Quantitative analysis of pollen began with Lennart von Post's published work. The term palynology was introduced by Hyde and Williams in 1944, following correspondence with the Swedish geologist Antevs, in the pages of the Pollen Analysis Circular (one of the first journals devoted to pollen analysis, produced by Paul Sears in North America).
The isolation ended with the German publication of Gunnar Erdtman's 1921 thesis. Hyde and Williams chose palynology on the basis of the Greek words paluno meaning 'to sprinkle' and pale meaning 'dust' (and thus similar to the Latin word pollen).
Palynomorphs form a geological record of importance in determining the type of prehistoric life that existed at the time the sedimentary formation was laid down.
As a result, these microfossils give important clues to the prevailing climatic conditions of the time.
This separates the lighter pollen from the heavier soil. Graphs are compiled of the types of pollen present in relation to the time-scale being studied.
Grass, wood, cereal and weed pollens all have a story to tell about past land use - forest clearances, cultivation and abandonment can all be identified in this way.
Their paleontological utility derives from an abundance numbering in millions of cells per gram in organic marine deposits, even when such deposits are generally not fossiliferous.
Palynology does not include diatoms, foraminiferans or other organisms with siliceous or calcareous exoskeletons.The methodology of pollen analysis became widespread throughout Europe and North America and revolutionized Quaternary vegetation and climate change research. Sarauw studied fossil pollen of middle Pleistocene age (Cromerian) from the harbour of Copenhagen. Palynomorphs are broadly defined as organic-walled microfossils between 5 and 500 micrometres in size.