The Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL / Birkbeck

Prof Paul Bown

Prof Paul Bown

Professor of Micropalaeontology

Dept of Earth Sciences

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1990

Research summary

Research has focused upon various aspects of calcareous nannoplankton (calcareous-scale-bearing, phytoplanktonic algae) which have an abundant and long fossil record and are principally used in sediment dating/correlation and palaeoceanography, with more recent applications in palaeobiology, evolution and biomineralisation studies.

Teaching summary

MSc Micropalaeontology Calcareous Nannofossil Module

A three- to four-week (35-40 lectures, 40 practicals) module taught as part of the Micropalaeontology MSc. The course is internationally unique in providing extensive postgraduate training in a fossil-extant group that is widely utilised in Earth Sciences and the hydrocarbon exploration industry. The course covers all aspects of the biology, palaeobiology and evolutionary/stratigraphic history of calcareous nannofossils.


B163 History of Life

This half course-unit course (20 lectures, 8 practical classes) gives an account of the development of life on Earth and the way in which life and the physical environment have interacted through 3800 million years of Earth’s history. The course begins with the formation of the Solar System and goes on to discuss the origins and development of life and the planet through the Precambrian and Phanerozoic. The course includes introductions to all aspects of palaeontology - palaeobiology, biostratigraphy, evolution, palaeoecology and taxonomy - and practical classes cover the description and classification of major invertebrate fossil groups, and the manipulation and application of palaeontological data.


In both courses, there is a common teaching philosophy, stressing the academic, economic, environmental and cultural impacts of palaeontology and palaeobiology. Economically and academically, palaeontology has been at the forefront of the development and refinement of the geological timescale, providing the underlying framework for all of our understanding of Earth history, and, practically, the chronology for economic deposits exploration. Living and fossil organisms are also fundamental in the tracking of global environmental change that has profoundly influenced the way in which we view Earth history, revealing both catastrophic (e.g. mass extinctions) and gradual (e.g. biotic response to greenhouse-icehouse climate mode transitions) change. Culturally, palaeontology provides a unique context for humans and society, with respect to the remaining life on Earth and the planet itself – a fact clearly evidenced by society’s continuing fascination with all aspects of past life on Earth and other planets, most obviously with dinosaurs but actually reaching across the diversity of life.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1986
University of Sheffield
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1983