Timeline of the development of tectonophysics (after 1952)

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The evolution of tectonophysics is closely linked to the history of the continental drift and plate tectonics hypotheses. The continental drift/ Airy-Heiskanen isostasy hypothesis had many flaws and scarce data. The fixist/ Pratt-Hayford isostasy, the contracting Earth and the expanding Earth concepts had many flaws as well.

The idea of continents with a permanent location, the geosyncline theory, the Pratt-Hayford isostasy, the extrapolation of the age of the Earth by Lord Kelvin as a black body cooling down, the contracting Earth, the Earth as a solid and crystalline body, is one school of thought. A lithosphere creeping over the asthenosphere is a logical consequence of an Earth with internal heat by radioactivity decay, the Airy-Heiskanen isostasy, thrust faults and Niskanen's mantle viscosity determinations.

Making sense of the puzzle pieces[edit]

Map of the later North Atlantic region after the closing of the Iapetus Ocean and the Caledonian/Acadian orogenies (Wilson 1966). Animals: Trilobites and graptolites.[1][2]
Euramerica in the Devonian (416 to 359 Ma) with Baltica, Avalonia (Cabot Fault, Newfoundland and Great Glen Fault, Scotland; cited in Wilson 1962) and Laurentia (Other parts: Iberian Massif and Armorican terrane).

Plate tectonics[edit]

The "Bullard's Fit" of the Iapetus Ocean suture zone.
Approximate location of Mesoproterozoic (older than 1.3 Ga) cratons in South America and Africa. The São Luís and the Luis Alves cratonic fragments are shown (Brazil), but the Arequipa–Antofalla craton, the Saharan Metacraton and some minor African cratons are not. Other versions describe the Guiana Shield separated from the Amazonian shield by a depression.


Euler rotational pole.
Spreading at a mid-ocean ridge (the image has a flaw though, the seafloor gets thicker with age).
Approximate world distribution of living Cycadales
A distribution map of Gnetophyta colour-coded by genus:
Green – Welwitschia
Blue – Gnetum
Red – Ephedra
Purple – Gnetum and Ephedra range overlap


Many concepts had to be changed:

The shifting and evolution of knowledge and concepts, were from:

Profile of the East Swiss Alps (1880, from Northeast to Southwest) by Albert Heim, before he accepted the theory of thrusting. Key: #a Gneiss, shist and so on, #b Jura, #c Cretaceous and #d Eocene; Walensee, Schaechental, Windgaelle and Finsteraarhorn.

Actually, there were two main "schools of thought" that pushed plate tectonics forward:

Wegener's continental drift hypotheses is a logical consequence of: the theory of thrusting (alpine geology), the isostasy, the continents forms resulting from the supercontinent Gondwana break up, the past and present-day life forms on both sides of the Gondwana continent margins, and the Permo-Carboniferous moraine deposits in South Gondwana.


Plate tectonics map
Global plate tectonic movement

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]



  1. ^ Windley 1996.
  2. ^ Ziegler 1990.
  3. ^ Hurley et al. 1966.
  4. ^ Hurley et al. 1967.
  5. ^ McPhee 1998.
  6. ^ Bill Bonini and Laurie Wanat, eds. (Fall 2003). "Jason Morgan Retires" (PDF). The Smilodon: the Princeton Geosciences Newsletter. 44 (2). Fortuitously, he was assigned as well an office that he shared for two years with Fred Vine,... This insight was fundamental to the revolutionary theory then developing, and sharing that office with Fred Vine drew Morgan into the subject — as he puts it — “with a bang.” A paper written by H.W. Menard caused him to begin musing on his own about great faults and fracture zones, and how they might relate to theorems on the geometry of spheres 
  7. ^ Poinar GO, Danforth BN (October 2006). "A fossil bee from Early Cretaceous Burmese amber" (PDF). Science. 314 (5799): 614. PMID 17068254. doi:10.1126/science.1134103. 
  8. ^ Dave Mosher (December 26, 2007). "Modern beetles predate dinosaurs". Live Science. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ Brian M. Wiegmann, Michelle D. Trautwein, Isaac S. Winkler, Norman B. Barr, Jung-Wook Kim, Christine Lambkin, Matthew A. Bertone, Brian K. Cassel, Keith M. Bayless, Alysha M. Heimberg, Benjamin M. Wheeler, Kevin J. Peterson, Thomas Pape, Bradley J. Sinclair, Jeffrey H. Skevington, Vladimir Blagoderov, Jason Caravas, Sujatha Narayanan Kutty, Urs Schmidt-Ott, Gail E. Kampmeier, F. Christian Thompson, David A. Grimaldi, Andrew T. Beckenbach, Gregory W. Courtney, Markus Friedrich, Rudolf Meier & David K. Yeates (2011). "Episodic radiations in the fly tree of life". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (14): 5690–5695. Bibcode:2011PNAS..108.5690W. PMC 3078341Freely accessible. PMID 21402926. doi:10.1073/pnas.1012675108. 
  10. ^ Araki et al. 2005.
  11. ^ Scotese, Christopher. "The Paleomap Project". 
  12. ^ a b "Center for Geodynamics, Geological Survey of Norway". 
  13. ^ a b "EarthByte Group, University of Sydney". 

