advantage equalling ratio of wheel to axle radii, moderated by friction; nanoscale wheel and axle by CE 2007
3300 start of the Bronze Age (Near East), bronze replacing copper for weapons, tools, nails, utensils; mixing of Eurasian peoples → rapid westward spread of farming, conversion of forest to dairy pasture
3300 cultivation of cacao trees for chocolate (upper Amazon ) → domestication in Mesoamerica by 1600 BCE, sacrificing productivity for stimulant and disease-resistance genes
3300 earliest numeral systems: pictograms of economic units on clay tablets (Uruk, Mesopotamia) → cuneiform sexagesimals in Mesopotamia by c. 3200 BCE, and hieroglyph decimals in Egypt by 3100 BCE
3200 full writing (cuneiform in Mesopotamia, hieroglyphics in Egypt), on clay tablets using the rebus principle → bookkeeping, instruction, commemoration, scripture, prayer, historical records
3200 earliest evidence of all-out warfare (north-central Iberia , ca. 3380-3000 BCE): extended conflict amongst young male warriors
3150 organic medicinal remedies from herbal wines (Abydos, Egypt )
3100 earliest evidence of the plague (Latvia ), possibly driving 3ʳᵈ millenium BCE Neolithic decline and migrations across Europe and Asia; infectious diseases dominate Holocene causes of death, shaping the course of history
3100 association of love-making with war-mongering (Inanna, Sumerian goddess of love and war, Uruk): human capacity to unite passion with lust, loyalty with brutality, conquests with casualties
3100 development of governance systems with the rise of Uruk (Mesopotamia ), Sumerian city of 30,000 residents, and cities of the Indus Valleyclass divisions, institutionalised slavery: living off the labour of others
3050 earliest standard weights (Mesopotamia) for balance scales, and cubit length (Egypt by 2700 BCE): objective frames of reference for valuing commodities → integration of markets across Western Eurasia within 2 millennia
3000 earliest abacus, replacing tables of multiplication, reciprocals, powers (Sumerian and Old Babylonian, 3ʳᵈ millennium BCE) → nanoscale abacus storing numerical information in individual molecules by CE 1996
3000 emergence of herpes HSV-1 virus causing cold sores (Europe), passed from parent to child; later spread more rapidly by romantic kissing, originating in Mesopotamia c. 2500 BCE
3000 cultivation of oil palm (west and central Africa) → palm oil now the most-consumed of all fats, from 411 million tonnes of oil-palm fruit per year by CE 2019 using 28 million ha, largely converted tropical forest
3000 global agricultural land use per person peaks at 2.72 ha → 0.66 ha by CE 2016 with improvements in yield
3000 synthesis of glass (Phoenicia) for beads → vessels by 1500 BCE; lenses by 700 BCE; CE 1ˢᵗ century mirrors and window glass; 7ᵗʰ century stained-glass windows; 13ᵗʰ century eyeglasses; late-20ᵗʰ century float-glass skyscrapers
3000 earliest metal swords, for combat and prestige (Arslantepe, Anatolia ) → essential battle weapons through nearly 5 millennia to CE 1918 and the end of World War I
3000 earliest use of a Solar calendar year of 365 days, anchored by spring and autumn equinoxes (Egypt and old Sumer)
3000 westward migration of steppe herders, integrating with Western European farmers over 500 years, introducing the wheel and Indo-European languages: first pan-European culture
2800 global population of humans passes 50 million; annual energy use per person averages 2,100 kWh, 3× the resting metabolism
2720 in the North American White Mountains a seedling grows into a bristlecone pine tree, which sustains production of viable seeds over a lifespan extending beyond 4,700 years
2650 earliest use of a lunar calendar year of 12 months, and each hour as one-twelfth part of the day or night (Shulgi, King of Ur, Mesopotamia )
2650 magnetic compass, used to orient chariots (Emperor Hoang-Ti, China, recorded in the Zizhi Tongjian CE 1084, Thoung Kian Kang Mou edition) → navigation at sea by CE 300, Tsin dynasty, China
2650 earliest management of wildlife exploitation: every fisher and hunter taxed one-tenth of their take (pharaoh Djoser, Egypt, recorded in the Famine Stela )
2650 earliest massive stone monuments: step pyramid tomb of pharaoh Djoser in Saqqara, Egypt ; contemporaneous pyramidal architecture in Caral-Supe, Peru ; megalith at Stonehenge, Britain
2600 earliest explicit use of zero, for levelling masonry (Meidum, Egypt ) → use as place value in 4ᵗʰ century BCE Babylonia, as nought by CE 150 in Alexandria, as nothing by CE 357 in Maya Mesoamerica, as algebraic number by CE 628 in India
2550 earliest dictionary: cuneiform tablets translating between Sumerian and Eblaic (Ebla, Syria )
2550 earliest writing on papyrus: Diary of Merer, documenting construction of the Great Pyramid (Wadi al-Jarf harbour, Egypt ) → parchment displacing papyrus by 200 BCE, ancient Greece; paper from pulp by 100 BCE, China
2550 architectural precision: the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt ), taller than any other building in the world for 3,800 years
2500 earliest locks (Egypt): door bolts → emergence of private ownership and privacy; possessions under lock and key by 1500 BCE, for unguarded secrecy
2500 earliest animal husbandry to produce a hybrid: the kunga, foal of a female domestic donkey and male wild ass (Umm el-Marra, Syria), used in diplomacy, ceremony, warfare
2350 earliest government reforms, addressing taxes and corruption (Uru-KA-gina, King of Lagash and Girsu, Mesopotamia) → modern corruption suppressed by long exposure to democracy
2340 first emperor of a state: Sargon the Great, Akkadian Empire (expanding across Mesopotamia, Levant, Anatolia) → beginnings of artistic emphasis on the person of the ruler as an individual
2300 earliest mechanical pump: the shaduf, a counterpoise for lifting buckets of river water (Mesopotamia) → suction pump by CE 1206
2300 earliest records of marriage (Akkad): an economic pact for child rearing, men tending to conceive later in age than women → a loving relationship particularly in Western nations; now declining globally
2200 decline of Bronze-Age civilisations in Egypt, ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, and terminal decline of Indus Valley civilisation, caused by centuries of drought beginning c. 2200 BCE
2100 earliest code of law, applying general principles to particular cases (Code of Ur-Nammu, Sumerian King of Ur, Mesopotamia)
2030 earliest recorded poetry (Nippur, Iraq ): a Sumerian love poem of passionate ardour, expressing an emotional truth about the human spirit
2000 extinction of last remnant population of woolly mammoths, on Wrangel Island, Arctic Sea
2000 earliest shift from fuelwood to coal (Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, China), for smelting copper, cooking, heating; mining by 1600 BCE → peak global coal production of 8.2 billion tonnes/year in CE 2013?
2000 earliest poetic depictions of emotional weeping (goddess Ningal lamenting the destruction of Ur, Mesopotamia): uniquely human tearful crying in response to helplessness, protecting against aggression
1900 earliest map of a territory: 3-dimensional topography covering 30 km of the Odet river valley , sculpted to scale on a schist rock slab (Saint-Bélec, France)
1900 establishment of a 7-day week (Assyria and Babylonia)
1850 earliest alphabetic script (Proto-Sinaitic, Sinai, Egypt) → economy of signs
1850 earliest architectural arch, a Canaanite gate (Ashkelon, Israel ) → breakthrough in construction of gateways, vaults, doors, windows, bridges: converting tensile stress into compressive stress
1825 earliest record of contraception: Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus, prescribing crocodile dung (Lehun, Egypt ) → distinction of sexual intercourse from reproduction
1800 earliest record of lipstick (graveyard, Marḫaši civilisation, Mesopotamia ), made from red hematite darkened with manganite and braunite: artificial enhancement of allure
5. Empires and conquests to Summary  
BCE 1800 beginnings of complex societies: Babylonian civilisation in Mesopotamia, 1800 BCE; Olmec civilisation in Mesoamerica, 1800 BCE; Shang dynasty in China, 1600 BCE; New Kingdom in Egypt, 1600 BCE
1800 earliest extraction and working of iron (Anatolia) → alloying with carbon to make steel in Cyprus by 1100 BCE
1800 earliest prose fiction: The Epic of Gilgamesh (in cuneiform on clay tablets, Ur, Mesopotamia), a heroic story of the tragicomedy of life, love won and lost, and inevitable death
1780 first female ruler of a royal dynasty: Pharaoh Nofrusobek, Middle Kingdom, Egypt
1750 earliest principles of property insurance, against faulty construction that results in loss or damage (Code of Hammurabi, Babylonian Susa ): proportionate compensation
1750 earliest cultivation of the tea plant Camellia sinensis (China, early 2ⁿᵈ millennium BCE) → now the most frequently consumed beverage worldwide, with many health benefits
1700 earliest transcribed lullaby (Old Babylonian, 1950-1530 BCE) → universally soothing experience of lullabies across cultures
1650 domestication of chickens (Thailand) from red junglefowl → meat and eggs from 25.9 billion chickens by CE 2019 and rising, the biomass of all wild birds
1650 harvesting of latex from the Castilla elastica tree to make rubber for balls and figurines (Mexico): the first plastic polymer → unsurpassed sliding friction and durable elasticity
1650 earliest team sport: rubber-ball game played in an architectural ballcourt (Paso de la Amada, Mexico ) → social compacts; decapitation rituals by CE 500
1650 earliest porcelaneous high-fired ceramics (Piaoshan kiln, China ): fragile when whole, indestructible as broken shards → true porcelain by early CE, China
1650 earliest stencils of archetypes, for hyperbolae, ellipses and spirals, used in the Gathering of Crocus wall painting (Thera, Aegean Sea ): knowledge of the foundations of geometry
1630 earliest planetary observations, of the motions of Venus (reign of Ammisaduqa, king of Babylon )
1550 reckoning with fractions and geometry (Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, Egypt)
1520 first accurate timepiece: an outflow water-clock (Amenemhet, court of Amenhotep I, Egypt) measuring night-time; shadow clocks and sundials regulating daytime worker shifts
1500 earliest depiction of joyful and uninhibited celebration by ordinary people (Minoan Harvester Vase, Agia Triada, Crete ); happiness sought and found in meeting a need
1400 earliest colonisation of Remote Oceania (Mariana archipelago ) → migrations to all Pacific archipelagos over the next 3 millennia; women settling, men dispersing
1370 early depiction of empathy: sister-in-law and brother of Ramose (Funeral Banquet limestone relief, tomb of Vizier Ramose, Thebes, Egypt ): matching heart rhythms
1330 early depictions of mutual affection: Nefertiti holding the hand of her husband pharaoh Akhenaten, and gentleness: Ankhesenamun anointing her husband pharaoh Tutankhamun (Egypt ); meaning in life found in engagement with others
1300 earliest notated music: Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal (in cuneiform, Ugarit, Syria ); the singing voice carrying further than the spoken voice, conveying feeling
