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A brief overview is given of the various fields of palynology, their practical applications being stressed. Particular attention is thereafter paid to the history of palaeopalynology, here considered as the study of pre-Quaternary palynomorphs. This is presented as three stages: the period of pioneer discoveries (to 1918); years of slow progress (1919–1945); and a post-World War II period of accelerating discoveries (1946–1970). Developments concerning the different groups of palynomorphs during these periods are successively presented, under six headings: spores and pollen; dinoflagellates (and acritarchs); prasinophytes; scolecodonts; chitinozoans; and other palynomorphs. The changes brought about in palynology by improving preparation techniques and microscopical equipment are stressed. A brief overview is attempted concerning the developments since 1970, consequent upon ever-expanding research, new preparation techniques and new technology. As conclusion, an overview is presented of the history of palynology and likely future developments are discussed.

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