Cited books[edit]

  • Bacon, Francis (1620). s:en:Novum Organum. England. Translated by Wood, Devey, Spedding, et al. 
  • P.M.S. Blackett, E.C. Bullard and S.K. Runcorn (ed). A Symposium on Continental Drift, held on 28 October 1965. pp. 323:
    • Bullard, E. C.; Everett, J. E.; Smith, A. G. (1965). "The fit of the continents around the Atlantic". In P.M.S. Blackett, E.C. Bullard and S.K. Runcorn. A Symposium on Continental Drift (Oct. 28, 1965). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 258. The Royal Society. pp. 41–51. 
    • Heezen, B. C.; Tharp, M. (1965). "Tectonic Fabric of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and Continental Drift". In P.M.S. Blackett, E.C. Bullard and S.K. Runcorn. A Symposium on Continental Drift (Oct. 28, 1965). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 258. The Royal Society. pp. 90–106. 
    • Wilson, J. Tuzo (1965b). "Evidence from Ocean Islands Suggesting Movement in the Earth". In P.M.S. Blackett, E.C. Bullard and S.K. Runcorn. A Symposium on Continental Drift (Oct. 28, 1965). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 258. The Royal Society. pp. 145–167. JSTOR 73340. 
  • Carey, S. W. (1958). "The tectonic approach to continental drift". In Carey, S. W. Continental Drift—A symposium, held in March 1956. Hobart: Univ. of Tasmania. pp. 177–363. Expanding Earth from p. 311 to p. 349. 
  • Coats, Robert R. (1962). "Magma type and crustal structure in the Aleutian arc". The Crust of the Pacific Basin. American Geophysical Union Monograph. 6. pp. 92–109. 
  • Cowen, R.; Lipps, JH, eds. (1975). Controversies in the Earth sciences. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co. p. 439. ISBN 0-8299-0044-6. 
  • Dana, James Dwight (1863). Manual of Geology: Treating of the Principles of the Science with Special Reference to American Geological History. Bliss. p. 805. 
  • Flint, R. F. (1947). Glacial Geology and the Pleistocene Epoch. New York: John Wiley and Sons. p. 589. ISBN 1-4437-2173-5. 
  • Frankel, H. (1987). "The Continental Drift Debate". In H.T. Engelhardt Jr; A.L. Caplan. Scientific Controversies: Case Solutions in the resolution and closure of disputes in science and technology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-27560-6. 
  • W.A.J.M. van Waterschoot van der Gracht, Bailey Willis, Rollin T. Chamberlin, John Joly, G.A.F. Molengraaff, J.W. Gregory, Alfred Wegener, Charles Schuchert, Chester R. Longwell, Frank Bursley Taylor, William Bowie, David White, Joseph T. Singewald, Jr., and Edward W. Berry (1928). W.A.J.M. van Waterschoot van der Gracht, ed. Theory of Continental Drift: a symposium on the origin and movement of land masses both intercontinental and intracontinental as proposed by Alfred Wegener, A Symposium of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG, 1926). Tulsa, OK. p. 240. 
  • Le Grand, H. E. (1990). "Is one picture worth a thousand experiments?". In Le Grand, H. E. Experimental Inquiries: Historical, Philosophical and Social Studies of Experimentation in Science. Dordrecht: Kluwer. pp. 241–270. 
  • Hallam, A. (1983). Great Geological Controversies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. x+182. ISBN 0-19-854430-8. 
  • Hellman, Hal (1998a). "Lord Kelvin versus Geologists and Biologists - The Age of the Earth". Great Feuds in Science: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 105–120. ISBN 0-471-35066-4. 
  • Hellman, Hal (1998b). "Wegener versus Everybody - Continental Drift". Great Feuds in Science: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 141–158. ISBN 0-471-35066-4. 
  • Hess, H. H. (November 1962). "History of Ocean Basins" (PDF). In A. E. J. Engel; Harold L. James; B. F. Leonard. Petrologic studies: a volume to honor of A. F. Buddington. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America. pp. 599–620. 
  • Holmes, Arthur (1944). Principles of Physical Geology (1 ed.). Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson & Sons. ISBN 0-17-448020-2. 
  • Holmes, Arthur (1929b). The Origin of Continents and Oceans. 
  • Hopkins, Evan (1844). On the connection of geology with terrestrial magnetism. R. Taylor. p. 129. 
  • Jeffreys, H. (1924). The Earth - its Origin, History and Physical Constitution (1 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 429. 
    • Jeffreys, H. (1952). The Earth - its Origin, History and Physical Constitution (3 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 574. ISBN 0-521-20648-0. 
  • Marshall Kay, ed. (1969). North Atlantic: geology and continental drift, a symposium. Tulsa, OK: American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). 
  • Keary, P; Vine, F. J. (1990). Global Tectonics. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications. p. 302. 