1200 sea-going trade in silver and dyes by Phoenicians, connecting the Levant with western Europe across the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean
1180 beginning of 300 years of drought extending from Spain to India, contributing to the demise of the Mycenaean civilisation (ancient Greece)
1050 start of the Iron Age (Aegean; Britain by 800 BCE), iron replacing bronze for tools and weapons
1000 use of hydraulic plaster, mixing lime with silicates (Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel ) → concrete in Ancient Rome by CE 70, the dominant building material of modern times
1000 earliest depiction of the cosmos: a bronze disc inlaid with gold symbols of the Sun, Moon, and stars including the Pleiades cluster (Nebra, Germany )
950 first Jewish temple (King Solomon, Jerusalem ) → rise of Judaism for a chosen people
900 earliest centre of higher learning (Taxila, Indus Valley ) → Plato’s Academy, ancient Greece by 387 BCE; Taixue, China by CE 3; Al-Karaouine, Morocco by CE 859; European medieval universities
900 accurate prediction of lunar eclipses (Berlin Gold Hat, Germany)
900 standardisation of value: adoption of cowrie shells as money (Middle Western Zhou period, China) → cowrie monetary systems in Asia and West Africa during 3 millennia to modern times
820 earliest professional army (Lacedaemonians of Sparta, ancient Greece , described by Xenophon, 388 BCE), sustained by a social contract: duties rewarded with citizenship → militarily-assured power
776 first Olympic games (Olympia, Peloponnesus , 776 BCE): a 4-yearly truce bringing together athletes to compete for the symbolic reward of an olive wreath → revival in CE 1896
700 fraudulent impersonation, parodying kingship: a letter supposedly written by mythological King Gilgamesh some 2,000 years earlier (Sultantepe, Anatolia )
700 first book of European literature: The Iliad (Homer, ancient Greece), an epic poem on the pathos of loss and suffering caused by war
700 Archimedes’ Screw, used to irrigate Sennacherib’s elevated garden (river Tigris at Nineveh, Babylon ), described by Archimedes 4 centuries later
650 earliest collection of scholarly texts, on 32,000 cuneiform tablets: the Library of Ashurbanipal (Nineveh, Babylon)
630 earliest use of coinage (Ionia or Lydia, Anatolia): many denominations of stamped electrum, a gold-silver alloy → government-controlled economy of transaction costs
600 first circumnavigation of the African continent, by Phoenicians sailing 26,000 km during 3 years, clockwise from the Red Sea (reported by Herodotus in The Histories 430 BCE)
550 earliest cartography: a map of the known world, by Anaximander (ancient Greece, c. 550 BCE, reported in Strabo’s Geographica 7 BCE)
550 first Persian Empire (Cyrus the Great, Persia), connecting the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley → code of just rule that respects others’ faiths
550 training in surgery and anatomy, described in the Susruta Samhita (northern India, 6ᵗʰ century BCE)
550 professional policing, investigating criminal cases, addressing injustices (the paqūdu of Babylonia c. 550 BCE)
500 height of Greek civilisation (slave society of ancient Greece, 6ᵗʰ to 4ᵗʰ centuries BCE) → foundations of Western philosophy, ethics, poetry, drama; first democracy 508 BCE
500 construction of a navigable canal from the Nile to the Red Sea (Darius I of Persia) → Suez Canal by CE 1869, the shortest maritime route between Europe and Asia
500 earliest direct evidence of cannabis used as a psychoactive substance (Jirzankal Cemetery, China ) → modern narco-trafficking spread by counter-drug interdiction
470 early appeal to the principle of sufficient reason: nothing comes from nothing (Parmenides, ancient Greece) → law of conservation of mass by CE 1773
450 earliest cast iron artefacts (Jiangsu, China) → common era uses in manufacture of utensils, pipes, wheels, axle bearings, crankshafts, casings and liners, cannons, bridges, buildings
450 invention of a 360° zodiac (Babylonia) → longitudes of planets
450 collection of the sayings of Confucius (551-479 BCE, China ) into the Analects, founding Confucianism, with a role for every person in society, and universal education
450 collection of the Torah and other scriptures into the Hebrew Bible → Christian Old Testament 500 years later, including the divine authority of the Ten Commandments
400 Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha, c. 480-400 BCE, Ancient India ) lays the foundations of Buddhism, with joy as a calling towards the path of nirvana; rebirth in hell for misconduct
400 recognition of non-binary gender designation (Mahābhārata epic poem, India)
400 counterfactual thinking (Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, ancient Greece), encompassing regrets and relief about unfulfilled possibilities: what might have been
400 earliest in-patient hospitals (King Paṇḍukābhaya, Sri Lanka) → professional care for the sick
400 Hippocratic Oath (ascribed to Hippocrates, c. 400 BCE), swearing to uphold medical standards → modern versions still a rite of passage and moral compass for clinicians
375 idea that justice and virtue are inherent qualities of inner harmony (Plato’s Republic, ancient Greece): limits to the liability of external forces for conduct → moral conscience of Christianity
375 idea of enlightenment as the discomforting experience of layered reality (allegory of the cave, in Plato’s Republic, ancient Greece): possibility of truth beyond intelligible reality
364 first sighting of another moon: Jupiter’s Ganymede, discovered with the naked eye (Gan De, China) → rediscovery by Galileo Galilei in CE 1610, using a 20× telescope
350 concept of time-velocity space (Babylonia): displacement of Jupiter calculated as the area under a graph of its velocity over time, foreshadowing integral calculus
350 development of formal systems of reasoning, by logical deduction from axioms and postulates (Aristotle, ancient Greece) → scientific disciplines
350 understanding of the emotions as dimensions of feeling that affect judgement (Aristotle, ancient Greece): anger, love, fear, shame, kindness, pity, envy, emulation
350 political theory of social welfare (Aristotle, ancient Greece): a state tax on assets of affluent citizens for distribution amongst the poor
320 compilation of the Tao Te Ching (China) on peace and war, founding Taoism in ritual cultivation of life’s inherent natural and spiritual forces, benefitting all
300 mass persuasion, using silver coins stamped with the head of previous legendary ruler Alexander the Great (Lampsacus, Anatolia): appropriating history to glorify the present
300 earliest economic exploitation of chicken outside East Asia (Southern Levant); now the world’s most ubiquitous species of livestock, a principle source of protein
300 postulation of Euclidean geometry of flat surfaces (Euclid of Alexandria, ancient Greece) → first printed edition of Euclid’s Elements, CE 1482
280 first hypothesis that Earth revolves around the Sun (Aristarchus of Samos, ancient Greece, reported in Archimedes’ The Sand Reckoner, c. 260 BCE)
250 first estimation of π within known limits (Archimedes, ancient Greece), describing circles, discs, spheres, cones, orbits, loops, spirals, waves, using methods that anticipate CE 17ᵗʰ century calculus
250 earliest accurate estimates of the circumference, diameter and tilt of a spherical Earth (Eratosthenes, ancient Greece, c. 250 BCE, reported by Pliny CE 77)
250 earliest watermills (Egypt; Anatolia by 50 BCE, reported in Strabo’s Geographica 7 BCE), milling grain, processing ore; the first machines to harness a natural force for mechanical work
220 construction of the Great Wall, stretching 1,900 km (Emperor Qin Shi Huang, China ) → 21,196 km in total length by the Ming dynasty to CE 1644
200 fusion of Indian cultures and traditions into Hinduism, with worship posthumously rewarded by favourable rebirth; torment in hell for sinners → currently the third most populous religion, after Christianity and Islam
200 widespread adoption of seed drills (Han dynasty, northern China); reinvention by Jethro Tull in CE 1701, Britain → production efficiency heralding the dawn of modern agriculture
130 earliest attempt to map the night sky (Hipparchus’ Star Catalogue c. 130 BCE, Rhodes), accurate to within 1° → astronomy as predictive science
100 first analogue computer: Antikythera Mechanism of bronze gears, mechanising solar and lunar epicycles and eclipses, and motions of the planets in the known cosmos (Antikythera, ancient Greece ); unsurpassed for 1,400 years
100 earliest positional system of decimal fractions, for algorithmic calculations with positive and negative numbers using counting rods (China)
100 establishment of the Silk Roads, for overland trade between East Asia and southern Europe → China’s CE 2013 Belt and Road Initiative, opening routes to trade and investment in 70 economies
BCE 27 establishment of the Roman Empire (Europe), enduring c. 600 years → expanding infrastructures of roads, using designs that still prevail, and aqueducts, lead-pipe plumbing and sanitation; self-strengthening concrete; leap years
CE 30 death of Jesus of Nazareth and transcribing of his life in the New Testament → rise of Christianity, with salvation for the righteous and heaven as reward; sinners fear hell
77 earliest encyclopaedia (Pliny the Elder, Italy, Naturalis Historia books 1-5, 6-10, 11-17, 18-23, 24-31, 32-37 CE 77)
100 maritime trade routes between Africa, India, China, for spices, medicines, fabrics; connecting to Ancient Rome through Alexandria
100 use of paper for writing and painting begins to supplant bamboo and silk in China (Emperor He, Eastern Han dynasty, c. 100)
100 in the North American Blue Mountains , a colony of the fungus Armillaria ostoyae extends its network of branching hyphae during 1,900 years to cover 9.6 km² with a c. 10,000-tonne subterranean mycelium
132 invention of the seismoscope (Zhang Heng, China, 132), detecting earthquakes 600 km away; the first device to enhance the reach of sensory perception since the orb-weaving spider first outsourced hearing to its web
150 development of the astrolabe from celestial globes, locating Sun and stars in relation to the equator (Ptolemy, Alexandria, c. 150) → determination of latitude
150 earliest industrial complex: watermills of Barbegal (France , 2ⁿᵈ century), producing 25 tons/day of hardtack biscuits for local harbours
250 constructed wetlands for a circular economy of freshwater (Central America, Classic Maya period, 250-900), using aquatic microbes, zooplankton and plants to remove contaminants and pathogens
290 firing of natural gas in southwest China, to boil brine for salt (Bowu zhi c. 290), and to pipe into homes for lighting (Huayang Guo Zhi c. 340) → 3.9 trillion m³/year of global gas extraction by 2018 and rising
290 use of mineral oil in central China, to lubricate axles and to seal water tanks (Bowu zhi c. 290, reported in Shui Jing Zhu c. 500) → 5.0 billion tonnes/year of global oil extraction by 2018: peak production?
