Big Chronology of Life on Earth

Big Chronology of Life on Earth

by Lifeboat Foundation Advisory Board member José Luis Cordeiro.

“Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the universe or we are not, both are equally terrifying.”

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1962

“Live long and prosper.
yIn nI’ yISIQ ‘ej yIchep (Klingon pronunciation).
dif-tor heh smusma (Vulcan pronunciation).”

Commander Spock from Vulcan in the Spaceship USS Enterprise, 2260

José Luis Cordeiro


To put into perspective a complete chronology and evolution of life on our tiny planet Earth, I summarize here what I consider the most relevant information from the very distant past to our immediate future. The objective is to reach a better understanding about the long-term evolution of life, including the power of exponential changes.
Big History is a new discipline that allows us to analyze with a multidisciplinary focus the way events follow each other throughout time. Starting with a huge time scale from the faraway past to the present, we can see that there is an acceleration of the speed of changes, that should continue now thanks to exponential technologies. My great futurist friend Ray Kurzweil, in his best-seller The Singularity is Near, does a good job explaining the acceleration of these changes, and that is why I use some of his predictions to the end of the 21st Century.
Interested readers are invited to contact me directly to continue making this chronology better in the future. All comments are more than welcome, and you can find more information about my book (with my great British co-author David Wood) here.
Formation of the Moon

Millions of years ago (Ma)
~13,800 Ma Big Bang and formation of the known Universe
~12,500 Ma Milky Way Galaxy formation
~4,600 Ma Solar System formation
~4,500 Ma Earth formation
~4,300 Ma First water concentration on Earth
~4,000 Ma First unicellular life (prokaryotes without cellular nucleus)
~4,000 Ma LUCA, our Last Universal Common Ancestor, was born
~3,500 Ma Oxygen concentration rises on Earth atmosphere
~3,000 Ma First photosynthesis in simple unicellular organisms
~2,000 Ma Evolution of unicellular prokaryotes (without nucleus) into eukaryotes (with nucleus)
~1,500 Ma First multicellular eukaryote organisms
~1,200 Ma First sexual reproduction (germinal and somatic cells appear)
~600 Ma First invertebrate marine animals
~540 Ma Cambrian explosion and appearance of multiple species
~520 Ma First vertebrate marine animals
~440 Ma Evolution from marine life to terrestrial life (first plants on dry land)
~360 Ma First terrestrial plants with seeds, and first crabs
~300 Ma First reptiles
~250 Ma First dinosaurs
~200 Ma First mammals, and first birds
~130 Ma First angiosperm plants (with flowers)
~65 Ma Extinction of dinosaurs and development of primate
~15 Ma Hominidae family (big primates) appears
~3.5 Ma First tools made of stone
~2.5 Ma Homo gender appears
~1.5 Ma First use of fire
~0.8 Ma First time cooking was used
~0.5 Ma First time clothes were used
~0.2 Ma Homo sapiens species appears
~0.1 Ma Homo sapiens sapiens comes out of Africa and starts colonizing planet Earth

Lascaux Cave Paintings

Thousands of years ago
< 40,000 BC Rock paintings appear, symbols of deities, fertility, and death
< 20,000 BC Lighter skin evolution due to migration to regions with less solar exposure
< 5,000 BC Neolithic proto-writing appears
< 4,000 BC Possible invention of the wheel in Mesopotamia
< 3,500 BC Egyptians invent hieroglyphs and Sumerians cuneiform writing
< 3,300 BC Documented use of herbology and physiotherapy in China and Egypt
< 3,000 BC Papyrus was invented in Egypt and clay tablets were invented in Mesopotamia
< 2,800 BC Chinese emperor Shennong compiles a text with acupuncture techniques
< 2.600 BC Imhotep, priest and doctor, is considered the God of Medicine in Egypt
< 2,500 BC Documented use of Ayurveda medicine in India
< 2,000 BC The Code of Hammurabi establishes rules to exercise medicine in Babylon
650 BC Assurbanipal compiles 800 tablets about medicine in the library of Nineveh
450 BC Xenophanes of Colophon examines fossils and speculates about the evolution of life
420 BC Hippocrates writes the Hippocratic Treaties and creates the Hippocratic oath
350 BC Aristotle writes about evolutionary biology and tries to classify animals
300 BC Herophilos of Chalcedon makes medical dissections on humans
100 BC Asclepiades of Bithynia imports Greek medicine to Rome and funds the Methodic School

