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OxygenA Four Billion Year History$
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Donald Eugene Canfield

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691145020

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691145020.001.0001

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The Early History of Atmospheric Oxygen: Biological Evidence

The Early History of Atmospheric Oxygen: Biological Evidence

(p.72) Chapter 6 The Early History of Atmospheric Oxygen: Biological Evidence

Donald Eugene Canfield

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the history of atmospheric oxygen through geologic time. One of the giants in this discussion is Vladimir Vernadsky 1863–1945), a Ukranian mineralogist turned geochemist and visionary thinker. In 1926 he published his magnum opus The Biosphere, in which he systemically explored how life works as a geological force. One subject he touched upon was the history of atmospheric oxygen. He initiated this discussion by stating that in all geological periods, the chemical influence of living matter on the surrounding environment has not changed significantly. He concluded that the phenomena of superficial weathering clearly show that free oxygen played the same role in the Archean Era that it plays now. The chapter then explores early Earth biology, focusing on signs of cyanobacteria, without which oxygen could not have accumulated into the atmosphere.

Keywords:   Earth, atmospheric oxygen, Vladimir Vernadsky, cyanobacteria, geologic time

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