300 beginning of central Europe’s 300-year Migration Period: cultural and socioeconomic turmoil coinciding with climatic variability; 6ᵗʰ century Mongolian Avar warriors overwhelming the eastern Roman Empire
400 spread of urbanisation, with cities of over 100,000 people in Roman, Chinese and Mesoamerican empires (Teotihuacan, Mexico , covering 18 km² c. 400) → specialisation of trades and occupations
430 human desire for personal relations with god, communicated to the masses as a king’s privilege (India): Hindu ruler Kumaragupta I depicted on coins feeding a sacred peacock
517 observation that free-falling bodies accelerate independently of their masses (John Philoponus, Alexandria, On Aristotle’s Physics 517) → proved in 1687 for gravitational pull on bodies in a void; confirmed in space by 2022
532 invention of anno Domini, or AD (Dionysius Exiguus, Romania, 532); called anno aerae nostrae vulgaris by Johannes Kepler in 1615, now Common Era, or CE → no calendar year zero
536 crop failures across the northern hemisphere caused by extreme cold following volcanic eruptions in Iceland; then bubonic plague (536-547) → century of economic stagnation
550 earliest block printing on paper (China, c. 550) → widespread use of printed books in 11ᵗʰ century Song dynasty China
620 discovery of Antarctica by Polynesian Māoris (Hui Te Rangiora on the vessel Te Ivi o Atea, from New Zealand, early 7ᵗʰ century) → numerous visits over subsequent centuries
628 introduction of rules governing the use of zero in number systems (Brahmagupta, India, Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta 628): birth of modern algebra
632 death of the prophet Muhammad (Medina, Arabia , 632) and transcribing of his revelations in the Qur'an → rise of Islam, with prayer guiding righteous deeds and paradise as reward; hell for disbelievers
700 over 700 European cities exceed 1,000 inhabitants in CE 700, of which only Constantinople exceeds 100,000 → 22 such cities by 1800, thereafter rising exponentially to 665 by 2000
754 establishment of the Papal States (Pope Stephen II, central Italy, 754) → global reach of the Catholic Church headed by a pope; 900 years of European art and architecture subjugated to Christianity
790 Islamic Golden Age, from late-8ᵗʰ to mid-13ᵗʰ centuries: flourishing art, design, architecture, and scientific innovation
841 earliest use of statistical inference (Abū Yūsuf Ya'qūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī, Iraq, Risalah fi Istikhraj al-Mu'amma 841), for cryptography → analysis of distributed variables
874 Norse colonisation of Iceland , 874, from Norway in the Viking Age; deforestation and sheep grazing erode soils, driving down the island’s vegetation irretrievably to a half, and forests to 4%, of original extent
900 earliest windmills (Khorasan, Iran-Afghanistan, c. 900, recorded by Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad Iṣṭakhrī) → nanoscale windmills by 2008
985 Norse colonisation of Greenland by Viking Erik Thorvaldsson, 985; Newfoundland by his son Leif, at least by 1021: human migrations henceforth encircling the globe → a century of harvesting North American stockfish and eiderdown
1000 sexagesimal subdivision of the hour into 60 minutes, and the minute into 60 seconds (Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, Iran, c. 1000)
1021 invention of the camera obscura (Ibn al-Haytham, Iraq, Book of Optics 1011-1021), projecting images through a pinhole to prove the independence of light from vision: birth of evidence-based science
1044 formula for gunpowder, used for fire arrows, incendiary projectiles, smoke bombs (Northern Song dynasty, China, Wujing Zongyao 1044) → cannons by 1128, guns by c. 1270, rockets by 1272
1055 first hospice (Jerusalem, c. 1055) → professional palliative care for the dying
1060 beginning of 300 years of warring Crusades in the name of the Latin Church, against Islamic rule in the biblical Land of Israel and Palestine
1120 first government-issued paper money (Song dynasty, China) → a trusted IOU combining Aristotle’s four functions of money, as medium of exchange, mode of payment, unit of account, store of value
1150 eastward migrating Asian Polynesians meet westward migrating South Americans (southern Pacific Marquesas Islands , c. 1150) → admixture on Easter Island by 1380, construction of monumental stone statues
1206 rise of the Mongol Empire connecting the Pacific to the Mediterranean, founded by Genghis Khan; recounted by Marco Polo c. 1300 → 35 million male-line descendants of Genghis Khan across modern Asia
1215 first declaration of human rights: Magna Carta (King John of England, 15/6/1215) → the first and now oldest national constitution; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
1283 first mechanical clock with an escapement mechanism (Dunstable Priory, Britain, 1283 ), regulating clock speed
1286 discovery of the art of making eyeglasses (anon., Italy, 1286), “one of the best and most necessary arts that the world has” – Friar Giordano da Rivalto, 23/2/1305 → 2.5 billion people needing yet not having glasses in 2016
1300 start of the northern hemisphere Little Ice Age (1300-1850) → crop failures, social upheaval; perhaps curbed and curtailed by greenhouse-gas emissions during 8,000 years of forest clearance for agriculture
1337 accretion of personal wealth from gold by Mansa Musa I (c. 1280-1337), Emperor of Mali and richest person in history: peak of inequality amongst individuals → gold still a safe haven in money markets
1346 bubonic plague caused by the Black Death bacillus Yersinia pestis kills a third of all humans across much of Europe, 1346-53; originating in Kyrgyzstan or the Himalayas, transmitted by rats and their fleas, and human body lice
1350 earliest cultivation of Coffea arabica for coffee (Yemen, using Ethiopian seeds, 14ᵗʰ century) → 100 million coffee farmers supplying 2 billion cups per day; extinction threats to most wild coffee species
1397 earliest banking (Medici Bank, Italy, 1397) → modern function as intermediary between savers and borrowers; inherent vulnerability to liquidity shocks, with bank runs driving economic downturns
1400 birth of the European Renaissance (Italy), rise of individuality, imagination, innovation, capitalism
1418 accurate geometrical perspective in painting (Filippo Brunelleschi, Italy, c. 1418; codified by Leon Battista Alberti, Italy, De Pictura 1436)
1438 Inca expansion, becoming the world’s largest empire by 1500, ruling 12 million people over 5,000 km of Andes ; altiplano labour economy powered by llamas for transport
1440 first mechanical printing press with movable type (Johannes Gutenberg, Germany, 1440) → mass production, dissemination and survival of journals, pamphlets and books, of theology, governance, history, criticism, science, fiction, forbidden texts
1492 European mariners reach the Americas (Christopher Columbus from Spain, 1492) → colonial settlements; 16ᵗʰ century Columbian Exchange of cultural infrastructure between New and Old Worlds, and Great Dying of 56 million indigenous peoples of the Americas
1498 European mariners reach India (Vasco da Gama from Portugal, 1498), connecting the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean → colonial empires in Africa and Asia; Indian Ocean trade; global multiculturalism
1500 foundations of Western art laid by Leonardo da Vinci (Italy, 1452-1519) and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Italy, 1475-1564), in humanist sculpture, drawing, portraiture and frescos
1510 technical drawing of anatomical features, mechanisms and engineering designs (Leonardo da Vinci, Italy, c. 1510)
1516 concept of utopia, imagined as an island society in the New World that implausibly meets all human desires (Thomas More, Britain, Utopia 1516) → political ideal theory
1517 Reformation, splitting the universal Christian world into sects (Martin Luther, Germany, 1517)
1522 first circumnavigation of the globe (Ferdinand Magellan westward from Spain to Philippines , Juan Sebastián Elcano westward return to Spain, 1519-22, 60,500 km) → globalisation of sea trade
1526 beginning of the Atlantic slave trade by Europeans (1526) → 12 million slaves exported from Africa to the Americas up to 1900, for labour on plantations
1542 global population of humans passes 500 million; annual energy use per person averages 9,800 kWh, 14× the resting metabolism
6. Scientific Revolution to Summary  
CE 1543 theory of Earth and the planets revolving around the Sun (Nicolaus Copernicus, Poland, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium 1543) → pursuit of supporting evidence
1582 introduction of the Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory XIII, Italy, 1582) → de facto international standard for civil calendars
1582 first entrepreneurial newspaper publishers (Ming Dynasty Beijing, China, 1582) → independent reporting that witnesses torment, investigates oppression, safeguards freedom of expression
1605 first modern novel (Miguel de Cervantes, Spain, Don Quixote 1605 and 1615): an unreliable narrator describes the mercifully funny consequences of free will colliding with fate
1608 invention of the refracting telescope (Hans Lipperhey, Netherlands, 1608), enhancing the reach of visual perception by 3×
1609 inversion of the refracting telescope to create a compound microscope (Galileo Galilei, Italy, described in Il Saggiatore 1623) → cryo-electron microscopy imaging atoms in molecules by 2020
1610 observations of the orbits of Jupiter’s moons (Galileo Galilei, Italy, Sidereus Nuncius 1610), falsifying church doctrine of Earth as the only centre of movement in the Universe → authority of evidence-based science
1612 concept of a universal clock, calibrated on orbital periods of Jupiter’s moons (Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1612) → accurate estimation of longitude for navigation, given a stable observation platform
1619 distances of planets from the Sun measured relative to Earth’s distance of 1 astronomical unit (Johannes Kepler, Germany, Harmonices Mundi 1619)
1621 first medical treatise on mental welfare (Robert Burton, Britain, The Anatomy of Melancholy 1621), the author confiding in his reader → association with nature, physical health and exercise, social stability and inclusion
1628 first graph of distributed observations (Michael Florent van Langren, Netherlands, 1628); line graphs and bar charts by 1786 → data visualisation that saves lives
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, Dialogo 1632)
1637 idea that truth is the product of autonomous reason (René Descartes, France, Discours de la Méthode 1637; Méditations 1641) → emancipation from revelational truth and religious doctrine; distinction of mind from matter
1642 earliest functioning mechanical calculator, for addition and subtraction: the Pascaline (Blaise Pascal, France, 1642)
1650 relatedness of married couples averages about fourth cousin in 1650 for Europe and North America → decreasing only from 1870 onwards with cousin marriage prohibitions
1656 first pendulum clock (Christiaan Huygens, Netherlands, 25/12/1656), developing on ideas by Galileo Galilei → unsurpassed accuracy on land for 275 years
1661 first experiments with desalination by freezing (Thomas Bartholin, Denmark, 1661) → potential for passive freezing of seawater to provide 21ˢᵗ century water security
1665 identification of organismal cells (Robert Hooke, Britain, Micrographia 1665): the smallest unit of structure and function for all life forms, the vehicle for all hereditary information defining each species
1665 notion of gravitation as a universal force, occasioned to Isaac Newton by the fall of an apple (Britain, as recounted to William Stukeley in 1726) → four fundamental interactions: gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces
1665 concept and measure of Gross Domestic Product: GDP (William Petty, Britain, 1665) → a globally favoured index of national prosperity from 1953, conflating growth in productivity with drawdown of capital; sustainability benefits of degrowth
1669 artistic rendering of unconditional forgiveness, in Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son (Netherlands, 1669): limits to the conditionality of transactions
1676 first determination of the speed of light (Ole Rømer, Denmark, 1676): 299,792 km per second in a vacuum; 9.46 trillion km per year → light-year measure of distance
1676 discovery of single-celled organisms (Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Netherlands, 1676) → science of microbiology
1687 formulation of laws of motion and universal gravitation, applicable to all the phenomena of the cosmos (Isaac Newton, Britain, Principia 1687): foundation of classical mechanics → European Age of Enlightenment
1690 extinction of the dodo (Mauritius , c. 1690) → symbol of stupidity: the pigeon that couldn’t fly; later symbolic of human wreckage across three-quarters of Earth’s land and two-thirds of oceans
1700 rapid colonisation of Americas, India and Australia by Europeans from the early 1700s → dominion of India by the British East India Company from 1760s; British rule 1858-1947
1700 modest improvements in global GDP per capita since CE 1 henceforth begin accelerating in western Europe and North America → acceleration in Latin America and Asia from 1950, Africa from 2000
