Alfred Wegener's 130th birthday!

by Anonymous on Nov. 01st, 2010

Alfred Wegener in Greenland, November 1, 1930: This last known photograph of Alfred Wegener (left) was taken on his 50th birthday, not long before his death. Fellow explorer Rasmus Villumsen is seen on right.
Alfred Wegener in Greenland, November 1, 1930: This last known photograph of Alfred Wegener (left) was taken on his 50th birthday, not long before his death. Fellow explorer Rasmus Villumsen is seen on right.Courtesy Archive of Alfred Wegener Institute via Wikipedia
Where would modern geology be without Alfred Wegener? This remarkable scientist's theory of continental drift (which he first proposed in 1912) is the very basis for the current groundbreaking (pun intended) theory of plate tectonics. Wegener was born November 1, 1880 in Berlin, and although he earned a doctorate in astronomy, his main interests were meteorology and climate.

When he noticed how Earth's large land masses seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces (e.g. South America fits with Africa), and how some fossils and rock types on different continents also seemed to match up with each other, it occurred to Wegener that continental drift could be the only reasonable explanation. His new theory also better explained earthquakes, volcanism, and mountain-building. But because he wasn't a trained geologist, Wegener's hypothesis was not at all well-received by the geologists of his day. It wasn't until the 1950s, after ocean floor mapping (by the naval military during World War II) and data from paleomagnetism and paleoclimate studies became available that Wegener's theory finally began to be embraced. Unfortunately, Wegener wasn't able to enjoy his vindication, since he had died decades before during a meteorological expedition to Greenland.

SOURCES and FURTHER INFO

Wegener biography on NASA's Earth Observatory page
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Previous Buzz post about Wegener
More about plate tectonics

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