Alfred Wegener was a meteorologist and astronomer. He was the first scientist to introduce the theory of the continental drift. Wegener theorized that at one time the continents were one large landmass or Pangaea that had drifted apart. His ideas were initially rejected by other scientists. It was not until long after Wegener’s death that proof was obtained and his theory verified.
The Life of Alfred Wegener
Alfred was born in Germany in 1880 and led a very busy life. He received a PhD in astronomy but quickly moved on to meteorology. He and his brother experimented with kites and balloons. They set a record flying a balloon during his first expedition to Greenland in 1906 (PBS, 1998, para. 2). Alfred taught meteorology and published his first book in 1911 titled “Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere”.
While looking at his friend’s atlas in 1910 Alfred noticed that the coastlines of the Brazil and West Africa looked as though they fit together (Conniff, 2012, para. 4). This thought did not leave his mind and he continued to research the idea. Wegener cut out the pictures of the maps and pieced them together like a puzzle. He located evidence of similar plants, animals, and other species on the Australian and South American continents to support his hypothesis.
In 1912 he first introduced the theory of the continental drift at a conference in Germany. He theorized that the continents had moved away from each other over a period of time and denied that land-bridges had existed to connect the continents. The same year he married the daughter of a meteorologist and returned on another expedition to Greenland. He went on to serve in the military during World War I. Although the idea about the continental drift had never gone away it wasn’t until 1915 that he published his theory.
Continental Drift Theory
The subject of the new book, which was published in five languages other than German, was on the origins of continents and oceans. In this book Wegener noted that there was no specific field to look at that would have caused the continental drift. Instead he noted that all fields needed to be studied for the answer. Wegener’s theory was met with much controversy by other scientists. The fact that he was primarily a meteorologist and astronomer rather than a geologist further discounted his theory.
Wegener provided numerous explanations and documentation in support of his continental drift theory. He provided two fossils as evidence. Glossopteris because it had been found on several continents that were widely separated. Glossopteris, also known as...