Andrew H. Knoll

Andrew Knoll
Born1951 (age 69–70)
Scientific career
ThesisStudies in Archean and early Proterozoic paleontology (1977)

Andrew Herbert Knoll (born 1951) is the Fisher Professor of Natural History[1] and a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences[2] at Harvard University.[2][3] Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania in 1951, Andrew Knoll graduated from Lehigh University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1973[2][3] and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1977[3] for a dissertation entitled "Studies in Archean and Early Proterozoic Paleontology."[2] Knoll taught at Oberlin College for five years before returning to Harvard as a professor in 1982.[2] At Harvard, he serves in the departments of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Earth and Planetary Sciences.[1][2]

Scientific work

Andrew Knoll is best known for his contributions to Precambrian paleontology and biogeochemistry. He has discovered microfossil records of early life in Spitsbergen, East Greenland, Siberia, China, Namibia, western North America, and Australia,[1] and was among the first to apply principles of taphonomy and paleoecology to their interpretation. He has also elucidated early records of skeletonized animals in Namibia and remarkable fossils of the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation, China, preserved in exceptional cellular detail by early diagenetic phosphate precipitation. Knoll and colleagues authored the first paper to demonstrate strong stratigraphic variation in the carbon isotopic composition of carbonates and organic matter preserved in Neoproterozoic (1000-542 million years ago) sedimentary rocks, and Knoll's group also demonstrated that mid-Proterozoic carbonates display little isotopic variation through time, in contrast to both older and younger successions.

Knoll has longstanding interests in biomineralization, paleobotany, plankton evolution, and mass extinction.[1][2] Among other things, Knoll and his colleagues were the first to hypothesize that rapid build-up of carbon dioxide played a key role in end-Permian mass extinction, 252 million years ago. More generally, Knoll uses physiology as a conceptual bridge to integrate geochemical records of environmental change with paleontological records of biological history. He has also served as a member of the science team for NASA's MER rover mission to Mars.[4]

Honors include membership in the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Microbiology, and Foreign Membership in the Royal Society of London and the National Academy of Sciences, India, as well as the Paleontological Society Medal, the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society (London), the Moore Medal of the Society for Sedimentary Geology, the Oparin Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, the Sven Berggren Prize of the Royal Physiographic Society, Sweden, and both the Walcott and Thompson medals of the US National Academy of Sciences. He received the Phi Beta Kappa Book Award for "Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth". In 2018, Knoll received the International Prize for Biology, conferred in Tokyo in the presence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan.


  • 2013 - "Biology: How Life Works". Morris, J., D. Hartl, A.H. Knoll, R. Lue, and others. Macmillan. 2nd Edition 2016: ISBN 978-1319067793; 3rd Edition 2019.
  • 2012 - "Fundamentals of Geobiology". Knoll, A.H., D.E. Canfield and K. Konhauser, Eds. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester UK, 443 pp., ISBN 978-140-5187527
  • 2007 - "The Evolution of Primary Producers in the Sea". Falkowski, P. and A.H. Knoll, Eds. Elsevier, Burlington MA, 441 pp., ISBN 978-0123705181
  • 2004 - "Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth". Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 277pp., ISBN 0-691-12029-3