  • Kious, W. Jacquelyne; Tilling, Robert I. (February 2001) [1996]. "Historical perspective". This Dynamic Earth: the Story of Plate Tectonics (Online ed.). U.S. Geological Survey. ISBN 0-16-048220-8. Retrieved 2008-01-29. Abraham Ortelius in his work Thesaurus Geographicus... suggested that the Americas were 'torn away from Europe and Africa... by earthquakes and floods... The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three [continents].' 
  • Krill, Allan (2011). Fixists vs. Mobilists: In the Geology Contest of The Century, 1844-1969. ISBN 978-82-998389-1-7. 
  • Lilienthal, T. (1756). Die Gute Sache der Göttlichen Offenbarung. Königsberg: Hartung. This is also likely owing to the fact that the coasts of certain lands, situated opposite each other though separated by sea, have a corresponding shape, so that they would be congruent with one another were they to stand side by side; for example, the southern part of America and Africa. For this reason one supposes that perhaps both of these continents were previously attached to each other, either directly, or through the sunken island of Atlantis;... 
  • Lyell, Charles (1875). Principles of Geology (12 ed.). 
  • Machamer, Peter; Pera, Marcella; Baltas, Aristides, eds. (2000). Scientific Controversies. New York etc.: Oxford University Press. p. 278. Wegener pp. 72-75. 
  • Marvin, Ursula B. (1973). Continental Drift: The Evolution of a Concept. Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 239. ISBN 0-87474-129-7 (Dissertation). 
  • McPhee, John (1998). Annals of the Former World. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0-374-10520-0. 
  • Naomi Oreskes, Homer Le Grand, eds. (December 2001). Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History of the Modern Theory of the Earth. Westview Press. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-8133-3981-8. 
  • Oreskes, Naomi (1999). The rejection of continental drift: theory and method in American earth science. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511733-6. 
  • Ortelius, Abraham (1596). Thesaurus Geographicus (3 ed.). Antwerp: Plantin. The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves, if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three [continents (Europe, Africa and Americas)] 
  • Pepper, John Henry (1861). The Playbook of Metals. Routledge, Warne, and Routledge. p. 502. 
  • Phinney, R . A. (1968). The History of the Earth's Crust. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press. p. 244. 
  • Revelle, R. R. (1944). Marine bottom samples collected in the Pacific Ocean by the Carnegie on its Seventh Cruise. Pub. 556, Part 1. Washington: Carnegie Inst. 
  • Runcorn, S. K., ed. (1962b). Continental Drift. New York and London: Academic Press. p. 338. 
  • Snider-Pellegrini, Antonio (1858). La Création et ses mystères dévoilés. Paris: Frank and Dentu. 
  • Stampfli, G.M.; Borel, G.D. (2004). "The TRANSMED Transects in Space and Time: Constraints on the Paleotectonic Evolution of the Mediterranean Domain". In Cavazza W., Roure F., Spakman W., Stampfli G.M., Ziegler P. The TRANSMED Atlas: the Mediterranean Region from Crust to Mantle. Springer Verlag. ISBN 3-540-22181-6. 
  • Suess, E. (1875). Die Entstehung der Alpen [The Origin of the Alps]. W. Braumüller. A mass movement, more or less horizontal and progressive, should be the cause underlying the formation of our mountain systems. 
  • Suess, Eduard (1885-08-19). Das Antlitz der Erde [The Face of the Earth]. Vienna: F. Tempsky. Three volumes, translator: H. B. C. Sollas. 
  • Sullivan, Walter (1991). Continents in Motion: The New Earth Debate (1 ed.). American Inst. of Physics. p. 425. ISBN 978-0-88318-703-6. 
  • du Toit, Alexander (1937). Our wandering continents: an hypothesis of continental drifting. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. ISBN 0-8371-5982-2. 
  • Umbgrove, J.H.F. (1947). The Pulse of the Earth (2 ed.). The Hague, NL: Martinus Nyhoff. p. 359. 
  • Vening-Meinesz, F.A. (1948). Gravity expeditions at sea 1923-1938. Vol. IV. Complete results with isostatic reduction, interpretation on the results. Delft: Nederlandse Commissie voor Geodesie 9. p. 233. ISBN 978-90-6132-015-9. 
  • Wallace, Alfred Russel (2007). Darwinism: An Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection With Some of Its Applications. Cosimo, Inc. p. 516. ISBN 1602064539. 
  • Wegener, A. (1929). Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (in German) (4 ed.). Braunschweig: Friedrich Vieweg & Sohn Akt. Ges. ISBN 3-443-01056-3. 
    • Wegener, A. (1966) [1929]. The Origin of Continents and Oceans. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-61708-4. 
  • Windley, B.F. (1996). The Evolving Continents (3 ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-91739-7. 
  • Ziegler, P.A. (1990). Geological Atlas of Western and Central Europe (2 ed.). Bath: Shell Internationale Petroleum Maatschappij BV, Geological Society Publishing House. p. 239. ISBN 90-6644-125-9. 

Cited articles[edit]