PLATE TECTONICS: The Insiders' History of the Modern Theory of the Earth

Naomi Oreskes, Editor, Homer Le Grand, With with Homer Le Grand. Westview $35 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8133-3981-8

Readers who went to school before the late 1960s will probably remember that their science teachers couldn't explain why South America and Africa seemed to fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. It was not until 1968 that the theory of plate tectonics was formulated and quickly accepted by scientists around the world. This collection of 18 essays is written by the researchers (such as Frederick J. Vine and Lawrence Morley) who made the discoveries that established the phenomenon of plate tectonics. While the idea of "continental drift" had been proposed as early as 1596 and reappeared at various times throughout history, scientists had always rejected it. Then in the late 1950s and '60s, geologists discovered great rifts in the undersea mountain ranges that girdle the ocean, as well as regular patterns of alternating magnetic polarities in the ocean floor. These and other findings confirmed continental drift and explained the existence of volcanic islands and even earthquakes en masse. Readers with little or no background in geology will be able to follow these well-written and generally jargon-free personal accounts, but the book will appeal most to hard-core science buffs and budding geophysicists. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/14/2002
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-8133-4132-3
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