Alfred Lothar Wegener (November 1, 1880 – November 13, 1930) was a and . He was born in and in 1904 he earned his in at the University of Berlin. In 1914 he was put into the German army but released from battle after he was severely wounded. He is most notable for his theory of , proposed in 1912, which that the were slowly drifting around the Earth. However, at the time he was unable to demonstrate a mechanism for this movement; this combined with not enough solid evidence meant that his hypothesis was not accepted until the 1950s, when numerous discoveries provided evidence of continental drift.
The European Geosciences Union sponsors an Alfred Wegener Medal & Honorary Membership "for scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in atmospheric, hydrological or ocean sciences, defined in their widest senses, for their merit and their scientific achievements."
While earning his Ph.D. in astronomy, Wegener also took an interest in meteorology and paleoclimatology (the study of changes of the Earth's climate throughout its history). From 1906-1908 he took an expedition to to study polar weather. This expedition was the first of four that Wegener would take to Greenland. The others occurred from 1912-1913 and in 1929 and 1930.
Shortly after receiving his Ph.D., Wegener began teaching at the University of Marburg in Germany. During his time there he gained an interest in the ancient history of the Earth's continents and their placement after noticing in 1910 that the eastern coast of South America and the northwestern coast of Africa looked like they were once connected.
In 1911 Wegener also came across several scientific documents stating that there were identical fossils of plants and animals on each of these continents and he claimed that all of the Earth's continents were at one time connected into one large supercontinent. In 1912 he presented the idea of "continental displacement" which would later become known as "continental drift" to explain how the continents moved toward and away from one another throughout the Earth's history.
In 1914 Wegener was drafted into the German army during . He was wounded twice and was eventually placed in the Army's weather forecasting service for the duration of the war. In 1915 Wegener published his most famous work, The Origin of Continents and Oceans as an extension of his 1912 lecture. In that work, Wegener presented extensive evidence to support his claim that all of the Earth's continents were at one time connected. Despite the evidence, most of the scientific community ignored his ideas at the time.
From 1924 to 1930 Wegener was a professor of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz in Austria. In 1927 he introduced the idea of Pangaea, a Greek term meaning "all lands," to describe the supercontinent that existed on the Earth millions of years ago at a symposium.
In 1930, Wegener took part in his last expedition to Greenland the set up a winter weather station that would monitor the in the upper atmosphere over the northern pole. Severe weather delayed the start of that trip and made it extremely difficult for Wegener and 14 other explorers and scientists to reach the weather station location. Eventually,13 of these men would turn around but Wegener continued and got to the location five weeks after starting the expedition.
During his childhood, Wegener's father ran an orphanage. Wegener took an interest physical and Earth sciences and studied these subjects at universities in both Germany and Austria. He graduated with a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Berlin in 1905.
For most of his life, Alfred Lothar Wegener was interested in his theory of continental drift and Pangaea despite harsh criticism at the time. By the time of his death in 1930 his ideas were almost entirely rejected by the scientific community. It was not until the 1960s that they gained credibility as scientists at that time began studying seafloor spreading and eventually . Wegener's ideas served as a framework for those studies.
Today Wegener's ideas are highly regarded by the scientific community as an early attempt at explaining why the Earth's landscape is the way it is. His polar expeditions are also highly regarded and today the is known for high quality research in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Alfred Wegener, who was educated to be a meteorologist andan Arctic climatologist, insisted that his theory was correctbecause of the evidence he saw. To support his ideas about continentaldrift, Wegener pointed to the similarities in the fossils of thesouthern continents. Fossils of the same sort from ferns and freshwaterreptiles had been found in all of the southern continents. Hesaw this as evidence that all the lands south of the equator hadonce been part of a single land mass. He argued that such land-basedlife forms could never have crossed the thousands of miles ofopen ocean that now separate these land masses. His critics scoffedbecause the physical model that Wegener proposed to explain themovement of continents did not fit what was then known about thephysics of the Earth.
was struck by the occurrence of identical fossils in geological strata that are now separated by oceans. He then noticed that the continents on a globe fit together like a jigsaw. The accepted explanations or theories at the time posited land bridges to explain the fossil anomalies; animals and plants could have migrated between fixed separate continents by crossing the land bridges. But Wegener was increasingly convinced that the continents themselves had shifted away from a primal single massive supercontinent, which drifted apart about 180 million years ago, to judge from the fossil evidence