1735 cataloguing of organisms by genera and species (Carl Linnaeus, Sweden, Systema Naturae 1735-1768) → modern classification of 2 million from an estimated 8 million eukaryote species, possibly 1 trillion microbes
1759 first accurate sea clock: H4 (John Harrison, Britain, 1759), a pocket watch with high-frequency balance wheel, solving the problem of longitude for marine navigation
1761 first observed transit of Venus across the Sun (6/6/1761) → 1 astronomical unit of distance from Earth to Sun equal to 149,597,871 km
1769 invention of the first cost-effective steam engine (James Watt, Britain, 1769) → powered machinery, Industrial Revolution
1770 invention of the spinning jenny (James Hargreaves, Britain, 1770), mechanising the spinning of cotton → cloth weaving factories by 1771
1773 establishment of the law of conservation of mass (Antoine Lavoisier, France, 1773): the amount of matter cannot change
1774 vaccination with an attenuated pathogen: cowpox to treat smallpox (Benjamin Jesty, Britain, 1774; Edward Jenner, Britain, 1798) → artificial attenuation by 1881; vaccination programmes save more lives than any other medical intervention in history
1776 declaration of independence of the United States of America from colonial rule, and of the unalienable rights of all humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (4/7/1776) → economic superstate of the USA
1776 idea that pursuit of self-interest leads to the common good (Adam Smith, Britain, The Wealth of Nations 1776) → free markets, producing unequal opportunity unless government regulates trade
1778 first national nature reserve (Bogd Khan Uul, Mongolia , 1778) → global protected areas cover 15% of land and 11% of ocean by 2018
7. Industrial Revolution to Summary  
CE 1780 mass production of spun textiles, mechanised by water power; coal-fired and steam-powered production of iron and steel (beginning Britain, c. 1780) → economies of scale, rising polarisation of rich and poor nations, dominance of fossil fuels
1780 mass production of wrought iron from scrap iron (76 Black metallurgists, Reeder’s Pen foundry, Jamaica , 1780); patented by Henry Cort 1783-4 → British command of the global iron trade
1781 inherent limits to the powers of reason (Immanuel Kant, Germany, Critique of Pure Reason 1781): knowledge springs from understanding the objects of experience; pure reason is properly directed only to moral imperatives
1783 invention of aviation: first piloted free flight by humans, in a hot-air balloon constructed by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (France, 21/11/1783)
1784 first postulation of black holes (John Michell, Britain, 1784), later predicted by general relativity as singularities in spacetime, their gravitational fields pulling in all matter, and all electromagnetic radiation including light
1789 spread of Republicanism (French Revolution, 1789-1799) → radical socio-political transformation in western Europe; building of nation states; metric system of weights and measures by 1792
1790 idea of beauty as universal and subjective (Immanuel Kant, Germany, Critique of Judgement 1790), neither merely agreeable to personal taste nor ruled good or perfect by any concept
1792 indictment of double standards in the treatment of women by men (Mary Wollstonecraft, Britain, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1792) → slow progress towards gender equality
1798 calculation of Earth’s density, using a torsion balance (Henry Cavendish, Britain, 1798) → Newton’s gravitational constant G determining the gravitational force between two masses
1798 observation that population growth capacity always outpaces improvements in resources (Thomas Malthus, Britain, 1798) → the struggle for existence facing all organisms; the challenge to human wellbeing, until the advent of oil-based economies
1799 first electrochemical battery (Alessandro Volta, Italy, 1799), sandwiching electrolyte-soaked pasteboard between two dissimilar metals to create a steady voltage → mobile energy storage
1804 proof that light behaves as a wave (Thomas Young, UK, 1804) → wave-particle duality of photons and other quantum phenomena
1807 concept of the mutual dependence of physical, climatological and organic phenomena (Alexander von Humboldt, Prussia, 1807) → science of biogeography
1808 discovery of atoms, uniquely defining each chemical element of ordinary matter (John Dalton, UK, 1808) → atomic masses of the 94 natural elements; hydrogen accounting for nine tenths of all atoms in the Universe
1817 invention of the bicycle (Karl von Drais, Germany, 1817); pedals by 1853, chain by 1886, derailleur by 1895 → the most efficient human-powered land vehicle
1821 first demonstration of an electromagnetic rotary device (Michael Faraday, UK, 1821) → dynamos to generate electricity; electric motors to convert electricity into mechanical energy
1822 first prediction of Earth’s greenhouse effect (Joseph Fourier, France, 1822; tested empirically by Eunice Foote, USA, 1856, John Tyndall, Ireland, 1859) → CO₂ emissions from fossil fuels cause global climate warming
1825 first public railway for steam locomotives (George Stephenson, UK, 1825), outpacing carriage horses, previously the fastest land transport during 5,300 years of human history
1826 publication of String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor Op. 131 by Ludwig van Beethoven (Germany, 1826): “hear only the direct revelation from another world” – Richard Wagner, 1870
1827 first permanent photograph taken by a camera (Nicéphore Niépce, France, 1827) → first image of a person, 1838: Louis Daguerre seizing the light, arresting its flight on silvered plate, preserving a moment in history
1834 invention of the Analytical Engine (Charles Babbage, UK, 1834), an unbuilt functional computer → first computer program by Ada Lovelace, 1843, in collaboration with Babbage; programmable computers by 1940s
1838 first scheduled trans-Atlantic steamer: coal-fired Great Western (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, UK, 1838) → globalisation of economies
1846 first use of quinine, from Andean cinchona trees, as a malaria prophylaxis (Thomas Thomson, UK, 1846), enabling European colonisation of tropical Africa and Asia → malaria vaccine by 2021 boosting childhood survival
1848 scale of absolute temperature (Lord Kelvin, UK, 1848) → fundamental limit to degree of coldness at 0 Kelvin, −273.15°C; quantum gases forced lower get hotter
1850 principles of conservation of energy and gain of entropy (Rudolf Clausius, Germany, and Lord Kelvin, UK, 1850) → laws of thermodynamics: heat flows from a warmer to a colder body – unless reversed by inertia
1850 industrial processing of flour and sugar; fattening of cattle in feedlots (Europe and USA, beginning c. 1850) → biggest dietary shift since the beginning of agriculture
1856 first practical compression refrigerator (James Harrison, Australia, 1856), for storing perishable foods → globalisation of trade in fresh and frozen meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables
1859 invention of the lead-acid cell (Gaston Planté, France, 1859), the first rechargeable battery → practical electric vehicles by the 1880s
1859 theory of evolution by natural selection (Charles Darwin, UK, On the Origin of Species 1859), a law unique to biological systems → heritable adaptations of individuals to their environment, speciation of populations through time, the diversity of life
1859 first training manual for care of the sick regardless of their means (Florence Nightingale, UK, Notes on Nursing 1859) → professional nursing, health benefits of fresh air and personal cleanliness
1860 factory production of internal-combustion engines (Jean Lenoir, Belgium, 1860; user manual 1864) → electricity generators, motorised transport
1860 development of Western modern art c. 1860-1960, depicting impressions of light and movement, expressive colours and harmonies, primitive forms and rhythms, solitary and collective struggles, decisive moments, formative experience
1865 theory that electricity, magnetism and light are all manifestations of electromagnetic radiation (James Maxwell, UK, 1865) → foundations of quantum physics
1866 discovery of the unitary character of heritable traits, and the independent assortment of their alternative forms (Gregor Mendel, Austria, 1866) → the gene as unit of heredity, contained in chromosomes – but not for Borgs
1867 theory that capitalism exploits labour, with the objectionable consequence of empowering the rich by disadvantaging the poor (Carl Marx, Germany, Das Kapital 1867, 1885, 1894) → Marxism, socialism, Stalinism
1874 discovery of unequal infinities: the infinite continuum of all real numbers exceeds in size any infinite set of natural numbers (Georg Cantor, Germany, 1874) → three sizes of infinity?
1876 invention of the telephone (Alexander Bell, USA, 1876), enabling conversation between distant voices → telecommunications
1877 invention of the phonograph (Thomas Edison, USA, 1877): first practical sound recording → gramophone and mass produced records by 1890s, popularising individual artists
1879 invention of the first cheap and safe electric light bulb (Thomas Edison, USA, 1879), extending the working day → organic light-emitting diodes by the 21ˢᵗ century
1880 invention of the photophone (Alexander Bell and Sumner Tainter, USA, 1880), transmitting sound on a beam of light → fibre-optic data transmission by 1966
1880 adult literacy reaches 20% of the global population by 1880 → 85% by 2010
1880 share of the world population living as international immigrants remains at a constant 3% over the next 140 years
1882 first commercially viable power stations, coal-fired (London and New York, 1882) → electrical grid; fossil fuels providing 63% of global electricity generation by 2019
1882 first hydroelectric power station (Jacob Schoellkopf, USA, 1882 ) → megadams replumbing the world’s major rivers from the 1950s; 16% of global (and 98% of Norway’s) electricity generation by 2019
1884 first rooftop photovoltaic solar array (Charles Fritts, USA, 1884) → rising to 3% of global electricity generation by 2019
1884 beginning of the Scramble for Africa by European powers (1884), occupying nine tenths by 1914 → ethnic partitioning through official colonial rule through to c. 1960
1886 first car with gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (Karl Benz, Germany, 1886) → 97 million motor vehicles produced globally per year by 2017: peak production?
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, except for celestial objects separated by expanding space
1887 first wind-powered turbine for production of electricity (James Blyth, UK, 1887) → rising to 5% of global electricity generation by 2019
1890 centralised sewerage treatment plants (UK, USA, Australia, 1890s), preventing spread of diseases → urine diversion and recycling as fertiliser by 2022
1893 first self-governing democracy to grant women the vote (New Zealand, 1893) → rising women’s employment, diminishing yet ever-present gender inequality and bias
1895 first wireless transmission of telegraph signals by radio waves (Guglielmo Marconi, Italy, 1895), global radio communication by 1901 → radio broadcasts by 1920s; radar by 1930s
1895 first commercial screening of motion-picture films (Auguste and Louis Lumière, France, 1895) → birth of cinema, entrancing audiences with captured events and experience
1895 discovery of X-rays and creation of X-ray images (Wilhelm Röntgen, Germany, 1895) → radiography; X-ray astronomy; synchrotron and X-ray laser for probing atomic-scale structures
1896 discovery of natural radioactivity (Henri Becquerel, France, 1896) → radioisotopic labelling and dating, medical treatment of tumours
1897 first detection of a fundamental, subatomic and indivisible particle: the electron (Joseph Thomson, UK, 1897) → one of 17 kinds of elementary particle constituting matter and radiation
1899 Planck units: natural units for length, time, mass and temperature (Max Planck, Germany, 1899) → fundamental limit to the degree of heat = 1.42 × 10³² K
1900 theory of the unconscious mind and emotions motivating and guiding human behaviour (Sigmund Freud, Austria, The Interpretation of Dreams 1900) → limits to the rationality of behaviour; foundation of psychoanalysis
1900 Planck’s law: every physical body emits electromagnetic radiation (Max Planck, Germany, 1900) → quantum mechanics by mid-1920s, explaining the subatomic dynamics of the Universe
1900 theory of energy quanta (Max Planck, Germany, 1900, Albert Einstein, Switzerland, 1905), including the photon, a massless elementary particle and quantum of electromagnetic radiation
1900 two-thirds of the global population living in extreme poverty by 1900, declining amid rising geopolitical inequality until 1950 → one-third by 1995, down to one-tenth by 2017
1900 global average life expectancy equals 32 years by 1900 → doubling over the next 75 years, exposing diseases of ageing
1903 first powered, controlled flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft (Orville and Wilbur Wright, USA, 17/12/1903) → 4.6 billion airline passengers per year by 2019: peak volume?
