If we are to develop a comprehensive and predictive theory of galaxy formation and evolution, it is essential that we obtain an accurate assessment of how and when galaxies assemble their stellar populations, and how this assembly varies with environment. There is strong observational support for the hierarchical assembly of galaxies, but by definition the dwarf galaxies we see today are not the same as the dwarf galaxies and proto-galaxies that were disrupted during the assembly. Our only insight into those disrupted building blocks comes from sifting through the resolved field populations of the surviving giant galaxies to reconstruct the star formation history, chemical evolution, and kinematics of their various structures. To obtain the detailed distribution of stellar ages and metallicities over the entire life of a galaxy, one needs multi-band photometry reaching solar-luminosity main sequence stars. The Hubble Space Telescope can obtain such data in the outskirts of Local Group galaxies. To perform these essential studies for a fair sample of the Local Universe will require observational capabilities that allow us to extend the study of resolved stellar populations to much larger galaxy samples that span the full range of galaxy morphologies, while also enabling the study of the more crowded regions of relatively nearby galaxies. With such capabilities in hand, we will reveal the detailed history of star formation and chemical evolution in the universe.
Brown, T; Postman, M; and Calzetti, D, "The History of Star Formation in Galaxies" (2010). Astronomy Department Faculty Publication Series. 973.