The Constitution of Paleobiological Data

The Constitution of Paleobiological Data

Marco Tamborini


Melchior Neumayr’s illustration of a Formenreihe which shows gradual nature of evolution. From
Neumayr, M. (1895). Erdgeschichte. Leipzig und Wien: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, p. 16.

The objective of Marco Tamborini's project was to write the first pages of the biography of paleobiological data. He focused on:

  1. The genesis of this kind of data as it emerged in German stratigraphy and paleontology between the mid-nineteenth and the early-twentieth centuries
  2. How the conceptualization of the paleontological data was reformulated and taken as the starting point for studying the patterns of the diversity of life in deep time between the 1940s and '70s. This is the turning point that marks the "coming into being" of specifically paleobiological data

Marco Tamborini reconstructed in detail how it was possible to transform an incomplete and misleading material object—the fossil record that can be admired in a museum—into a no-longer-misleading source of knowledge. He described the genesis of the paleobiological practice by retracing the encounter of two different approaches to the fossil record between the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in German academia and their later diffusion into English-speaking countries.