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March 2003

Release Date: March 18, 2003

Discoverer of World's Oldest Fossil to Speak at ASU as Moon Lecturer

Dr. J. William Schopf, a UCLA paleobiologist who discovered the world's oldest fossils, will speak on the hunt for extraterrestrial life and on his discovery of the earth's earliest fossils during the 27th Annual Roy E. Moon Distinguished Lecture in Science Tuesday, March 25, at Angelo State University.

Schopf will present a technical lecture at 2 p.m. on "Astrobiology: The Hunt for Life on Other Worlds" and a public lecture at 8 p.m. March 25 on the "Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils: Solutions to Darwin's Dilemma." Both free lectures will be in the C.J. Davidson Conference Center in the Houston Harte University Center on the ASU campus.

This year's Moon lecturer is director of the Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at the University of California at Los Angeles. Schopf is an authority on the evolution of primitive Precambrian organisms and the discoverer of cellular microbes nearly 3.5 billion years old. His discovery helped solve "Darwin's dilemma," the previous absence of any known fossil record beyond 550 million years ago. Though the record was there, no one until Schopf had thought to look for fossilized microorganisms.

His research has demonstrated that evolution itself has evolved over the millennia with the critical point being the advent of sex about 1.1 billion years ago. Up until then, organisms reproduced asexually through cellular division. The beginning of sexual reproduction increased variation within species, diversity among species and the geologic speed of evolution and the genesis of new species.

As a faculty member at UCLA, Schopf teaches and conducts research in the university's Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and Molecular Biology Institute.

Schopf is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and the Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Board. He also has received the Mary Clark Thompson Medal of the National Academy of Sciences and the A.I. Oparin Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life.

He holds a bachelor's degree in geology from Oberlin College and master's and doctoral degrees in biology from Harvard University.

The Moon Lectureship was established in 1976 in memory of former San Angelo physician Roy E. Moon by five of his colleagues and has been funded annually by a grant from the physicians of West Texas Medical Associates. The lectureship brings scientists of national prominence to the ASU campus each year for public lectures, colloquia, classroom visits and informal discussions.