For centuries, humans have asked: How was Earth formed? Where did we come from? What makes us human? This search for beginnings has led twentieth-century scientists on an astounding journey. From the arctic tundra to Africa's Olduvai Gorge to the ocean floor, paleontologists, biologists, and geologists find new clues to the origins of our planet, our species, and life itself. In their quest, they ignite a fierce contest between opposing interpretations of the evidence, a struggle that helps drive science.
The earthquake that shattered San Francisco, California, in 1906 opens a century of explosive discoveries and debates in the earth sciences. We see Earth through the eyes of Alfred Wegener, struggling to convince the scientific establishment of 1911 that continents do move, and watch as radiodating techniques increase Earth's estimated age -- sometimes inspiring skepticism if not outrage. Meanwhile, a parallel upheaval rumbles the life sciences, where new evidence of our primate ancestors and the discovery of DNA's structure stir up controversies of their own. Ancient fossils and living cells give up their secrets to change our view of our species and the mechanics of life.
San Francisco earthquake, 1906
Earth remains mysterious and unpredictable
The "what" and "how" of evolution
A bone of contention
A journey to the ocean floor
The earth moves!
New branches on the family tree
Evidence, clues, and theories