Vine And Matthews Earn Their Stripes

The 1950s was a busy time for marine geologists. Not only were Bruce Heezen and Marie Tharp creating the first maps of the seafloor, but other scientists were collecting data on the remnant magnetism of the rocks that were found on the bottom of the ocean. It was during this time that Arthur Raff and Ronald Mason made a fascinating discovery. The two men were conducting a magnetic survey of the Pacific Ocean seafloor off the coast of Oregon. As they sailed back and forth across the mid-ocean...

Stanley Runcorn Discovers Wandering Poles

In the 1950s, a number of geologists were trying to make some sense of how Earth's magnetic field works. One of these men was Stanley Runcorn, a geophysicist at the University of Newcastle in England at the time. While measuring the remnant magnetism found frozen into igneous rocks around Europe, he discovered something very strange It appeared that the position of the north magnetic pole of Earth moved around over time. This was very unexpected. Based on the shape of Earth's magnetic field and...

Harry Hess Uncovers A Deepsea Mystery

Even though sonar had been available for more than 20 years, it was not really put to many scientific uses until World War II, when a naval officer named Harry Hess turned an antisubmarine weapon into an important research tool. In the process, he would not only unlock the mystery of what the seafloor looked like, but give the theory of continental drift a whole new look. Harry Hammond Hess was born in New York City in 1906 and graduated from Yale University with a degree in geology in 1927....

Many Questions Still Remain

Even though plate tectonics has answered many of the questions dealing with how the surface of Earth changes over time, the theory itself still has many unanswered questions. Perhaps the biggest question is also the simplest one What makes the tectonic plates move in the first place The most common answer goes back to Arthur Holmes's idea of convection currents. If you recall, Holmes believed that heat generated by radioactive elements would cause hot spots in the mantle. As the rock became...

Evidence For A Contracting Earth

By the late 1800s, many scientists had started explaining the origins of Earth's surface features by using the principles of uniformi- tarianism. While many had no problem accepting the idea of small changes, a large number of geologists still thought that large-scale geologic features, like oceans, continents, and mountain chains, could only be formed by large catastrophic events. One of the geologists working on the problem was an American named James Dana. Dana was a professor at Yale...

Alfred Wegener Takes On The World

Glacial Evidence For Continental Drift

The scientific community quickly rejected Taylor's theory on mountain building. The idea of continents being able to move through a solid Earth seemed so far fetched that few serious geologists would accept it. That did not stop everyone from thinking about the idea, however. In the early 1900s, a German scientist named Alfred Wegener picked up on the concept and, before he was through, made many geologists think that the impossible might be possible. Wegener was born in Berlin on November 1,...

Arthur Holmes And The Concept Of Convection

Even though his name is not as famous as either James Hutton or Charles Lyell, Arthur Holmes ranks as one of the greatest geologists of all time. He is best known for his textbook Principles of Physical Geology. First published in 1944, this book is still used by many geology students today. When it comes to plate tectonic theory, however, Holmes can be thought of as the man who moved the continents. Holmes's career as a geologist started soon after his graduation from Imperial College of...