1904 first quantification of dark matter (Lord Kelvin, UK, 1904), with gravitational influence yet no electromagnetic or strong interactions: 85% of matter in the Universe, concentrated amongst clustered galaxies
1905 theory of special relativity (Albert Einstein, Switzerland, 1905): length-contraction of moving objects and time-dilation of moving clocks relative to an observer; universal speed of light; energy-mass equivalence → nuclear physics
1905 earliest chainsaw for cutting wood (Samuel Bens, USA, 1905), portable by 1918 → 2 billion m³ of wood processed globally by 2018, for construction, packaging, paper, pulp, fuel
1907 earliest organoids (Henry Wilson, USA, 1907): in vitro organ-like structures → human brain organoids integrated into mouse brains by 2018; human neurons master Pong by 2022, AI speech recognition by 2023
1907 first organic polymer made from synthetic components: Bakelite plastic (Leo Baekeland, USA, 1907) → large-scale production of plastics from 1950, dominated by polythene
1908 industrial-scale synthesis of ammonia from ambient nitrogen (BASF, Germany, 1908) using the Haber-Bosch process → chemical fertilisers release crops from nitrogen limitation, fuelling the human population explosion
1908 unification of 3D space and 1D unidirectional time into absolute spacetime (Hermann Minkowski, Germany, 1908): deceleration through time accompanies acceleration through space, and vice versa
1909 first people to set foot on Earth’s poles (North Pole : Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, USA, 1909; South Pole : Roald Amundsen, Norway, 1911)
1911 discovery of the nuclear centre of atoms (Ernest Rutherford, UK, 1911); fission of the nitrogen nucleus to isolate subatomic protons by 1919
1912 idea of inwardness of feeling, in other ages directed at divinities, belonging to suffering, pain, love, joy (Rainer Maria Rilke, Germany, Duino Elegies 1912): inner commitment as life’s purpose
1913 introduction of factory assembly lines for mass production of cars (Ford Model T, USA, 1913), dedicating one worker to each step → dehumanising labour; affordable cars for labourers
1914 World War I (1914-18): 32 nations participate in “the war to end war”, killing 20 million; advent of mechanised warfare
1914 opening of the Panama Canal (15/8/1914), shortening the route for shipping cargo between Atlantic and Pacific oceans
1915 mass deployment of X-ray units (Marie Curie, France, 1915) for treatment of over 1 million wounded soldiers
1915 theory of general relativity (Albert Einstein, Germany, 1915): equivalent effects of gravity and acceleration; gravity as a distortion of spacetime by massive objects → unresolved incompatibility with quantum mechanics
1917 Russian Revolution (Russia, 1917) → first communist state: USSR, 1922-1991
1917 a urinal made by a plumber becomes a sculpture made by the force of an imagination (Marcel Duchamp, France, Fountain 1917): reorientation of art away from craft, onto interpretation
1918 Spanish flu pandemic (1918-20): H1N1 influenza virus infects a third of the global population and kills 50-100 million, mostly in the 2ⁿᵈ wave; early interventions reduce mortality; long-range effects for survivors
1918 first modern refugee crisis (1918-1922): collapsing Russian and Ottoman Empires displacing 1-2 million Russians and hundreds of thousands of Armenians → Nansen Passports for stateless citizens
1919 demonstration of nervous mechanisms in plants (Jagadish Chandra Bose, Bengal, 1919): plants feel, hear, smell, taste, learn and remember, recognise kin, and swap information and resources
1919 observations of starlight deflection during a Solar eclipse, confirming the gravitational lensing prediction of general relativity (Arthur Eddington, UK, 1919)
1919 first commercial radio broadcasts (PCGG, Netherlands, 1919); global uptake during 1920s → dissemination of time signals, news, propaganda, education, entertainment; storytelling for the complicit listener
1921 discovery of insulin (Frederick Banting and Charles Best, Canada, 1921) → treatment of diabetes, now afflicting 1 in 10 of the global population, particularly in high-income and urban areas
1922 invention of leaded petrol (Thomas Midgley Jr., USA, 1922), improving engine performance, causing epidemics of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and developmental delays in children → global elimination by 2021
1922 prediction of an expanding Universe (Alexander Friedmann, Russia, 1922) → dark energy accelerating the expansion of a flat or possibly closed, cyclic or hologram Universe, perhaps one in a multiverse
1923 concept of every quantum entity having dual nature, as both wave and particle (Louis de Broglie, France, 1923, Niels Bohr, Denmark, 1928) → no independent physical reality of atomic phenomena
1924 first aerial circumnavigation of the world (US Army Air Service, 1924) → globalisation of human mobility
1925 principle that electrons occupy undeterminable energy states, transitioning between them with predictable probabilities (Werner Heisenberg, Germany, 1925, Erwin Schrödinger, Austria, 1926): birth of quantum mechanics
1926 first working television system (John Logie Baird, UK, 1926) → nationwide television broadcasting by 1929, bringing rulers to their subjects, entertainers to viewers, inspiring awe
1926 Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (League of Nations, 1926) → commitment by 99 of 195 countries since 2008; still 168 million child labourers and 21 million forced labourers
1927 a car outpaces a racehorse (La Chapelle, France, 1927) → dominion of the automobile for land transport and haulage
1927 uncertainty principle: every particle has a constant product of its variances in position and momentum (Werner Heisenberg, Germany, 1927) → no precisely determinable Universe; reality as interaction not state
1928 prediction of positron particles, the antimatter counterpart of electrons (Paul Dirac, UK, 1928) → discovery by 1932 in tracks of cosmic rays, the first evidence of antimatter
1928 first description of ionised matter as plasma, the fourth fundamental state of matter after solids, liquids and gases (Irving Langmuir, USA, 1928), predicted by Michael Faraday 1816, generated by William Crookes 1879
1928 first experimental isolation of an antibiotic: penicillin (Alexander Fleming, UK, 1928) → healthcare revolution; overuse of antibiotics driving resistance in bacteria, causing 1.2 million deaths in 2019
1929 Great Depression, symbolised by the Wall Street Crash of 29/10/1929 and the North American Dust Bowl of the 1930s22% drop in worldwide GDP
1930 first synthesis of ‘Freon’ (Thomas Midgley Jr., USA, 1930) as a refrigerant → rapid adoption worldwide; such chlorofluorocarbons predicted to threaten Earth’s ozone layer by the 1970s
1930 postulation of neutrinos (Wolfgang Pauli, Austria, 1930), the smallest, most abundant and pervasive elementary particle in the Universe, rarely interacting with other matter
1930 idea that all channels to the mind start from the soul, yet none leads back again (Robert Musil, Austria, The Man Without Qualities 1930): the human soul as mediator of experience, spirit firing the imagination
1931 proof that no set of consistent axioms can suffice to derive all mathematical truths, to leave none undecidable (Kurt Gödel, Germany, 1931) → incomplete reality
1932 discovery of neutrons (James Chadwick, UK, 1932), with protons constituting the nuclei of atoms → nuclear fission of uranium by 1939; nuclear chain reactions; atomic bombs and nuclear energy
1933 theory that government spending can stabilise the market economy (John Maynard Keynes, UK, 1933, 1936) → borrowing to boost consumption, at the expense of investment to sustain and enhance capital assets
1934 first radio detection and ranging: radar (Navel Research Laboratory, USA, 1934), concurrently developed in UK, Germany and other countries, targeting aircraft, ships, submarines and weather
1935 concept of the ecosystem (Arthur Tansley, UK, 1935), a complex association of organisms with their environment → value of nature to humans from provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting ecosystem services
1938 invention of nylon (Wallace Carothers, DuPont, USA, 1938), the first synthetic textile fibre → filaments, films, bristles, cords, washers, sacking, parachutes, fishing nets and longlines, fabrics, spacesuits, hosiery and clothing; fast fashion
1939 first turbojet powered aircraft (Heinkel He 178, Germany, 1939) → rapid development of jet planes after World War II
1939 World War II (1939-45): 184 nations participate in cataclysmic events killing 60 million, including genocide of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust 1941-45 – the greatest crime of the 20ᵗʰ century
1941 development of frequency-hopping radio communication (Hedy Markey [Hedy Lamarr] and George Antheil, USA, 1941) → Bluetooth and Wi-Fi by 1990s
1941 first binary-logic digital programmable computer: Z3 (Konrad Zuse, Germany, 1941)
1942 discovery of insecticidal action of DDT (Paul Müller, Switzerland, 1942), the most successful chemical ever synthesised to control malaria → toxicity in food chains exposed in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring 1962; worldwide ban 2004
1944 first electronic digital programmable computer: Colossus (Tommy Flowers, UK, 1944) → code-breaking that hastened the end of World War II
1944 internationalisation of financial order (Bretton Woods Conference, USA, 1944): International Monetary Fund, stabilising national economies in crisis, and World Bank, providing loans to developing nations
1945 atomic bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Japan, 6, 9/8/1945), the blasts and subsequent cancers killing over 250,000 people, mostly civilians; to date the only nuclear weapons used in combat
1945 establishment of the United Nations (UN, 1945), with a mission to maintain international peace, security and cooperation, amongst societies with customs and tolerances adapted to distal ecological and historical contexts
8. Technological Revolution to Summary  
CE 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
1948 invention of the transistor (Bell Labs, USA, 1948) → transistor radios by 1950s; integrated circuits by 1959; microprocessors by 1970; consumer electronics
1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 10/12/1948): all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
1949 invention of the barcode (Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver, USA, 1949) → automation of product tracking
1950 proof that smoking causes lung cancer (Richard Doll and A. Bradford Hill, UK, 1950): tipping point to ultimate elimination of smoking sometime over 70 years later, delayed by lobbying
1950 start of the Anthropocene Epoch, humans using 22×10²¹ joules of energy over the next 70 years, 1.5× more than all energy use during the previous 11,700 years: accelerating combustion of fossil fuels, their greenhouse gases trapping a further 10× more solar energy in the oceans
1950 global GDP per capita having tripled over 130 years to 1950, tripling again over the next 50 years; North Americans and western Europeans earning over 3× the global average wage: the Great Acceleration in technology, interdependence, and dominance over planetary cycles
1950 beginning of a rapid acceleration in global crop yields through innovations in seed varieties, agrochemicals, irrigation, mechanisation → Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, global cereal yield tripling over 60 years from 1960, provisioning feedlots of up to 100,000 cattle
1951 genocide becomes a crime under international law (UN, 1951); genocide events over the next 50 years kill more than 12 million civilians
1951 over 500 above-ground tests of nuclear weapons through to 1980 release 6 tonnes of plutonium and other radionuclides, detectable globally in sediments, soils and organismal tissues for 100,000 years into the future → nuclear deterrence by mutual assured destruction
1952 half the world adult population has at least basic education by 1952 → three-quarters by 1990
1953 discovery of the molecular structure of DNA (Rosalind Franklin, James Watson and Francis Crick, UK, 1953) → access to the genetic code of relatedness, form and function for all living organisms, in the environment and back through 2 million years
