William Smith was one of the most important scientists from this time who helped to develop knowledge of the succession of different fossils by studying their distribution through the sequence of sedimentary rocks in southern England.
It wasn't until well into the 20th century that enough information had accumulated about the rate of radioactive decay that the age of rocks and fossils in number of years could be determined through radiometric age dating.
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I have integrated this web page on human evolution into an electronic text, " Nature's Holism - Holism.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in dead organic material the approximate time since it died can be worked out.Geologists draw on it and other basic principles ( to determine the relative ages of rocks or features such as faults.Relative age dating also means paying attention to crosscutting relationships.There's a small amount of radioactive carbon-14 in all living organisms.When they die no new carbon-14 is taken in by the dead organism.Archaeological geology as a science had to precede the proposal of evolution, as an understanding of the immense age of the earth is necessary to understand evolution.