William Schopf is currently a professor of paleobiology and is the director and founder of the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life (CSEOL) at UCLA in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. He began his long career at UCLA in 1968, and since then has played an instrumental role in the study of early life on Earth. He is highly recognized for his advancements in the study of very early single-celled life that existed on this planet billions of years before multicellular organisms (like us) evolved.
Fifty years ago such understanding was thought to be impossible. Schopf started to tackle this important problem at the young age of 17. “Scientists and family friends alike almost uniformly argued that I was not yet expert enough to take on such a basic question," Schopf said. "Yet, the problem struck me as potentially solvable. It struck me as considerably interesting. What didn't strike me was why I shouldn't do it".
In 1982, Schopf discovered approximately 3.5 billion year old microfossils in the stromatolites of the Warrawoona group, Western Australia. This is proposed to be the oldest fossil evidence of life on Earth. He has written over two hundred scientific publications and has been involved with the publication of three of the primary books on life’s history and evolution, including “Proterozoic Biosphere: A Multidisciplinary Study” (1992), “Major Events in the History of Life” (1992), and “Earth’s Earliest Biosphere” (1983). He has received numerous awards over the course of his career.