Series: The Continental Drift Controversy Volume: 2
525 pages, 64 b/w illustrations
Resolution of the sixty year debate over continental drift, culminating in the triumph of plate tectonics, changed the very fabric of Earth Science. This four-volume treatise on the continental drift controversy is the first complete history of the origin, debate and gradual acceptance of this revolutionary theory. Based on extensive interviews, archival papers and original works, Frankel weaves together the lives and work of the scientists involved, producing an accessible narrative for scientists and non-scientists alike. This second volume provides the first extensive account of the growing paleomagnetic case for continental drift in the 1950s and the development of Apparent Polar Wander Paths that showed how the continents had changed their positions relative to one another – more or less as Wegener had proposed. Paleomagnetism offered the first physical measure that continental drift had occurred and helped determine the changing latitudes of the continents through geologic time.
"A well constructed and gripping narrative, which preserves the complex scientific detail, but invites one into this fascinating world and helps the reader patiently to find a way through its labyrinth. Frankel is a wonderful guide and worthy of your trust."
- Mott Greene, University of Puget Sound and University of Washington
1. Geomagnetism and paleomagnetism: 1946-1952
2. British paleomagnetists begin shifting their research toward testing mobilism: summer 1951 to fall 1953
3. Launching the global paleomagnetic test of continental drift: 1954-1956
4. Runcorn shifts to mobilism: 1955-1956
5. Enlargement and refinement of the paleomagnetic support for mobilism: 1956 through 1960
6. Earth expansion enters the mobilist controversy
7. Development and criticism of the paleomagnetic case for mobilism: late 1950s and early 1960s
8. Major reaction against the paleomagnetic case for mobilism and early work on the radiometric reversal time scale: 1958-1962
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Henry Frankel was awarded a PhD from Ohio State University in 1974 and then took a position at the University of Missouri, Kansas City where he became Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department (1999-2004). His interest in the continental drift controversy and the plate tectonics revolution began while teaching a course on conceptual issues in science during the late 1970s. The controversy provided him with an example of a recent and major scientific revolution to test philosophical accounts of scientific growth and change. Over the next thirty years, and with the support of the United States National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Philosophical Society, Professor Frankel's research went on to yield new and fascinating insights into the evolution of the most important theory in the Earth Sciences.