Shanghan Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders)

First millennium AD
180 AD Greek doctor Galen of Pergamon studies the connection between paralysis and the spinal cord
219 AD Zhang Zhongjing publishes the Shanghan Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders) in China
250 AD Foundation of a school of tribal medicine in Monte Alban, Mexico
390 AD Oribasius of Pergamon compiles the Medical Collections in Constantinople
400 AD First Christian hospital founded by Saint Fabiola in Rome
630 AD Isidore of Seville compiles his great work The Etymologies
870 AD Persian doctor Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari writes a medical encyclopedia in Arab
910 AD Persian doctor Rasis identifies the difference between smallpox and measles

Benjamin Franklin wrote about curing aging and human preservation

1000 – 1799 AD
1030 Persian polymath Avicenna writes the Canon of Medicine that would be used until the 18th Century
1204 Pope Innocent III organizes the first Holy Spirit hospital in Rome
1403 Quarantine against the Black Death pandemic in Venice (after already killing millions in Europe)
1541 Swiss doctor Paracelsus made great progress in medicine (surgery and toxicology)
1553 Spanish doctor Miguel Servet studies pulmonary circulation (and burnt at the stake for heresy)
1590 Microscope is invented in the Netherlands and makes medicine move forward faster
1665 English scientist Robert Hooke uses the microscope to identify cells (and popularizes that name)
1675 Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek starts microbiology with microscopes
1774 English scientist Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen and starts modern chemistry
1780 US polymath Benjamin Franklin writes about curing aging and human preservation
1796 English doctor Edward Jenner develops the first effective vaccine against smallpox
1798 English scholar Thomas Malthus argues about food production and human overpopulation

High fashion
when the world population hit one billion people in 1804

1800 – 1899 AD
1804 Global population reaches 1,000,000,000 people
1804 French doctor René Laennec invents the stethoscope
1809 French scientist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposes the first theory of evolution
1818 English doctor James Blundell performs the first successful blood transfusion
1828 German scientist Christian Ehrenberg coins the word bacterium (“cane” in Greek)
1842 US doctor Crawford Long accomplishes the first surgery with anesthesia
1858 German doctor Rudolf Virchow publishes his cell theory
1859 English scientist Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in London
1865 Austrian monk Gregor Mendel discovers the laws of genetics
1869 Swiss doctor Friedrich Miescher identifies DNA for the first time
1870 Scientists Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch publish the microbial theory of infections
1882 French scientist Louis Pasteur develops a vaccine against rabies
1890 Walter Flemming and others describe the chromosome distribution during cellular division
1892 German biologist August Weismann proposes the “immortality” of germ cells
1895 German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovers X-rays and their medical uses
1896 French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel discovers radioactivity
1898 Dutch scientist Martinus Beijerinck discovers the first virus and starts virology

1900 – 1959 AD
1905 English biologist William Bateson coins the term genetics
1906 English scientist Frederick Hopkins describes vitamins and associated illnesses
1906 German doctor Alois Alzheimer describes the disease named after him
1906 Santiago Ramón y Cajal receives the Nobel Prize for his studies about the nervous system
1911 Thomas Hunt Morgan demonstrates that genes reside in chromosomes
1922 Russian scientist Aleksandr Oparin proposes a theory about the origin of life on Earth
1925 French biologist Edouard Chatton coins the words prokaryote and eukaryote
1927 Global population reaches 2,000,000,000 people
1927 First vaccines against tetanus and tuberculosis
1928 English scientist Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin (first antibiotic)
1933 Polish scientist Tadeus Reichstein synthesizes the first vitamin (vitamin C, ascorbic acid)
1934 Scientists working at Cornell University discover caloric restriction for life extension in mice
1938 A coelacanth (considered a “living fossil”) was fished in the south of Africa
1950 First synthetic antibiotic is developed
1951 Artificial insemination of cattle starts with cryopreserved semen
1951 HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) cancer cells are discovered to be “biologically immortal”
1952 US doctor Jonas Salk develops a vaccine against poliomyelitis
1952 US chemist Stanley Miller experiments about the origin of life
1952 First cloning experiments with frog eggs are made
1953 Scientists James D. Watson and Francis Crick demonstrate DNA’s double helix structure
1954 US doctor Joseph Murray transplants the first human kidney
1958 US doctor Jack Steele coins the word bionic
1959 Global population reaches 3,000,000,000 people
1959 Spanish scientist Severo Ochoa receives the Nobel Prize for his work about DNA and RNA

