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The Continental Drift Controversy, Volume 4: Evolution into Plate Tectonics

Series: The Continental Drift Controversy Volume: 4

By: Henry R Frankel(Author)

675 pages, 75 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Aug 2016 | #228848 | ISBN-13: 9781316616130
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £45.99 $60/€52 approx
Hardback | Apr 2012 | #196344 | ISBN-13: 9781107019942
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £130.00 $170/€147 approx

About this book

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 fourth volume explains the discoveries in the mid 1960s which led to the rapid acceptance of seafloor spreading theory and how birth of plate tectonics followed soon after with the geometrification of geology. Although plate tectonics did not explain the cause or dynamic mechanism of drifting continents, it provided a convincing kinematic explanation that continues to inspire geodynamic research to the present day.

"What is so impressive about this monumental work is its completeness. Frankel has gone back to the original sources and papers, to ensure complete understanding of the scientific issues involved. I recommend these volumes to anyone interested in the subject."
– Dan McKenzie, University of Cambridge

"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

"Frankel has performed a huge and very valuable effort in pulling together not only original published sources but also unpublished correspondence from key authors, creating a timely and consistent picture of the crucial period when this revolution in the earth sciences occurred."
– Lynn R. Sykes, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University



1. Reception of competing views of seafloor evolution, 1961-1962
2. Explaining the origin of marine magnetic anomalies, 1958-1963
3. Continuing disagreements over continental drift, the evolution of ocean floors, and mantle convection, 1963-1964
4. Further work on the Vine-Matthews hypothesis and development of the idea of transform faults, 1964-1965
5. Resolution of the continental drift controversy
6. Plate tectonics introduced


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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, the American Philosophical Society and his home institution, Professor Frankel's research went on to yield new and fascinating insights into the evolution of the most important theory in the Earth sciences.

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