1953 ascent to the highest point on Earth: Mount Everest at 8,848 m (Tenzing Norgay, Nepal, and Edmund Hillary, New Zealand, 29/5/1953)
1954 first nuclear power plant (Obninsk, USSR, 1954) → advent of clean energy: 10% of global electricity generation in 2019, rising; radioactive waste; nuclear catastrophes, including Chernobyl 26/4/1986
1955 first accurate atomic clock (Louis Essen and Jack Parry, UK, 1955), the first quantum technology: time as atomic oscillations → atomic standard of time interval; Coordinated Universal Time: UTC, starting 1/1/1960
1956 first shipment of freight in standardised intermodal containers (Malcom McLean, USA, 1956) → globalisation of commerce
1956 emergence of pop art (Richard Hamilton, UK, 1956; Andy Warhol, USA, 1962), its impersonal style anticipating a commodified and media-saturated world of illusory promise, desire and consumerism
1957 first orbiting space satellite (Sputnik 1, USSR, 4/10/1957) → intelligence gathering by 1960; Global Positioning System: GPS, and Earth observation, by 1973; global telecommunications and infrastructure interdependency
1957 first living being to depart Earth for outer space: stray mongrel dog Laika in Sputnik II (USSR, 3/11/1957), deceased in passage
1959 the Great Chinese Famine 1959-1961, the worst famine in history: Chairman Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ policy colliding with drought to cause 15-45 million deaths
1959 Antarctic Treaty (1/12/1959), designating use of the continent of Antarctica solely for peaceful purposes and scientific investigation, and prohibiting nuclear activity → need for Māori insight
1960 descent to the deepest point in the oceans: Mariana Trench at 10,911 m (Jacques Piccard, Switzerland, and Don Walsh, USA, in the bathyscaphe Trieste, 23/1/1960), the last frontier of Earth exploration
1960 first female head of a democratic government: Sirimavo Bandaranaike, serving three terms as prime minister of Ceylon then Sri Lanka between 1960 and 2000
1960 first laser beam (Theodore Maiman, USA, 1960) → LiDAR mapping; cutting, welding, printing, precision surgery; reading/writing and transmitting data; trapping atoms; 21ˢᵗ century interferometry
1960 first government-approval of oral contraceptives for use by the public (US FDA, 1960) → women taking control over their fertility, liberating them to develop professional careers
1960 formation of The Beatles rock band (UK, 1960) → globalisation of musical influence in the 1960s
1961 first astronaut in outer space (Yuri Gagarin in Vostok 1, USSR, 12/4/1961), completing one Earth orbit during a 108-minute flight → the Space Age
1961 framework for the conduct of diplomatic relations (UN Vienna Convention, 1961) → ratified by 193 nations, safeguarding the instrumental role of diplomacy in converting confrontations to consensus
1961 earliest industrial use of a flexibly programmable robot (‘Unimate’, George Devol, USA, 1961) → automation substituting for labour on codifiable tasks, complementing problem-solving skills; microbots by 2024
1964 origin of mass explained by interactions with Higgs quantum field (Peter Higgs, UK, and others, 1964) → Standard Model of particle physics
1965 cosmic microwave evidence of the birth of the Universe in a spacetime singularity (Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, USA, 1965)
1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN, 1965) → commitments from 182 countries since 2019; race still defining exposure to violence
1967 postulation of imperfect symmetry between matter and antimatter (Andrei Sakharov, USSR, 1967) → surplus of matter over antimatter since the early Universe
1967 Outer Space Treaty (UN, 1967), the basis of international space law → freedom for all to explore space, and prohibition of weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit
1968 peak growth rate of 2.07% in the world human population (1968), averaging 3.7 offspring per female → fertility below replacement expected by 2030, as populations age globally and crash in the richest countries
1968 concept of the tragedy of the commons (Garrett Hardin, USA, 1968): free-for-all exploitation of shared resources brings ruin to all; collective land rights facilitate cooperative behaviour
1969 first astronaut on the Moon (Neil Armstrong, USA, 20/7/1969), delivered by a 160-million horsepower Saturn V rocket; the Apollo 11 Command Module returning to Earth 4 days later
1969 first host-to-host computer connection (ARPANET, USA, 29/10/1969): “lo” sent across 500 km → flourishing Internet by the 1980s; first quantum network by 2017
1970 first optical disc encoding binary data (James Russell, USA, 1970) → digitisation of data storage, sound recording and playback
1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (UN, 1970) → commitment by 191 states, not the nuclear states of India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea; a nuclear detonation affects everyone
1970 first probe to land on another planet and transmit data: surface temperature of Venus (Venera 7, USSR, 15/12/1970); images by 1975 → images from the surface of Mars by 1976
1972 recognition by governments worldwide that fossil-fuel combustion threatens Earth’s atmosphere (UN Conference on the Human Environment 1972), understood by the growing environmental movement as a crisis rooted in Western worldviews of nature as commodity
1972 atomic clocks flown east around the world lose time to clocks flown west, confirming the time-dilation predicted by special relativity (Joseph Hafele and Richard Keating, USA, 1972)
1972 creation of first recombinant DNA, from a polyomavirus and a bacteriophage (Paul Berg, USA, 1972) → first transgenic mammal by 1974: a mouse; cloned synthetic genes for human insulin by 1979
1973 concept of natural capital: the stock of natural resources (Ernst Schumacher, UK, Small is Beautiful 1973) → an asset that underpins human, social, manufactured and financial capitals, its qualities of mobility, silence and invisibility defying economic measurement, exposing it to unregulated human activities
1973 global average life expectancy exceeds 60 years by 1973 → 70 years by 2008 and rising for all countries; strengthening link to affluence, which drives down natural capital
1975 fraction of world adult population overweight or obese (BMI > 25 kg/m²) rises above 20% by 1975 → 39% by 2016; 1 billion obese by 2022, rising fastest in the young
1975 first personal computer: Altair 8800 (John Blankenbaker, USA, 1975), word processing software by 1976, spreadsheets by 1979 → digital media beginning to replace paper and celluloid by the end of the 20ᵗʰ century
1975 first global commitment to cross-border environmental protection: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1975) → illegal trade still threatening wildlife and human health
1977 indigenous Green Belt Movement (Wangari Maathai, Kenya, 1977), combatting poverty with environmental conservation → Great Green Wall movement by 2007; set to become the largest living structure on the planet?
1978 first human born on the Antarctic mainland (Esperanza Base, Argentina , 7/1/1978) → continuous human settlement of every continent on Earth
1978 first human born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF, UK, 1978) → ethical issues of selecting amongst genome-sequenced embryos
1979 completion of the Standard Model (1979), combining quantum mechanics with special relativity to explain how elementary particles determine the composition of all perceived matter and all its governing forces except gravitation
1980 global eradication of smallpox (WHO, 1980), after it kills 300 million people and one-third of those infected during the 20ᵗʰ century, the only infectious disease of humans to be eradicated by vaccination; ongoing return risk
1981 first diagnosis of AIDS (USA, 1981) → identification of causal HIV by Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, France, 1983; global epidemic killing 36 million by 2021; scaleable options for prevention by 2024
1982 international moratorium on commercial whaling (IWC, agreed 1982, enforced 1986): power of people, unified by non-governmental organisations, to drive worldwide change
1982 adoption of the World Charter for Nature (UN, 1982, only USA voting against) recognising nature’s intrinsic value, establishing the imperative of keeping human activities within Earth’s limits
1983 activation of standardised Internet Protocol (USA, 1983) → transformative change in communication, with proliferation of email, file transfer, Internet forums, information sharing
1983 genetic engineering enters mainstream agriculture, then medicine, with patents for genetically modified crop plants (International Plant Research Institute, 1983), and transgenic animals (Harvard College, USA, OncoMouse 1988)
1984 first untethered spacewalk (Bruce McCandless, Challenger Space Shuttle 41-B, USA, 7/2/1984)
1985 discovery of a human-induced hole in the stratospheric ozone layer (1985) → increase in UV-B radiation at Earth’s surface, changing climate, causing DNA damage to phytoplankton and plants; potential forest sterility and skin cancers
1985 first aircraft to fly on another planet: VeGa balloons in the cloud system of Venus (USSR + 8 European countries, 1985) → Earth’s evil twin, yet potential for life in the clouds?
1985 discovery of the enzyme telomerase controlling cellular ageing (Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider, USA, 1985) → eternal lifespan of cancer cells
1986 beginnings of continuous colonisation of space, in low Earth orbit (Mir Space Station, USSR, 20/2/1986) → International Space Station from 2/11/2000
1986 first useful algorithm for deep learning, in which many copies of the same model of the world all learn separately and share instantly (David Rumelhart, Geoffrey Hinton, Ronald Williams USA, 1986) → birth of artificial intelligence: AI
1986 global population of humans passes 5 billion; annual energy use per person averages 18,300 kWh, 26× the resting metabolism
1987 global agreement to ban hydrochlorofluorocarbons and other ozone depleting substances (Montreal Protocol, 1987), the only UN protocol to be ratified by every country on Earth → punctuated recovery of stratospheric ozone, slowing Earth’s warming
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, economies as systems embedded within nature
1988 first assessment that global climate warming has begun (James Hansen, Senate testimony to US Congress, 23/6/1988) → creation of the IPCC; by 1995, “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”
1989 invention of the World Wide Web information system (Tim Berners-Lee, UK, 1989) → birth of the Information Age
1990 spacecraft Voyager 1 photographs the sunlit Earth from a distance of 6 billion km (NASA, 14/2/1990): this Pale Blue Dot, 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, atmospheres of exoplanets
1992 first detection of exoplanets, orbiting a neutron star 2,300 light-years from Earth (Arecibo Observatory and NRAO, USA, 1992) → possibility of extra-terrestrial life on temperate and moist planets, perhaps feeding off radiolytic H₂; beings for whom we are aliens
1992 the Rio Earth Summit, Brazil, hosts the largest gathering of world leaders as of 1992, for intergovernmental collaboration on the environment, climate change, desertification
1992 global commitment by nation states to conservation of biodiversity, and sustainable use and equitable sharing of its benefits (UN Convention on Biological Diversity: CBD, 1992) → ratified by every country except the USA
1992 first Internet server for streaming media (StarWorks, 1992) → rise of live and on-demand video and audio streaming during the 2000s; personalisation of entertainment and nostalgia
1993 tuning of enzyme functions by directed evolution (Frances Arnold, USA, 1993) → accelerated evolution; environmentally friendly production of pharmaceuticals and renewable fuels
1994 launch of online marketplace Amazon.com (Jeff Bezos, USA, 1994) → world’s largest cloud-computing platform
1995 observation of Bose-Einstein condensate (NIST, USA, 1995), a quantum state of lowest-energy particles at near-zero K, and fifth fundamental state of matter → quantum mechanical description of gravity?
