Wegener, Alfred Lothar

Wegener, Alfred Lothar

▪ German scientist
born Nov. 1, 1880, Berlin, Ger.
died November 1930, Greenland

      German meteorologist and geophysicist who formulated the first complete statement of the continental drift hypothesis.

      The son of an orphanage director, Wegener earned a Ph.D. degree in astronomy from the University of Berlin in 1905. He had meanwhile become interested in paleoclimatology, and in 1906–08 he took part in an expedition to Greenland to study polar air circulation. He made three more expeditions to Greenland, in 1912–13, 1929, and 1930. He taught meteorology at Marburg and Hamburg and was a professor of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz from 1924 to 1930. He died during his last expedition to Greenland in 1930.

      Like certain other scientists before him, Wegener became impressed with the similarity in the coastlines of eastern South America and western Africa and speculated that those lands had once been joined together. In about 1910 he began toying with the idea that in the Late Paleozoic era (about 250 million years ago) all the present-day continents had formed a single large mass, or supercontinent, which had subsequently broken apart. Wegener called this ancient continent Pangaea (Pangea). Other scientists had proposed such a continent but had explained the separation of the modern world's continents as having resulted from the subsidence, or sinking, of large portions of the supercontinent to form the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Wegener, by contrast, proposed that Pangaea's constituent portions had slowly moved thousands of miles apart over long periods of geologic time. His term for this movement was die Verschiebung der Kontinente (“continental displacement”), which gave rise to the term continental drift.

      Wegener first presented his theory in lectures in 1912 and published it in full in 1915 in his most important work, Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (The Origin of Continents and Oceans). He searched the scientific literature for geological and paleontological evidence that would buttress his theory, and he was able to point to many closely related fossil organisms and similar rock strata that occurred on widely separated continents, particularly those found in both the Americas and in Africa. Wegener's theory of continental drift won some adherents in the ensuing decade, but his postulations of the driving forces behind the continents' movement seemed implausible. By 1930 his theory had been rejected by most geologists, and it sank into obscurity for the next few decades, only to be resurrected as part of the theory of plate tectonics (q.v.) during the 1960s.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Wegener,Alfred Lothar — We·ge·ner (vāʹgə nər), Alfred Lothar. 1880 1930. German geophysicist, meteorologist, and explorer who proposed the theory of continental drift. * * * …   Universalium

  • Wegener , Alfred Lothar — (1880–1930) German meteorologist and geologist Wegener, who was born in Berlin, was educated at the universities of Heidelberg, Innsbruck, and Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate in astronomy in 1905. In 1906 he went on his first… …   Scientists

  • Wegener, Alfred (Lothar) — born Nov. 1, 1880, Berlin, Ger. died Nov. 1930, Greenland German meteorologist and geophysicist. After earning a Ph.D. in astronomy (1905), he became interested in paleoclimatology and traveled to Greenland to research polar air circulation. He… …   Universalium

  • Wegener, Alfred (Lothar) — (1 nov. 1880, Berlín, Alemania–nov. 1930, Groenlandia). Meteorólogo y geofísico alemán. Después de obtener un Ph.D. en astronomía (1905), se interesó en la paleoclimatología y viajó a Groenlandia para investigar la circulación de los vientos… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Wegener, Alfred Lothar — ► (1880 1930) Geofísico y meteorólogo alemán. En 1912 esbozó la teoría de la deriva continental, según la cual las masas continentales, originadas de la fragmentación de un gran y primitivo continente, se desplazan sobre el sima …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Alfred Lothar Wegener — Alfred Wegener, etwa 1925 Alfred Lothar Wegener (* 1. November 1880 in Berlin; † November 1930 in Grönland) war ein deutscher Meteorologe, Polar und Geowissenschaftler. Als sein wichtigster Beitrag zur Wissenschaft gilt seine erst postum… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alfred Lothar Wegener — noun German geophysicist who proposed the theory of continental drift (1880 1930) • Syn: ↑Wegener • Instance Hypernyms: ↑geophysicist …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Alfred Wegener — Infobox Scientist name = Alfred Wegener box width = image size =180px caption = Alfred Wegener, around 1925 birth date = November 1, 1880 birth place = Berlin death date = November 2, 1930 death place = Greenland residence = citizenship =… …   Wikipedia

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