Introduction

As early as the 16th century it had been noted that the western and eastern coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean appeared to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (Section 1.1). The significance of this observation was not fully realized, however, until the 19th century, when the geometric fit of continental outlines was invoked as a major item of evidence in constructing the hypothesis of continental drift. The case for the hypothesis was further strengthened by the correspondence of geologic features across the juxtaposed coastlines. Application of the technique ofpaleomagnetism in the 1950s and 1960s provided the first quantitative evidence that continents had moved at least in a north-south direction during geologic time. Moreover, it was demonstrated that the continents had undergone relative motions, and this confirmed that continental drift had actually occurred.

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