Motonori Matuyama

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Motonori Matuyama
Motonori Matuyama.png
Professor Motonori Matuyama (right) and technical assistant Naoichi Kumagai (left) with Meinesz’s pendulum aboard submarine Ro 57 in 1934
BornOctober 25, 1884
DiedJanuary 27, 1958 (1958-01-28) (aged 73)
Known forTiming of geomagnetic reversals
Scientific career

Motonori Matuyama (松山 基範, Matsuyama Motonori, October 25, 1884 – January 27, 1958) was a Japanese geophysicist who was the first to surmise that the Earth's magnetic field had undergone reversals in the past. The era of reversed polarity preceding the current Brunhes era of normal polarity is called the Matuyama reversed chron and the boundary between them is called the Brunhes–Matuyama reversal.


Matuyama was born at Uyeda (now Usa) in Japan, the son of a Zen abbot. He was educated at the University of Hiroshima and Kyoto Imperial University, where he was appointed to a lectureship in 1913. After spending the period 1919–21 at the University of Chicago working with Thomas C. Chamberlin he was made professor of theoretical geology at Kyoto Imperial University. He conducted a gravity survey of Japan during the period 1927–32, extending this to also cover Korea and Manchuria, and studied marine gravity using the Vening–Meinesz pendulum apparatus[1] in a submarine.[2]

While rocks had earlier been found with polarities opposite to the present field and the hypothesis advanced that the field had reversed in the past, Matuyama was the first to conduct a disciplined study of the hypothesis. In 1926 he began collecting basalt specimens in Manchuria and Japan, and in 1929 published a paper showing that there was a clear correlation between the polarity and the stratigraphic position. He remarked that in the early Pleistocene the Earth's field had been reversed and that it had later changed to the present polarity.[3][4] The period of reversed polarity, dating from 2.58 to 0.78 million years ago, is now called the Matuyama reversed chron and the transition to normal polarity (like that of the present Earth's field) is the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal.[5]

This reversed polarity, particularly as shown by the rocks of the ocean floor, was to provide crucial evidence for the sea floor spreading hypothesis of Harry H. Hess.[6]

Matsuyama Rocks, in Crystal Sound, Antarctica, are named in his honour.


  1. ^ "Vening Meinesz Pendulum Apparatus". Virtual Geoscience Center. Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ Gravity at sea —A memoir of a marine geophysicist—Tomoda Y - Proc. Jpn. Acad., Ser. B, Phys. Biol. Sci. (2010)
  3. ^ Matyuama, M. (1929). "On the Direction of Magnetization of Basalt in Japan, Tyosen and Manchuria". Proceedings of the Imperial Academy of Japan. 5: 203–205. doi:10.2183/pjab1912.5.203.
  4. ^ Glen, William (1982). The Road to Jaramillo: Critical Years of the Revolution in Earth Science. Stanford University Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-8047-1119-7.
  5. ^ Merrill, Ronald T.; McElhinny, Michael W.; McFadden, Phillip L. (1998). The magnetic field of the earth: paleomagnetism, the core, and the deep mantle. Academic Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-0-12-491246-5.
  6. ^ Hess, H. H. (November 1962). "History of Ocean Basins" (PDF). In A. E. J. Engel; Harold L. James; B. F. Leonard (eds.). Petrologic studies: a volume to honor A. F. Buddington. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America. pp. 599–620. Retrieved 8 September 2010.

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