Series: The Continental Drift Controversy Volume: 3
476 pages, 24 b/w illustrations, 13 b/w maps
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 third volume describes the expansion of the land-based paleomagnetic case for drifting continents and recounts the golden age of marine geology and geophysics. Fuelled by the Cold War, US and British workers led the way in making discoveries and forming new hypotheses, especially about the origin of oceanic ridges. When first proposed, seafloor spreading was just one of several competing hypotheses about the evolution of ocean basins.
"Henry Frankel has a fine eye, and ear, for the interlocking aspects of the emergence, recognized evolution, and acceptance of that flowering of a worldwide phenomenon, continental displacement."
– Robert L. Fisher, Emeritus Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
"Detailed and painstakingly researched, this account is the culmination of the author's research into this topic over more than thirty years. It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive analysis of the relevant literature and of the attitudes of the scientists involved."
– Fred Vine, Emeritus Professor, University of East Anglia
"This is an incredible book – the most interesting account of history that I have ever read. It will be a classic: the scholarship is exhaustive, it is well written and has an excellent historical background, drawing the reader into the whole story."
– John G. Sclater, Distinguished Professor, University of California, San Diego
1. Extension and reception of paleomagnetic/paleoclimatic support for mobilism, 1960 to 1966
2. Reception of the paleomagnetic case for mobilism by several notables, 1957 to 1965
3. Seafloor spreading, the first version: Harry Hess develops seafloor spreading
4. Another version of seafloor spreading: Robert Dietz
5. The Pacific as seen from Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Menard's changing views about the origin and evolution of the ocean floor
6. Fixism and Earth expansion at Lamont Geological Observatory
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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.