Australia. A scholarly, courtly, old-school professor, Glaessner was the first to make major inroads toward understanding the (very latest) Precambrian record of multicelled animal life (Radhakrishna, 1991; McGowran, 1994).
In 1947, three years before Glaessner joined the faculty at Adelaide, Reginald C. Sprigg announced his discovery of fossils of primitive soft-bodied animals, chiefly imprints of saucer-sized jellyfish, at Ediacara, South Australia (Sprigg, 1947). Although Sprigg thought the fossil-bearing beds were Cambrian in age, Glaessner showed them to be Precambrian (albeit marginally so), making the Ediacaran fossils the oldest animals known. Together with his colleague, Mary Wade, Glaessner spent much of the rest of his life working on this benchmark fauna (see, e.g., Glaessner and Wade, 1966, 1971), bringing it to international attention in the early 1960s (Glaessner, 1962) and, later, in a splendid monograph (Glaessner, 1984).
With Glaessner in the fold, the stage was set. Like a small jazz band—Tyler and Barghoorn trumpeting microfossils in cherts, Timofeev beating on fossils in siltstones, Cloud strumming the early environment, Glaessner the earliest animals—great music was about to be played. At long last, the curtain was to rise on the missing record of Precambrian life.
My own involvement dates from 1960, when as a sophomore in college I became enamored with the problem of the missing Precambrian fossil record, an interest that was to become firmly rooted during the following few years, when I was the first of Barghoorn's graduate students to focus on early life. I have recently recounted in some detail my recollections of those heady days (Schopf, 1999) and need not reiterate the story here. Suffice it to note that virtually nothing had been published on the now-famous Gunflint fossils (Fig. 3) in the nearly 10 years that had passed between the Tyler-Barghoorn 1954 announcement of the find and my entry into graduate school in June, 1963. Then, quite unexpectedly, in October of that year, Stanley Tyler passed away at the age of 57, never to see the ripened fruits of his long-term labor reach the published page. Within a year thereafter, a series of events that would shape the field began to unfold, set off first by a squabble between Barghoorn and Cloud as to who would scoop whom in a battle for credit over the Gunflint fossils (Schopf, 1999). By late 1964 this spat had been settled, with Cloud electing to hold off publication of his paper “illustrating some conspicuous Gunflint nannofossils and discussing their implications until Barghoorn could complete his part of a descriptive paper with the by-then deceased Tyler” (Cloud, 1983, p. 23). The two articles appeared in Science in 1965, first Barghoorn and Tyler's “Microorganisms from the Gunflint