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Alfred Wegener


Those eyes! Wegner.jpg




Born November 1st, 1880 in Berlin, Alfred Wegener produced one of the most important theories in the evolution revolution. in 1904 he attended the university of Berlin and received his Ph.D astrophysics, but rather that follow a career path in astrophysics he decided to become a meteorologist (pbs.org). according to earthobservatory.nasa.gov his contributions to meteorology include, “the first to use kites and tethered balloons to study the polar atmosphere.” (earthobservatory.nasa.gov). He was well respected in this field and even married the daughter of one of Berlin’s top leading metrologist. His father-in-law would later become one of the very people to doubt Wegener’s theory. His controversial theory was what we now know as the Continental Drift.

Before Alfred Wegener began exploring the idea of the continental Drift, the standard scientific theory to explain similarities of animals and plants that were lived in completely different ecosystems was that there had been land bridges that had once connected the continents that eventually sunk under water (ucmp.berkeley.edu). The idea of Continental Drift had been considered before but not with as much evidence as Wegener had (pangaea.org)
When looking at map Wegener began noticing that the continents almost looked like they could fit together as one giant land mass.

paneoyo.gif

This theory clearest at the coastlines of South America and Africa (pbs.org). So Wagener theorized that rather than the idea that these species had crossed once-they instead had co-existed on one single land mass (pbs.com). They became separated as the continents broke apart.He believed that this giant land mass was developed over 300 years ago and named it Pangaea which is greek for “All Earth” (ucmp.berkeley.edu). Alfred his theory and evidence in his book The Origin of Continents and Oceans that was published in 1915. However due to the first World War it was not until 1920 till his work was noticed outside Germany (pangaea.org). Like many great scientist, his work was immediately met with ridicule.

The harshest criticism was fired directly at Alfred Wegener and his credentials. Although Wegener was fascinated with geophysics (ucmp.berkeley.edu), he was not considered an expert in the field. Many felt it was an insult to the entire science of geophysics for a meteorologist to feel he had the right for to make such outlandish claims (pbs.org). Alfred Wagner also could not prove exactly how the contents split. He had several theories as to why this was but each easily dismissed. according to ucmp.berkeley.edu/history.com one of his failed explanations was his porposal that, “centrifugal [moving away from the center] and tidal forces were responsible for moving the continents” (ucmp.berkeley.edu/history). The website also stated that a scientist proposed that the tidal force it would take to move the continents would stop the earths rotation in under a year. Although Wegener's theory was not too far off from our understanding of oceanic plates, such evidence was not available at this time.

Although there were doubters, Alfred Wegener did not give up on continuously fighting for his theory.
n his book The Origin of Continents and Oceans he states:

The forces which displace continents are the same as those which produce great fold-mountain ranges. Continental drift, faults and compressions, earthquakes, volcanicity, [ocean] transgression cycles and [apparent] polar wandering are undoubtedly connected on a grand scale. (earthobservatory.nasa.gov)

Alfred Wagner died in 1930 at age 50 (earthobservatory.nasa.gov). He did not live to see his research become widely accepted by the scientific community. It was not until 1960s that studies about tectonic plates began to surface (pbs.org). Research by scientist Harry Hess on sea-floor spreading, defined by nationalgeographic.com as “Seafloor spreading is a process of plate tectonics. New oceanic crust is created as large slabs of the Earth's crust split apart from each other and magma wells up to fill the gap” (education.nationalgeographic.com), described how exactly the contents had moved together (pbs.com). Now Alfred Wegener's theory of Continental Drift is a standard in the the science of evolution.

A fun song about Alfred Wegener's life:










Sources:



  • Hughes, Patrick. "Wegener, Alfred." Pangaea Publishing and Design for Nature & Peoples of the Earth. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. <http://pangaea.org/wegener.htm>.

Sources of pictures: