The two fields of research, Palaezoology and Palaeobotany, has a long history that extends from the 19th century until now.
The Department was formed in March 2013 after the merger of the former departments of Palaeozoology and Palaeobotany.
The Department of Palaeozoology was established in 1864 when Nils Petter Angelin was appointed Professor and Curator of the palaeozoological collections that had been donated to the Royal Academy of Sciences ever since its foundation in 1739. Angelin was succeeded by Gustaf Lindström in 1876, and the latter by Gerhard Holm in 1901. These three are known for careful and fundamental descriptions of Swedish invertebrate fossils.
The Department was given a new research direction by Erik Stensiö, the Professor from 1923 to 1959. Stensiö founded the so-called Stockholm School of studies in vertebrate structure and evolution. Stensiö and his successors Erik Jarvik (Professor from 1959 to 1973) and Tor Ørvig (Professor from 1973 to 1982) focused on the "lower" vertebrates, from cyclostomes to transitional forms between bony fish and amphibians.
With Valdar Jaanusson (1982-1989) and Jan Bergström (1989-2005), leadership has been returned to invertebrate palaeontologists, and research on vertebrates has shifted to Tertiary and Quaternary mammals.
The department of palaeobotany was established in 1884-85 to house fossil plants collected on Swedish expeditions to the Arctic as well as the museums cryptogam and gymnosperm collections. The explorer and researcher Adolf E. Nordenskiöld - perhaps best known for his discovery of the “Northeast Passage" - was instrumental in the establishment of the department and the appointment of Alfred G. Nathorst as the first professor. Palaeobotany moved its original location on Wallingatan to the present site at Frescati in 1915.
The fossil plant collections reflect the interests and activities of past and present researchers and explorers, and they contain many unique and important specimens. The bulk of the collections come from the Mesozoic of Sweden and from the Arctic. There are also significant collections from the Antarctic, South America, and China, as well as smaller collections from many other areas of the world. Recently exquisitely preserved angiosperm fossils from several Cretaceous localities in Europe have been added to the collections.
Specimens from the palaeobotany department form the basis for many scientific articles, and much material is currently being used in original research by scientists around the world. Previous palaeobotanical researchers employed in the department include among others Alfred G. Nathorst, Thore G. Halle, Rudolf Florin, Olof H. Selling, Hans Tralau, and Britta Lundblad.