Microfossils – the most abundant, ancient, and easily accessible of Earth's fossils – are also the most important. Their ubiquity is such that every person on the planet touches or uses them every single day, and yet few of us even realize they exist. Despite being the sole witnesses of 3 billion years of evolutionary history, these diminutive fungi, plants, and animals are themselves invisible to the eye. In this microscopic bestiary, prominent geologist, palaeontologist, and scholar Patrick De Wever lifts the veil on their mysterious world.
Marvelous Microfossils lays out the basics of what microfossils are before moving on to the history, tools, and methods of investigating them. De Wever describes the applications of their study, both practical and sublime. Microfossils, he explains, are extremely useful in age-dating and paleoenvironmental reconstruction, which are the bases of multi-billion-dollar investments in the oil, gas, and mining industries. He shares the stories of how microfossils made the Chunnel possible and unmasked perpetrators in jewel heists and murder investigations. Such practicalities aside, De Wever reveals that microfossils also created the stunning white cliffs on the north coast of France, graced the tables of the Medici family, and represent our best hope for discovering life on the exoplanets at the outer edges of our solar system.
Describing the many strange and beautiful groups of known microfossils in detail, De Wever combines lyrical prose with hundreds of arresting color images, from delicate nineteenth-century drawings of phytoplankton drafted by Ernst Haeckel, the "father of ecology", to cutting-edge scanning electron microscope photographs of billion-year-old acritarchs, the nature and functions of which remain elusive despite technological advances. De Wever's ode to the invisible world around us allows readers to peer directly into a microcosm that holds the keys to inquiries so massive that they traverse aeons of geologic time to illuminate how life arose on Earth.
This book was originally published in French in 2016 as Merveilleux Microfossiles: Bâtisseurs, Chronomètres, Architectes.
A Marvelous Microscopic World
What Is a Microfossil?
Why Study Microfossils
THE STUDY OF MICROFOSSILS
MICROFOSSILS THROUGHOUT THE GEOLOGIC AGES
THE DIVERSITY OF MICROFOSSILS
ARCHITECTS, CREATORS AND MARKERS OF TIME
Geologic Time Scale
Patrick De Wever is a professor of geology and micropaleontology at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. He is the author of Temps de la Terre, Temps de l'Homme and Carnet de Curiosités d'un Géologue. Alison Duncan is a translator and book editor. She earned her master of science in translation from New York University and her bachelor of arts in French and Francophone studies from Vassar College.
"Crossing many domains of knowledge and know-how, from science and architecture to jewelry, literature, cosmetics, and design, this is a useful book for students, teachers, and amateurs. It will make a nice gift for anyone."
– Francis Meilliez, Université de Lille
"In Marvelous Microfossils, Patrick De Wever elegantly exhibits a wide range of specimens through scanning electron microscopic images. This beautifully illustrated and passionately written book is a delight to read!"
– Dominic Papineau, London Center for Nanotechnology
"Communicating his wonder at the diversity and fantastic forms of microfossils, Patrick De Wever's book does a marvelous job of exhibiting these amazing organisms."
– John R. Dolan, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-Mer
"Enhanced by sumptuous images, Marvelous Microfossils reveals microfossils' amazing forms and fascinating architecture. Readers will be easily hypnotized by their patterns, their rhythms, their symmetries [...] a delight for the eyes, this book is also notable for its scientific intelligibility. The author is able to render his interest and the complexity of an invisible and inert world with a sharp literary pen, clear text, and simple and effective examples and organization."
– Rémi Luglia, President, Société Nationale de Protection de la Nature
"Initially an emotional thunderbolt for geologist and micropaleontologist Patrick De Wever, microfossils became the object of his research for decades. Sharing this feeling was his motivation to devote a book to the topic. To say the least, this book perfectly fulfills that function!"
– La Recherche
"This book will make history! Because it is the fruit of a whole life's work dedicated to the study of microfossils. The author combines his qualities as a scientist with a great knowledge of the literature. His wish, to inspire us to look for the beauties hidden in stone, is fully realized in this beautiful and successful work!"
– A Fond la Science