Frank Bursley Taylor

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Frank Bursley Taylor (1860 – 1938) was an American geologist, the son of a lawyer in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[1] He was a Harvard dropout who studied privately financed in large part by his wealthy father. He became a specialist in the glacial geology of the Great Lakes, and proposed to the Geological Society of America on December 29, 1908[2] that the continents moved on the Earth's surface, that a shallow region in the Atlantic marks where Africa and South America were once joined, and that the collisions of continents could uplift mountains. His ideas were based on his studies on mountain ranges as the Andes, Rockies, Alps and Himalayas. He concluded that these mountains could have been formed only as a result of titanic lateral pressures that thrust the earth's surface upward. His theory was either ignored or opposed by other scientists of his time.[3]

Frank Bursley Taylor's ideas about continental drift were independently discovered by Alfred Wegener in Germany three years later, on January 1912, but even with Wegener's extensive extra research the idea did not achieve acceptance until the 1960s when a vast weight of evidence had accrued via Harry Hess, Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews. The initial key to his proposal, the complementary shapes of the continental masses, had been observed as early as the 16th century by Abraham Ortelius, but had lacked a credible driving force. His own proposition was that the moon was captured by the Earth's gravity during the Cretaceous period 100 million years ago, and came so close to the earth that its tidal pull dragged the continents toward the Equator. This lacked evidence, thus undermining the credibility of the continental drift observation. He had proposed that the continents ploughed through the ocean floors towards the equator, wrinkling their Equator-facing fronts to produce the Himalayas and Alps.


  1. ^ Obituary, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  2. ^ Geological Society of America (v. 21, p. 179–226)
  3. ^ Miller Russel et al. (1983) Continents in collision, Time-Life Books, Amsterdam, pp. 28,29