World Population hit 6 billion in 1999 (Prince 1999 video)

1960 – 1999 AD
1961 Spanish biochemist Joan Oró advances his theories about the origin of life
1961 US scientist Leonard Hayflick discovers a limit on cellular division
1967 US academic James Bedford becomes the first patient in cryopreservation
1967 South African doctor Christiaan Barnard makes the first human heart transplant
1972 Discovery that the DNA composition in humans and gorillas is almost 99% similar
1974 Global population reaches 4,000,000,000 people
1975 Different scientists finally discover the telomeres (first considered in 1933)
1978 First human being is born thanks to artificial insemination (Louise Brown in England)
1978 Stem cells discovered in the blood of an umbilical cord
1980 World Health Organization declares smallpox officially eradicated worldwide
1981 First stem cells (from mice) developed “in vitro”
1982 Humulin (drug for diabetes) is the first biotech product approved by the FDA
1985 Australian-American biologist Elizabeth Blackburn identifies the telomerase enzyme
1986 HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is identified as the cause of AIDS
1987 Global population reaches 5,000,000,000 people
1990 Human Genome Project starts as a great effort lead by several governments
1990 First gene therapy is approved to treat an immune disorder
1990 FDA approves the first genetically modified organism (Flavr Savr tomato)
1993 US biologist Cynthia Kenyon increases several times the lifespan of C. elegans
1995 US scientist Caleb Finch describes negligible senescence in some animals
1996 Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut clones Dolly, first cloned mammal (a sheep)
1998 First embryonic stem cells isolated in young human embryos
1999 Global population reaches 6,000,000,000 people

2000 – 2019 AD
2001 US scientist Craig Venter announces his sequence of the human genome (based on his own)
2002 First artificial virus (polio virus) is completely created by scientists
2003 Human Genome Project ends officially, with both public and private participation and projects
2003 English scientist Aubrey de Grey and his colleagues create the Methuselah Foundation
2004 SARS epidemy is contained a year after its start (genome sequenced in days)
2006 Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka generates induced pluripotent stem cells in Kyoto
2008 Spanish biologist María Blasco announces the life extension of mice at CNIO in Madrid
2009 English scientist Aubrey de Grey and his colleagues create the SENS Research Foundation
2009 Nobel Prize on Physiology and Medicine for studies on telomeres and telomerase
2010s First Bridge towards indefinite lifespans using current technologies (Ray Kurzweil)
2010 US scientist Craig Venter announces the creation of the first artificial bacterium (Synthia)
2010 Nobel Prize on Physiology and Medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization
2011 Global population reaches 7,000,000,000 people
2011 French researches achieve the rejuvenation of human cells “in vitro”
2012 Nobel Prize on Physiology and Medicine for cloning and cell reprogramming (pluripotent cells)
2013 First rat kidney produced “in vitro” in the USA
2013 First human liver produced with stem cells in Japan
2013 Google announces the creation of Calico (California Life Company) to cure aging
2014 IBM expands the use of its intelligent medical system called Doctor Watson
2014 Korean-American doctor Joon Yun creates the Palo Alto Longevity Prize
2015 First experimental vaccine against the virus of Ebola hemorrhagic fever
2016 Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg announces that it will be possible to cure “all diseases”
2016 Microsoft scientists announce that they should be able to cure cancer within 10 years
2017 Spanish scientist Juan Carlos Izpisúa announces that he has been able to rejuvenate mice 40%
2018 First commercial treatment with gene therapy using CRISPR
2018 Birth of first CRISPR babies to avoid HIV infections in China
2019 FDA approval of the first senolytics treatments for life extension

