The Origin of Continents and Oceans.
Category: First Edition
London, Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1924.
First English Edition; 8vo; original red cloth with titles in gilt; original dust jacket. Translated from the third German edition by J.G.A Skerl, with an introduction by John W. Evans. During his lifetime Wegener was primarily known for his achievements in meteorology and as a pioneer of polar research. He developed an interest in the ancient history of the Earth's continents and their placement. In 1910 he noticed that the eastern coast of South America and the northwestern coast of Africa looked as if they were once connected. In 1911, Wegener also came across several scientific documents stating there were identical fossils of plants and animals on each of these continents. He eventually articulated the idea that all of the Earth's continents were at one time connected into one large supercontinent. In 1912, he presented the idea of "continental displacement"—which would later become known as "continental drift"—to explain how the continents moved toward and away from one another throughout the Earth's history. In 1915, Wegener published "The Origin of Continents and Oceans," as an extension of his 1912 lecture. He presented extensive evidence to support his claim that all of the Earth's continents were at one time connected. Despite the evidence, however, most of the scientific community ignored his ideas at the time. In 1927 he introduced the idea of Pangaea, a Greek term meaning "all lands," to describe the supercontinent that he believed existed on the Earth millions of years ago. Scientists now believe that such a continent did exist—it probably formed about 335 million years ago and began to split apart 175 million years ago. The strongest evidence of this is—as Wegener suspected—the distribution of similar fossils throughout continental borders that are now many miles apart. For most of his life, Wegener remained dedicated to his theory of continental drift and Pangaea despite receiving harsh criticism from other scientists, many of whom believed the oceanic crust was too rigid to permit the movement of tectonic plates. By the time of his death in 1930, his ideas were almost entirely rejected by the scientific community. It was not until the 1960s that they gained credibility as scientists began studying seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. Wegener's ideas served as a framework for those studies, which produced evidence that supported his theories. The development of the Global Positioning System in 1978 eliminated any residual doubt there may have been by providing direct evidence of continental movements. Today, Wegener's ideas are highly regarded by the scientific community as an early attempt at explaining why the Earth's landscape is the way it is. A crater on the Moon and a crater on Mars are both named in Wegener's honour. A fine copy, spine ends a little bumped. In a very good dust jacket with a tear to top of spine panel, a little wear to the extremities and slightly darkened to the spine.