Martin Brasier

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Martin David Brasier
Born(1947-04-12)12 April 1947
Died16 December 2014(2014-12-16) (aged 67)
Alma materUniversity of London
University of Oxford
Scientific career

Martin David Brasier FGS, FLS (12 April 1947 – 16 December 2014) was an English palaeobiologist and astrobiologist known for his conceptual analysis of microfossils and evolution in the Precambrian and Cambrian.

He was Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Oxford[1] and Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall. His research critically examined the context and character of the early fossil record, making use of field mapping, logging, optical petrography, stable isotope geochemistry, confocal microscopy, NanoSims microprobes, and lasers for high resolution 3D scanning and laser Raman spectroscopy.

Brasier died in a car accident near Burford, Oxfordshire, UK, on 16 December 2014.[2][3]


His contributions include the Brasier–Schopf debate on critical testing of questionable 3460 Ma Apex chert 'microfossils' at NASA; work on the earliest well-preserved fossils of cells (biology) (3430 Ma Strelley Pool); the pumice hypothesis for the origins of life; mapping the earliest life on land (1000 Ma Torridonian); and the palaeoecology, development and evolution of Ediacaran to early Cambrian organisms. He was secretary and then leader of the International Geoscience Programme, UNESCO and International Commission on Stratigraphy Projects on the Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary decision. This defined the base of the Phanerozoic Eon, Palaeozoic Era and Cambrian Period at a section in Newfoundland and Labrador based upon the appearance of the first assemblage of vertical burrowing animal trace fossils Treptichnus pedum[4] The same datum also defines the top of the Precambrian and of the Proterozoic Eon. His own book on the subject, Darwin's Lost World was published in 2009 as part of the Charles Darwin centenary celebrations.[5] His sequel, called Secret Chambers, goes in search of the symbiotic origins of the eukaryote chloroplast, tracing its evolution through the last two billion years, exploring the ideas of Robert Hooke, Elso Barghoorn, Tom Cavalier-Smith and Lynn Margulis, and delving into the interval that Brasier dubbed 'the Boring Billion'.

Recent awards[edit]

  • Lyell Medal, Geological Society of London, Burlington House, 2014 (for his research of early life)[6]
  • Society of Biology first book awards nomination 2013 (for Secret Chambers)

Selected publications[edit]

  • Landing, E., Geyer, G., Braser, M.D., and Bowring, S. A. 2013. Cambrian Evolutionary Radiation: centext, correlation, and chronostratigraphy - overcoming deficiencies of the First Appearance Datum (FAD)concept. Earth-Science Reviews (journal),123. 133-172
  • Brasier, M.D., Matthewman, R., McMahon, S. and Wacey, D. 2011. Pumice as a remarkable substrate for the origins of life. Astrobiology, 7, 725-735
  • Wacey, D., Kilburn, M., Saunders, M., Cliff, J. and Brasier, M.D. 2011. Microfossils of sulphur-metabolizing cells in 3.4-billion-year-old rocks of Western Australia. Nature Geoscience, 4, 698-702
  • Strother, P.K., Battison, L., Brasier, M.D. & Wellman, C.H. 2011. Earth's earliest non-marine eukaryotes. Nature. 403, 505-509
  • Brasier, M.D. & Antcliffe, J.B. 2009. Evolutionary relationships within the Avalonian Ediacara biota: new insights from Laser Analysis. Journal of the Geological Society, 166, 363-384
  • Brasier, M.D. & Antcliffe, J. 2004. Decoding the Ediacaran Enigma. Science 305, 1115-1117
  • Brasier, M.D., Green, O.R., Jephcoat, A.P., Kleppe, A.K., Van Kranendonk, M.J., Lindsay, J.F., Steele, A. & Grassineau, N.V. 2002. Questioning the evidence for Earth's oldest fossils. Nature 416, 76-81
  • Brasier, M.D. & Lindsay, J.F. 1998. A billion years of environmental stability and the emergence of eukaryotes. New data from northern Australia. Geology, 26, 555-558
  • Brasier, M.D., Cowie, J.W. & Taylor, M.E. 1994. Decision on the Precambrian- Cambrian boundary stratotype. Episodes, 17, 3–8.
  • Brasier, M.D. 1979. The Cambrian radiation event. In House, M.R. (ed.) 'The Origin of Major Invertebrate Groups'. Systematics Association Special Volume, 12, 103-159


  • Brasier, M.D. 2012. Secret Chambers: the inside story of cells and complex life. Oxford University Press, 298pp.
  • Brasier, M.D. 2009. Darwin's Lost World: the hidden history of animal life. Oxford University Press, 322pp., ISBN 978-0-19954-897-2
  • Cowie, J.W. and Brasier, M.D. 1989. The Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary, Oxford Monographs in Geology and Geophysics, No. 12.
  • Brasier, MD. 1980. Microfossils. George Allen & Unwin, London, 193pp.


  1. ^ "Oxford University staff". Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  2. ^ Gideon Henderson (17 December 2014). "Professor Martin Brasier, RIP". Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Death of Martin Brasier". St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Episodes article Precambrian-Cambrian IGCP" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  5. ^ Martin Brasier. "Darwin's Lost World at Oxford University Press". Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Lyell Medal". The Geological Society of London. Retrieved 16 May 2022.