How Alfred Wegener defended the theory of continental drift

How Alfred Wegener defended the theory of continental drift

From the geography lessons you could remember that there are now 6 continents on Earth. They are also clearly visible on geographical maps. But we know that they are not fixed in their places, and earlier their location was different. They were moving! To prove this, Alfred Wegener had to oppose the scientific community.

The continents are moving!

In fact, this truth was not discovered by Wegener, because even before him there were scientists who began to guess about the continental drift. Now we know about the existence of Pangea’s supercontinent in the past, which was then divided. But in Wegener's time, it was necessary to collect evidence of the movement of continents bit by bit.

The first ideas came to mind of Francis Bacon as early as the 1620s. He noticed a strange resemblance to the South American and African coastlines. Franco Plaka followed him in 1668. Theodore Lilienthal advanced even more, who in 1756 declared that there was a clear correspondence between these lines.

These features tried in 1858 to explain Antonio Snyder. He believed that the whole thing in the uneven compression of the Earth during its cooling. This led to the observation of splitting the surface into pieces. The idea of ​​cooling and compression became the basis for the scientific activities of other geologists. But Wegener did not agree.

Anti-scientific storyteller

How Alfred Wegener defended the theory of continental drift

West Berlin postage stamp dedicated to A. Wegener, 1980

Alfred Wegener was considered a specialist in meteorology and astronomy. As early as 1910, he was visited by the first thoughts about drifting continents. He wrote that he simply considered the world map and could not understand why the coastal stripes separated by the Atlantic Ocean coincide so much.

This idea was strengthened during three expeditions to Greenland, with which he simply fell in love. As a result, in 1912 he was born the first report. He believed that the continents should be taken as a kind of independent plateau, which seem much easier than the crust, located deeper.

That is, the continents can be regarded as ice floes floating across the crust. Wegener collected evidence all the time, backing up the theory. Among the arguments were already mentioned the similarity of the African and South American coastal outlines, as well as the inexplicable similarity of the American and European flora and fauna.

Opponents of the theory

How Alfred Wegener defended the theory of continental drift

Alfred Wegener

At first, scientists only laughed at Wegener. But the real controversy and discussion began in 1922, when he published the book “The Origin of Continents and Oceans”. The publication is sold out in several languages ​​and has become widely discussed. Unfortunately, too many have taken it to bayonets.

Wagener was called a storyteller, a dreamer and amateur, and his ideas were even perceived as terrible and destructive errors. Geologists continued to stubbornly believe in the previous theory of compression during the cooling of the Earth and did not want to listen to anything. In his book, Wagener tried to find explanations. He believed that the whole thing is in the centrifugal force caused by the Earth's rotation, as well as the mutual attraction between the Sun, our planet and the Moon. Why did nobody want to listen to him?

Scientists themselves noted the similarities in animals and vegetation on different continents and could not ignore the outlines of the coast. But they saw a different explanation. It was believed that before the continents were already connected by land isthmuses, which later flooded the oceans.

But in fact, Wegener was not listened to because he did not fit into the geological party. He was an astronomer and meteorologist, and in geology he was more likely an upstart self-taught person. However, this was precisely his trump card, since the scientist could collect information from various scientific fields, while others focused exclusively on geology.


Alfred Wegener died in 1930. After 30 years, it was possible to find the cause of the movement of the continents, based on the movement along the mantle. The theory of the drift of Wegener's continents has become generally accepted and is still being studied.

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