1995 first successful corporate litigation on climate change (Pakistan, 1995) → first climate ruling from an international court of human rights by 2024; potential to affect climate governance
1995 peak of global marine fishery catch, at 130 million tonnes during 1995 → thereafter diminishing returns for a still expanding global fishery; need for an equitable ocean commons
1996 first cloned mammal (Dolly the sheep, Roslin Institute, UK, 1996) → cloning of human stem cells from embryos by 2013 in pursuit of novel therapies; moral, ethical, and social dilemmas
1996 first practical solar-powered aircraft (Icaré 2, Germany, 1996) → race for clean-energy applications; gradually emerging political vision for weaning off fossil fuels
1997 first robotic rover lands on Mars and measures surface composition (NASA’s Sojourner, 4/7/1997) → Mars Express spacecraft finds liquid water in 2018, conducive to life and to human colonisation
1997 first experimental demonstration of quantum teleportation (Institut für Experimentalphysik, Austria, 1997), over any distance → holographic wormhole by 2022
1997 adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by 192 countries (UNFCCC, 1997), binding 37 industrialised and industrialising countries plus the EU to targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions → still rising by 2021
1998 creation of Google search technology, as a student project (Larry Page and Sergey Brin, USA, 1998) → free to use, efficient knowledge-search engine; profit from mining personal data; pay-per-click business model
2000 ongoing and accelerating rise in global mean sea level exceeds 3 mm/year by 2000, regulated by thermal expansion, ice-mass loss and large-scale dams → no scenario that stops sea-level rise this century
2000 first legal recognition of same-sex marriage (The Netherlands, 2000) → legal in 32 countries by 2022
2001 calory deficit afflicts 13% of the global population in the year 2001 → 9% by 2019; climate change exacerbating undernourishment and obesity
2001 launch of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, USA, 15/1/2001), collating knowledge as a common good → world’s largest work of general reference, open to editing by registered users
2001 first draft sequence of the human genome: c. 25,000 genes in 3 billion base pairs (Whitehead Institute, USA, + 23 institutes, 2001), completed 2003; 500,000 human genomes by 2023Human Cell Atlas; gene therapy
2001 first space tourist (Dennis Tito, USA, with the Russian space programme to the International Space Station, 2001) → race to commercialise space travel by 2021
2001 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon (USA, 11/9/2001) → accelerating globalisation of jihadi networks instigated in the 1980s, and counter-terrorism strategies
2003 a heatwave across Europe causes 70,000 additional deaths in summer 2003, then with a return time of thousands of years → 100 years by 2015; rising frequency of record-shattering climate extremes, including marine heatwaves
2003 globally agreed enforcement of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CBD, 2003), governing translocation of living genetically modified organisms that threaten biodiversity
2004 launch of online social networking service Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg, USA, 2004) → 2 billion users by 2017; rise in conspiracy theories with reorientation of online exchanges from information to values
2005 global adoption of the principle that nation states have responsibility to protect their citizens from mass atrocities, and that failure to do so must trigger collective international action (R2P, UN World Summit, 2005)
2006 launch of microblogging service Twitter (Jack Dorsey, USA, 2006) → 500 million tweets per day by 2013; one-to-many echo chambers; rise of free-to-use platforms monetising personal data through advertising
2007 human urban population exceeds half the global population for the first time in historyurban wealth sustained by international trade that drives rural impoverishment; strengthening relation of fertility to poverty
2007 worldwide adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN, 2007) to be free and equal to all other peoples, supported by 182 nation states
2007 Great Recession (2007-9), free-fall of developed economies synchronised by global integration of markets; need for regulatory oversight
2008 first smartphone apps (iPhone App Store, 2008) → smartphones achieve global ubiquity faster than any other medium of communication in human history; social media and fandom, with no stewardship of global collective behaviour
2008 first national constitution to recognise rights of nature (Ecuador, 2008); first statutory law granting rights to nature, Bolivia 2010 → departure from nature as property
2008 first country to adopt circular-economy legislation (China, 2008): reduce, reuse, recycle → national roadmaps by 2016; need for global initiatives
2009 launch of first cryptocurrency: Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer medium of exchange by blockchain (Satoshi Nakamoto, 2009) → expanding carbon footprint from computationally intensive mining of digital coins
2009 growth of the middle-class: by 2009 more than half the world’s population has at least a third of their income available for discretionary spending after food and shelter
2009 humanity is overstepping three planetary boundaries to a safe operating space: climate change, biodiversity loss, nitrogen cycle → risk of abrupt ecological disruption and hothouse Earth; need for planetary stewardship
2009 nations that grew rich on fossil fuels commit climate finance to poorer nations (UNFCCC, 2009), worth one-tenth of annual oil and gas industry royalties by 2020 → inadequate and unmet; repurposed for loss and damage in 2022-2023
2009 resolution by 192 countries that humanity can and should live in harmony with nature (UN, 2009) → UN visions for sustainable development (2015) and biodiversity (2022): harmony as dynamic attribute not ideal state
2010 creation of first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell (J. Craig Venter Institute, USA, 2010): dawn of gene synthesis → xenobots for intravenous drug delivery by 2020, self-replicating by 2021
2010 global agreement to implement 20 biodiversity targets by 2020 (CBD, 2010), to address causes of biodiversity loss, reduce pressures on biodiversity, safeguard ecosystems and their services → failure completely on 14, partially on 6
2011 international resolution against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (UN, 2011) → homosexuality legal in 133 of 195 countries by 2019, rising trend; recognition of a sex spectrum
2011 number of liberal and elected democracies in the world peaks at 101 in 2011, encompassing 55% of the global population
2011 two-thirds of the global population in 2011 have access to safe drinking water, a necessary condition for wellbeing → three-quarters by 2020; imperilled by pollution, safeguarded by community-technology partnerships
2012 observation of Higgs boson: a fundamental force-carrier particle (CERN Large Hadron Collider, 4/7/2012) → validation of the Standard Model of particle physics
2012 more than half the world’s population tunes in to television coverage of the London Summer Olympics (2012)
2012 invention of CRISPR-Cas9 technology (Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, USA, 2012) → accurate, fast and cheap editing of genes and gene mutations in any organism, including – unethically – viable human embryos
2012 first human-made object escapes our Solar System and enters interstellar space, 18 billion km from the Sun (Voyager 1, 25/8/2012)
2013 atmospheric concentrations of CO₂ exceed 400 ppm for the first time in at least 3 million years (NOAA, Hawaii, 5/2013), an accelerating rise dominated by fossil-fuel emissions → race for technologies to capture and use CO₂ and to bury biomass
2014 globally agreed enforcement of the Nagoya Protocol, on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation (CBD, 2014), a legal framework for informed consent and benefit-sharing
2015 invention of the optical lattice clock (Hidetoshi Katori, Japan, 2015) → accuracy of 1 second in 15 billion years; ticking detectably faster with each centimetre of altitude, as predicted by general relativity
2015 a fishing boat sinks off the Mediterranean coast of Libya with the loss of 1,050 lives (18/4/2015), amongst 65 million people forcibly displaced worldwide in 2015
2015 tipping point in industry-wide momentum towards electric vehicles during mid-2010s, when still comprising 2% of market share, spread by investor confidence under strengthening regulation of fossil fuels
2015 three trillion trees on Earth (2015, cf. 6.6 trillion at the start of human civilisation), 15 billion culled annually → forest covering a quarter of global land area, declining in extent and diversity, driven down by commodity production, wildfires, urbanisation
2015 detection of gravitational waves (LIGO and Virgo interferometers, 2015): ripples in spacetime generated by merging black holes, predicted by the theory of general relativity

9. Sustainability Revolution to Summary  

CE 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) → none on track by 2023
2015 UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change resolves to keep global average temperature to well below 2°C in excess of pre-industrial levels, and strives to limit the increase to 1.5°C (12/12/2015) → benefits outweigh costs; by 2022, no credible pathway to 1.5°C, risking climate tipping points; 2023 global stocktake calls for radical decarbonisation
2015 human land use, rising exponentially up to 1960, still rising in 2015 for livestock grazing (27% of global land area), crops (7%), buildings, towns and cities (1%); industrial fishing in 55% of ocean area by 2015
2016 coldest ground surface temperature on Earth: −110.9°C (central-eastern Antarctica , 2016); once temperate rainforests, now dry and salty antarctic soils uninhabitable even to microbes
2016 destruction of more than 6 million ha (60,000 km²) of tropical primary forest during 2016, an unprecedented peak in a rising trend → private profits from drawing down natural capital, a down payment on future economic ruin for all
2016 global land and ocean surface temperature for 2016 reaches 0.99°C above the 1951-1980 mean, Earth’s warmest year on record to date → roadmap for decarbonisation, implicating lifestyle choices
2017 first national legislation for a mid-century target of net-zero emissions (Sweden, 2017) → Suriname and Bhutan CO₂-negative by 2019; net-zero pledges by governments and companies cover 90% of the global economy by 2021, with big emitters yet to peak
2017 accumulation since 1957 of 23,000 space objects bigger than an apple, travelling at up to 28,000 km/hr in Earth orbit → 100,000 by 2034; debris risk to satellites and space stations, a problem for government space agencies of their own making
2017 accumulation of plastic waste since 1950 exceeds 5 billion tonnes in landfills and the natural environment by 2017, more than 12× global human biomass → pervasive microplastics across the globe; paucity of options for mitigating harm
2018 sixfold increase in annual ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland over 25 years to 2018 → sea levels to rise 40-80 cm by 2100 under scenarios of low-high greenhouse-gas emissions, displacing 190-630 million people, possibly many times more
2018 slowing Atlantic circulation over the last 60 years, consistent with rising CO₂, enhancing global surface warming
2018 hottest ground surface temperature on Earth: 80.8°C (Lut Desert, Iran , 2018; Sonoran Desert, Mexico , 2019), too hostile for plant life
2018 human activities have modified three-quarters of ice-free land and almost nine-tenths of the ocean by 2018; Earth’s remaining wildernesses become increasingly vital buffers against climate change
2018 first commercial taxi service of fully self-driving cars (Google-Waymo, USA, 5/12/2018) → reducing traffic accidents, raising social dilemmas
2018 half the global population using the Internet by 2018 → escape from state-controlled media; access to denial, fake news, deepfakes, falsehoods, lies and misinformed narratives for groups seeking fringe content
2019 first image of a black hole (Event Horizon Telescope, 10/4/2019), 55 million light-years from Earth, 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun, with spiralling magnetic fields, expelling jets of matter
2019 first global assessment of biodiversity finds 1 million of Earth’s 8 million species threatened by accelerating extinction rates (IPBES, 2019): Earth’s sixth mass extinction imperils humanity’s life support systems, calling for transformative change in human activities
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 84% of global primary energy
2019 energy use per person during 2019 exceeds the resting metabolism by 30× globally, and by 114× for citizens of the USA (cf. 15× for an elite athlete running a marathon)
2019 acidification of almost all open-ocean surface by absorption of anthropogenic CO₂, losing 0.02 pH units per decade since 1990, harming shell-forming species; ocean liming a potential geoengineering solution
2019 first synthetic human embryos (University of Michigan, USA, 2019): models of earliest-stage embryos each created from a stem cell, growing to develop a body axis → need for ethical and legal boundaries
2019 first global climate strike (20/9/2019), led by school children and joined by millions of people with justified concerns → world scientists warn of a climate emergency; growing eco-anxiety
2019 first demonstration of quantum supremacy over conventional computers (Google AI Quantum, USA, 2019) → double-exponential growth in computing power; quantum internet
2019 first case of COVID-19 (Wuhan wildlife market, China, 1/12/2019), caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 → pandemic triggering unprecedented lockdown of nations and societies worldwide, shrinking the global economy, deepening inequalities; largest vaccination programme in history begins 8/12/2020 after 5.7 million excess deaths
2019 inauguration of US Space Force (20/12/2019), formalising competition for military dominance in space; UK follows in 2021 → surveillance extending to stewardship and warfare capabilities
2019 rising frequency of weather-related disasters multiplies global economic losses 7.8× from the 1970s to the 2010s, disproportionately impoverishing the poor; early-warning systems reduce deaths by two-thirds
2020 One Trillion Trees Initiative (World Economic Forum, 2020), planting trees in support of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2020-2030nature-based climate solutions
2020 first combat deployment of lethal drones with fully autonomous decision-making (Libyan Government, 2020) → need for a ban on all slaughterbots: robots that select and kill without human supervision
2020 launch of first commercial space taxi (SpaceX, 30/5/2020), taking NASA astronauts to the International Space Station
2020 highest recorded air temperature on Earth: 54.4°C in Death Valley (California, USA, 16/8/2020 ); emergence of intolerable heat, particularly for urban populations, exacerbated by air conditioning, mitigated by greenery
2020 leaders of 96 countries and the EU pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 (Leaders Pledge for Nature, 2020): commitment to nature positive government, business and civil society
2020 protein structures accurately predicted by an artificial intelligence network: AlphaFold (DeepMind, USA, 2020) → accelerated understanding of protein functions; rapid advances in drug design
2020 human-made materials surpass Earth’s total living biomass by 2020, predominantly as concrete infrastructure, doubling in mass every 20 years since 1900 → our material contribution to the Anthropocene Epoch
2020 global land and ocean surface temperature for 2020 exceeds 1°C above the 1951-1980 mean for the first time, 1.2°C above the pre-industrial 1850-1900 baseline, with 2011-2020 the 4ᵗʰ decade in succession to claim warmest average temperature
2020 ambient temperature in the Arctic exceeds the 1981-2010 average by 2.1°C in 2020, warming 4× faster than the rest of the world; permafrost thawing self-amplifies to the point of no return; Arctic zombie wildfires release 4× the CO₂ emissions of global volcanic activity
2020 melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets drives one-quarter of all sea-level rise by 2020, up from one-twentieth in 1990 → record low southern hemisphere sea ice extent in February 2023
2020 accelerating Earth energy imbalance doubles the heat in the climate system from 2005 to 2020, nine-tenths stored in the ocean → global sea surface in April 2023 the hottest in 100,000 years, air in July 2023 the hottest in the northern hemisphere for 2,000 years
2021 first powered, controlled flight on another planet: Ingenuity Helicopter drone on Mars (NASA, 19/4/2021), hovering 3 m above the Jezero Crater
2021 spacecraft Parker Solar Probe touches the Sun’s corona (NASA, 28/4/2021): sampling its outer atmosphere
2021 worldwide acceleration of glacier melt, now at twice the speed of 20 years ago → explaining one-fifth of the rate and acceleration in sea-level rise during the 21ˢᵗ century
2021 tropical forests in south-eastern Amazonia switch from CO₂ sink to source by 2021, linked to intensifying dry seasons, deforestation and rising frequency of fires
2021 Earth’s hottest month on record (NOAA, July 2021), until June-July 2023: rising frequency of climate anomalies → need for actions to trigger positive tipping towards global sustainability through self-reinforcing shifts in behaviour
2021 human activities have unequivocally warmed atmosphere, ocean and land, intensifying heatwaves, droughts and floods; global warming will exceed 2°C without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions (IPCC, 2021): a reality check for policy makers
2021 pledge to end deforestation by 2030, signed by 141 countries, covering 90% of Earth’s forests (UN COP 26 Climate Conference, 2/11/2021) → uneven progress; need for enforcement mechanisms
2021 commitment by 103 countries to curb emissions of methane (Global Methane Pledge, 2/11/2021): a potent greenhouse gas approaching triple preindustrial levels; emissions catalysed by global warming?