Our Ray Kurzweil predicts that an AI will pass the Turing test in 2029

2020 AD – 2029 AD (some possibilities)
2020s Second Bridge towards indefinite lifespans using biotechnology (Ray Kurzweil)
2020s Worldwide eradication of poliomyelitis
2020s Worldwide eradication of measles
2020s Vaccine against malaria
2020s Vaccine against HIV
2020s Cure for the majority of cancers
2020s Cure for Parkinson’s disease
2020s 3D bioprinting of simple human organs
2020s Commercial cloning of human organs with own cells from patients
2020s Beginning of commercial rejuvenation treatments with stem cells and telomerase
2020s AI and robot doctors complement and supplement human doctors
2020s Telemedicine spreads worldwide
2020s First manned trips to Mars (Elon Musk)
2025 Molecular assemblers (nanotechnology) are possible (Ray Kurzweil)
2023 Global population reaches 8,000,000,000 people according to the United Nations
2026 Global population reaches 8,000,000,000 people according to the US Census Bureau
2029 Longevity escape velocity is reached (Ray Kurzweil)
2029 An advanced AI finally passes Alan Turing’s test (Ray Kurzweil)

Ray Kurzweil predicts that cryopreserved patients will be reanimated in the 2050s

After 2030 AD (more possibilities)
2030s Third Bridge towards indefinite lifespans using nanotechnology (Ray Kurzweil)
2030s Cure for Alzheimer’s disease
2030s Worldwide eradication of malaria
2030s Worldwide eradication of HIV
2030s Consolidation of the first human colony in Mars (Elon Musk)
2037 Global population reaches 9,000,000,000 people according to the United Nations
2039 Mental transfer from brain to brain becomes possible (Ray Kurzweil)
2040s Fourth Bridge towards indefinite lifespans and immortality using AI (Ray Kurzweil)
2040s Interplanetary Internet connects to Earth, Moon, Mars, and spaceships
2042 Global population reaches 9,000,000,000 people according to the US Census Bureau
2045 Aging is cured and death becomes optional (Ray Kurzweil)
2045 The Singularity: AI surpasses all human intelligence (Ray Kurzweil)
2049 Distinction between reality and virtual reality disappears (Ray Kurzweil)
2050 Humanoid robots win English football cup (British Telecom)
2050s First reanimations of cryopreserved patients (Ray Kurzweil)
2072 Picotechnology starts (pico is one thousand times smaller than nano, Ray Kurzweil)
2099 Femtotechnology starts (femto one thousand times smaller than pico, Ray Kurzweil)
2099 Lifespan becomes irrelevant in a world of “amortality

José Luis Cordeiro, MBA, PhD is an international fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), executive director of the Ibero-American Futurists Network (RIBER), director of The Millennium Project, vicechair of HumanityPlus (H+), and former director of the Club of Rome (Venezuela Chapter), the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), and the Extropy Institute (ExI). He has also been invited faculty at prestigious institutions like the Institute of Developing Economies IDE — JETRO in Tokyo, Japan, the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, Singularity University (SU) at NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, California, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Russia.
José Luis studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, economics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, management at the European Business School INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, and science at Universidad Simon Bolivar (USB) in Caracas, Venezuela. He is a leading international expert on technological change and future trends. He has published more than 10 books in 5 languages and appeared in programs with the BBC, CNN, Discovery Channel, and History Channel, among many international media interviews. His recent book La muerte de la muerte has become an international best-seller in Spain and Latin America, published by Editorial Planeta in Madrid, Spain, with coauthor David Wood and prologue by Aubrey de Grey. He is a lifetime member of the Sigma Xi (ΣΞ), Tau Beta Pi (ΤΒΠ), and Beta Gamma Sigma (ΒΓΣ) honor societies.