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Four Revolutions in the Earth SciencesFrom Heresy to Truth$
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James Powell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164481

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164481.001.0001

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Geologists Unite Against Heresy

Geologists Unite Against Heresy

(p.87) Geologists Unite Against Heresy
Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences

James Lawrence Powell

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on geologists who united against the idea of continental drift, first brought up by Alfred Wegener, and declared it a heresy. According to Robert Newman, “In the crucial 1922–1933 period, six of the twelve presidents of the Geological Society of America were on public record in their presidential addresses as opposing drift; of the other six, only one, Reginald A. Daly of Harvard, took a mobilist position. Of geologists elected to the National Academy of Sciences during this period, ten were active opponents of mobilism, all of them committed before the notorious American Association of Petroleum Geologists debate. All the vocal opponents of mobilism were elites, and they stood united…against heresy.” This chapter looks at other geologists who challenged Wegener's theory, including Rollin T. Chamberlin, Charles Schuchert, E. W. Berry, and Bailey Willis. It also considers the papers by Schuchert and Willis, the distinguished magisters of geology, that effectively marked the end of active debate over continental drift in the United States.

Keywords:   geologists, continental drift, Alfred Wegener, Geological Society of America, mobilism, Rollin T. Chamberlin, Charles Schuchert, E. W. Berry, Bailey Willis, geology

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