Selected Papers

  • Muscente, A.D., A. Prabhub, H. Zhong, A. Eleish, M. Meyer, P. Fox, R. Hazen, and A.H. Knoll (2018) Quantifying ecological impacts of mass extinctions with network analysis of fossil communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 115: 5217–5222.
  • Knoll, A.H. and M.A. Nowak (2017) The timetable of evolution. Science Advances 3, DOI: e1603076.
  • Knoll, A.H., K. Bergmann, and J.V. Strauss (2016) Life: The first two billion years. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B 371: 20150493, doi.10.1098/rstb.2015.0493.
  • Knoll, A.H. and M.J. Follows (2016) A bottom-up perspective on ecosystem change in Mesozoic oceans. Proceedings B, Royal Society, 20161755, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1755.
  • Sperling, E.A., A.H. Knoll and P.R. Girguis (2015) The ecological physiology of Earth's second oxygen revolution. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 46: 215–235.
  • Knoll, A.H. (2014) Paleobiological perspectives on early eukaryotic evolution. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a016121.
  • Sperling, E.A., C.A. Frieder, P.R. Girguis, A.V. Raman, L.A. Levin, and A.H. Knoll (2013) Oxygen, ecology, and the Cambrian radiation of animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 110: 13446–13451.
  • Bosak, T., A.H. Knoll, and A.P. Petroff (2013) The meaning of stromatolites. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 41: 21–44.
  • Knoll, A.H. (2013) Systems paleobiology. Geological Society of America Bulletin 125: 3-13.
  • Cohen, P.A. and A.H. Knoll (2012) Neoproterozoic scale microfossils from the Fifteen Mile Group, Yukon Territory. Journal of Paleontology 86: 775–800.
  • Parfrey, L., D. Lahr, A.H. Knoll, and L.A. Katz (2011) Estimating the timing of early eukaryotic diversification with multigene molecular clocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 108: 13624–13629.
  • Knoll, A.H. and W.W. Fischer (2011) Skeletons and ocean chemistry: the long view. In: J.P. Gattuso and L. Hansson, eds., Ocean Acidification. Oxford University Press, pp. 67–82.
  • Knoll, A.H. (2011) The multiple origins of complex multicellularity. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 39: 217–239.
  • Pruss, S., S. Finnegan, W.W. Fischer, and A.H. Knoll (2010) Carbonates in skeleton-poor seas: New insights from Cambrian and Ordovician strata of Laurentia. Palaios 25: 73–84.
  • Tosca, N.J. and A.H. Knoll (2009) Juvenile chemical sediments and the long term persistence of water at the surface of Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 286: 379–386.
  • Tosca, N.J., Knoll, A.H., McLennan, S.M. (2008) Water activity and the challenge for life on early Mars. Science 320: 1204–1207.
  • Wilson, J.P, Knoll, A.H., Holbrook, N.M, and Marshall, C.R. (2008) Modeling fluid flow in Medullosa, an anatomically unusual Paleozoic seed plant. Paleobiology 34: 472–493.
  • Knoll, A.H., Bambach, R.K, Payne, J., Pruss, S., and Fischer, W. (2007) A paleophysiological perspective on the end-Permian mass extinction and its aftermath. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 256: 295–313.
  • Tomitani, A., Knoll, A.H., Cavanaugh, C.M., and Ohno, T. (2006) The evolutionary diversification of cyanobacteria: molecular phylogenetic and paleontological perspectives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 103:5442-5447.
  • Knoll, A.H., Javaux, E.J., Hewitt, D., and Cohen, P. (2006) Eukaryotic organisms in Proterozoic oceans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 361B: 1023–1028.
  • Squyres, S., and Knoll, A.H. (2005) Outcrop geology at Meridiani Planum: Introduction. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 240: 1-10.
  • Knoll, A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N. (2004) A New Period for the Geologic Time Scale. Science 305: 621.
  • Anbar, A.D. and Knoll, A.H. (2002) Proterozoic ocean chemistry and evolution: a bioinorganic bridge? Science 297: 1137–1142.
  • Knoll, A.H. and S.B. Carroll (1999) The early evolution of animals: Emerging views from comparative biology and geology. Science 284: 2129–2137.


  • 1967 - Eagle Scout
  • 1987 - awarded Charles Schuchert Award, presented to a promising paleontologist under 40
  • 1987 - awarded Walcott Medal for contributions to the study of Precambrian life, in particular the microbial roots of plant evolution[5]
  • 1996 - awarded honorary doctorate from Uppsala University, Sweden
  • 1998 - awarded honorary doctorate from Lehigh University
  • 2003 - awarded Phi Beta Kappa Book Award in Science for Life on a Young Planet
  • 2005 - awarded Paleontological Society Medal
  • 2005 - awarded Raymond C. Moore Medal
  • 2007 - awarded Wollaston Medal [2], the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London; previous recipients include Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz
  • 2012 – awarded Thompson Medal for meritorious research in paleontology and geology
  • 2013 - foreign fellow, National Academy of Sciences, India
  • 2014 - awarded honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago[6]
  • 2014 - awarded the Oparin Medal from the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life
  • 2014 - awarded honorary doctorate from the University of Southern Denmark
  • 2015 - elected a Foreign Member, Royal Society (ForMemRS) of London[7]
  • 2017 – awarded honorary doctorate from the American Museum of Natural History
  • 2018 – awarded the Sven Berggren Prize, Royal Physiographic Society, Sweden
  • 2018 - awarded the Geological Society of America's Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Division Award
  • 2018 – awarded the International Prize for Biology


  1. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-26. Retrieved 2013-07-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g
  3. ^ a b c [1]
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  6. ^ "University to bestow seven honorary degrees at 519th Convocation". May 27, 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-03-16. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  7. ^

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