Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Alfred Wegener is one of my heroes. He first postulated the theory of continental drift, now known as plate tectonics. For this he was ridiculed, scorned, and abused during his lifetime, which ended tragically. He never relented, however. The wikipedia article does not give precise dates, but it took until the 1960s before the theory of continental drift was widely accepted. Someone remarked once that all the old scientists who were opposed to the new, correct theory had to die off before it could be accepted. That's how science progresses sometimes, by the death of the intolerant.

Here's the "Gedenktafel" (commemorative or memorial plaque) on the wall of the gymnasium (think high school if you're American) he attended in Berlin. Gotta love "Kontinentalverschiebungstheorie" for continental drift theory. An mp3 of the pronunciation is at

"The polar researcher Prof. Dr. Alfred Wegener b. 1880 in Berlin, d. 1930 in the midst of the Greenland ice sheet. He was a student of the former Cologne Gymnasium, earned his PhD in 1905 from the University of Berlin, and in 1912 laid the groundwork for the modern theory of continental drift."

As one can read in the wikipedia article linked to above, Wegener perished on the ice in Greenland in late 1930. One can only imagine how brutal the weather conditions must have been. His body was buried with care by a 23-yr old name Rasmus Villumsen, who marked the site with a pair of skis that Wegener had used. Villumsen continued on and is presumed to have perished. His body was never found.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! Thanks for this. I like "That's how science progresses sometimes, by the death of the intolerant."