2021 global agreement to nearly halve CO₂ emissions by 2030 relative to 2010, and to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century (UN COP 26 Glasgow Climate Pact, 13/11/2021) → need for policies to match the science
2021 the world ocean reaches its hottest ever recorded in 2021, for the third year and seventh decade in a row, contributing to coral bleaching and sea-level rise; fuelling marine heatwaves, cyclones and hurricanes
2021 clean power accounts for more than one-third of global electricity supply in 2021, with wind and solar sources alone contributing one-tenth
2021 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (NASA, ESA, CSA, 2021) → exploring the early Universe, star births and deaths and galactic evolution, analysing exoplanet atmospheres for signs of life
2022 global cost-of-living crisis initiated by demand for resources exceeding supply, intensified by Russia invading Ukraine (24/2/2022), threatening worldwide food and energy security
2022 human and natural populations are reaching limits to climate adaptation, from poles to equator (IPCC, 2022): diminishing opportunities to secure a liveable future for all by strengthening nature
2022 time has almost run out for averting global climate catastrophe (IPCC, 2022): mitigation still cheaper than adaptation, by switching immediately and comprehensively to carbon-free energy and carbon capture from air and ocean
2022 the number of people forcibly displaced reaches 100 million worldwide (UNHCR, 2022), of which c. 40 million refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons are displaced by conflict and violence
2022 one-fifth of the global population depends directly on one or more of fifty thousand wild species for food or livelihood (IPBES, 2022): sustainable use must confront the globally accelerating loss of biodiversity
2022 fifty ways to value nature, in diverse opportunities for living from, with, in, and as nature (IPBES, 2022); a narrow focus of policy-makers on value to economic growth drives down biodiversity
2022 unprecedented successive years with declining global value of Human Development Index (UN-DP, 2022): climate change and Covid-19 impacting education, income, life expectancy
2022 record-breaking heatwaves, heralding extreme droughts in China and western Europe, and flooding in Pakistan that displaces 33 million people
2022 tumbling costs of green energy reach parity with fossil fuels by 2022 → economic motivation for shifting faster to renewable energy, with net-zero CO₂ emissions feasible in principle within 10-20 years
2022 a spacecraft alters the course of an asteroid (NASA, 2022), demonstrating potential to save Earth from an asteroid hit
2022 first publicly accessible dialogue bot: ChatGPT (OpenAI, 2022): an AI language model, not an oracle; problem of distinguishing its disembodied articulation of trawled content from reasoned argument, with implications for scholarship and creativity
2022 achievement of nuclear-fusion ignition (National Ignition Facility, USA, 2022): proof of concept for limitless fusion energy
2022 global agreement to protect biodiversity for 30% of Earth’s land and sea by 2030, and to reduce extinction rate and risk tenfold for all species by 2050 (CBD, 2022) → need for adequate funding and climate action
2023 humans and our livestock achieve respectively 20× and 30× the biomass of all terrestrial wild mammals by 2023imperative of shifting towards plant-based diets, co-benefitting forests, climate change and health
2023 global agreement on the High Seas Treaty (UN, 2023), enforcing protection of 30% of the world’s seas by 2030 with restrictions on fishing, deep-sea mining and shipping lanes
2023 publication of a survival guide for climate-resilient development (IPCC, 2023) in the face of temperature and flood extremes, jeopardising biodiversity and food-, water- and energy-security
2023 safe and just Earth system boundaries now surpassed for climate, freshwater, biosphere functioning, natural-ecosystem extent, phosphorous and nitrogen cycles (Earth Commission, 2023) → global tipping point threats and opportunities; need for intergenerational and interspecies justice
2023 call by 198 countries for a global transition away from fossil fuels for energy, and tripling of renewable-energy capacity by 2030 (UN UAE Consensus, 2023) → need for mechanisms to finance the transitions
2023 warmest year on record for global surface air and sea temperatures, 1.48°C above pre-industrial levels, amid still-rising greenhouse gases and start of El Niño (2023): heatwaves and wildfires; record shrinkage of Antarctic sea-ice following extraordinary absorbtion of heat by the world’s oceans
2023 frequency of extreme wildfires more than doubles globally from 2003 to 2023
2024 planet-wide mass bleaching of corals, after global average sea-surface temperatures break records every day for over a year (2/2023-4/2024)

Ages: following the creation of the Universe 13.8 billion years ago, time passed two-thirds of the way to the present before the formation of the Sun 4.57 billion years ago. Rescaled to a calendar year, starting with the Big Bang at 00:00:00 on 1 January (), the Sun forms on 1 September (), the Earth on 2 September (), earliest signs of life appear on 16 September (), earliest true mammals on 26 December (), and humans just 2 hours before year’s end (). For a year that starts with the earliest true mammals (), the dinosaurs go extinct on 17 August (), earliest primates appear on 9 September (), and humans at dawn of 25 December (). For a year that starts with the earliest humans (), our own species appears on 19 November (), and the first built constructions on 8 December (), we outlast Neanderthals to become the only human species by 25 December (), and agricultural farming begins at midday on 29 December (). The Universe has sustained life for all of the last quarter of its existence (clickable: popup timeline), solely on Earth as far as we know amongst the billions of solar systems in each of billions of galaxies. We have existed as the only remaining species of our genus (popup timeline) for as short a fraction of time as the human genus has existed amongst the mammals (popup timeline), and the mammals have existed in the Universe (popup timeline).

Quantities: 1 thousand = 1,000 = 10×10×10 = 10³; 1 million = 10⁶; 1 billion = 10⁹; 1 trillion = 10¹².

Units: metre (m); kilometre (km); hectare (ha); kilogramme (kg); kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Distances: 10⁹ nanometres in 1 m; 1,000 m in 1 km; 9.46 trillion km in 1 light-year. For example: 0.1-nanometre diameter of a hydrogen atom; 9.8 m/s² acceleration due to gravity at Earth’s surface; 40,000-km circumference of Earth (clickable: ); 150 million km from Earth to the Sun; 300,000 km travelled by light in 1 second, and almost 10 trillion km in 1 year; 27 thousand light-years from Earth to the Galactic Center of the Milky Way; 46.5 billion light-years from Earth to the edge of the observable Universe.

Areas: 100×100 m or 10,000 m² in 1 ha; 100 ha in 1 km². For example: 3 million ha (30,000 km²) area of Belgium ; 4 billion ha (40 million km²) of livestock grazing on Earth; 14.9 billion ha (149 million km²) of global land area.

Volumes: 1 billion mm³ in 1 m³; 1 billion m³ in 1 km³. For example: 1 billion grains in 1 m³ of sand; 2.5 trillion m³ (2,500 km³) of water in Lake Victoria .

Masses: 1,000 g in 1 kg; 1,000 kg in 1 tonne. For example: 100-tonne mass of a blue whale; 390 million tonnes of global human biomass.

Power and energy: 1 watt of power uses 1 joule of energy per second; about 740 watts in 1 horsepower; 3,600 kilojoules (kJ) or 860 kilocalories (kcal) in 1 kWh of energy, sustaining 1,000 watts for 1 hour. For example, a 100-watt incandescent light bulb illuminates a room; 80 watts sustain human basal metabolic rate, using 6,900 kJ or 1,650 kcal or 1.92 kWh of energy per day; rice and maize have an energy value per kg of 15,280 kJ or 3,650 kcal or 4.25 kWh, wheat has nine-tenths this energy, and beef has two-thirds; crude oil and natural gas provide a heat value per kg of about 45,000 kJ or 10,750 kcal or 12.5 kWh, coal gives nearly half this heat, and firewood one third.

Contemporary global climate change: indexed against changes in atmospheric CO₂ concentration, influencing year-on-year changes in average 2-m air temperature, sea-surface temperature, and sea-ice extent; projected sea-level rise.

Information sources: inline links; also Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, BBC.

Inspiration: “It is the stars, the stars above us govern our conditions” William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608). “Das ewig Unbegreifliche an der Welt ist ihre Begreiflichkeit [The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility]” Albert Einstein (1936).

Compiled by C. Patrick Doncaster, 14 July 2024, one of the then 8,059,986,290 (rising by 130 per minute, 68 million per year)