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Female Geologists Who Have Contributed to Our Knowledge of Pl

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Erin Schuette

on 21 April 2017

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Transcript of Female Geologists Who Have Contributed to Our Knowledge of Pl

Female Geologists Who Have Contributed To Our Knowledge of Plate Tectonics
Theory of Plate Tectonics
Inge Lehmann
Early Life
Inge Lehmann was born May 13, 1888 to Alfred Lehmann, a psychology professor, and Ida Torsleff. She spent the majority of her childhood in Copenhagen. Lehmann was fortunate in regards to her high school career. In a day and age where women were not always afforded the same opportunities as men, Lehmann was provided with the chance to attend a forward-thinking secondary institution. The high school in which she attended was highly progressive for the times in regards to gender equality. This is perhaps one of the reasons that Lehmann felt compelled to further her academic career, choosing to study mathematics, a field that was traditionally male dominated in many respects.
In 1907, Lehmann began her collegiate career at the University of Copenhagen in the pursuit of obtaining a mathematics degree, equivalent to a modern day Masters of Mathematics. Lehmann chose to transfer schools in 1910, moving to Newnham College in Cambridge. During her time in Cambridge, Lehmann began to become burnt out, experiencing fatigue and high stress. Realizing she was overworking herself, Lehmann decided to leave school and move back home to Copenhagen. Determined to get emotionally and mentally back on track, Lehmann took several years off, from 1911-1918, before the allure of academia drew her back in. During this seven year gap, Lehmann worked as an actuarial assistant, utilizing her love and skill of mathematics to study statistical data.
Major Contributions
In 1928, Lehmann was appointed the head of the Seismological Department of the Royal Danish Geodetic Institute, a position she held until her retirement in 1953. It was during her time spent in this position that she made many of her most notable discoveries. Much of her work was spent in maintaining the seismological stations she had initially help set up, as well as studying the data that these stations received. Studying this data sparked an interest in Lehmann to be able to more accurately pinpoint the epicenter of earthquakes. 1929 was the year that Lehmann made her biggest scientific breakthrough. In studying the data collected from a seismograph for a large earthquake that took place in New Zealand, Lehmann noticed that some of the waves traveling away from the earthquake’s epicenter appeared to be somewhat bent. This led her to hypothesize that scientists were perhaps missing a key piece of the composition of the earth’s layers.
Theory of Plate Tectonics
Erin Schuette, Dusty Gutierrez, Logan Smith, Kenneth Nnabuike
GO 521 History of Geology - May 2017
Emporia State University

Inge Lehmann was a Danish seismologist who is credited for her fieldwork that led to the discovery the existence of a two part core made of varying compositions. In order to best understand how the theory of plate tectonics impacts the earth, one must first begin with gaining a deeper understanding of the earth’s composition, something that would not be possible without Lehmann’s work in pioneering seismic research.
Copenhagen Harbor in 1885, three years before Lehmann's birth.
A young Inge Lehmann
Inge's father, Albert Lehmann,
psychology professor
Education (continued)
In 1918, Lehmann felt prepared to re-enter the University of Copenhagen for a second time, where she earned a Masters in Mathematics in 1920. At this time, her skill as an actuarial assistant was recognized by one of her science professors, and in 1923 Lehmann was invited to work in the actuarial science department at the University of Copenhagen. She began to work her way up in the field, and in 1925 was appointed the assistant to the head of the Danish Institute. Lehmann was recommended for this position due to her success in helping set up the first seismic stations located near both Copenhagen and Greenland. In completing this field work, Lehmann began to foster a growing fondness for the field of seismology and she re-enrolled yet again in the University of Copenhagen where she studied this topic until 1927 when she received a Masters of Science.
University of Copenhagen where Lehmann earned several degrees
Major Contributions (continued)
In 1936, Lehmann published her evidence in a paper that outlined a three shell model of the earth that included the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core. In this paper, Lehmann described that because the waves traveled at varying velocities when moving throughout the earth’s layers, it was likely that these three parts were composed of different material in varying states of matter. This hypothesis was proven in 1970, and due to her tireless work on the subject there was a boundary region named in her honor, the Lehmann discontinuity, occurring at an approximate depth of 5100 km under the surface. Along with her numerous contributions to the field of geology, Lehmann co-founded the Danish Geophysical Society. She also received several accolades throughout her career, including the William Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union and the Medal of the Seismological Society of America. In 1995, the American Geophysical Union created the Inge Lehmann Medal to honor her efforts in progressing the field of geology and seismology.
Lehmann Medal named
and given in Inge's honor
Model of the layers of the earth following Lehmann's discoveries
Tanya Atwater
Early Life
Major Contributions
Florence Bascom
Early Life
Born in 1862 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Bascom was the daughter of John Bascom who was president first of Williams College and later the University of Wisconsin-Madison. John Bascom was a strong supporter of women’s right, so he highly encouraged his daughter to seek an education and also had a strong part on her interest in geology.
Bascom went on the receive a B.A degree (1882) and a B.S degree (1884) in geology and later a M.S degree in geology all from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1893, she received a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University. She received the degree from behind a screen room door so the male recipients wouldn't know she was there.

Major Contributions
Shortly after receiving her Ph.D, Bascom began both teaching and developing a geology curriculum at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Bascom would retire from teaching in 1928. While pursuing a career in education, Bascom was also employed by USGS. She was the authority on rocks of the Piedmont (through which she published many maps and folios) and pioneered the use of microscopes to study rocks and minerals. These studies of petrology led Bascom to be accredited to significant contribution to understanding the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. Bascom retired from the USGS in 1936.

Florence Bascom was a woman of many firsts. Bascom became the first woman and geologist to be awarded Ph.D from John Hopkins University, the first woman scientist hired by the United States Geological survey (USGS), and the first women elected to the Geological Society of America (GSA).
Marie Tharp
Early Life
Tharp was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan on July 30, 1920. Marie’s mother was an educator, instructing students in German and Latin. Tharp’s love of maps began at an early age. Her father’s work took her family across the United States, making soil classification maps for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Tharp would often assist her father with his work. Throughout her youth her father would always say to her “When you find your life’s work, make sure it is something you can do, and most important, something that you like to do.”
Major Contributions
In 1948 Tharp joined the staff at Lamont Geological Laboratory (now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) at Columbia University. Tharp was hired as a research assistant, working with data collected by Bruce Heezen, a geology graduate student. In collaboration with Heezen, Tharp would draw the first detailed physiographic maps of the seafloor. Heezen and Tharp’s first map was of the North Atlantic Ocean seafloor in 1957, one of the most significant new maps of the twentieth century.

Marie Tharp was an American geologist and oceanographic cartographer whose work led to a paradigm shift in earth science. Marie Tharp was a pioneering woman in a man’s field. Her discovery of the presence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge would lead to the acceptance of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift
Education (continued)
Bascom, second from the left, taking her students out on a geology field trip
University of Wisconsin-Madison where Bascom earned several degrees
During Tharp’s time at Ohio University she would change her major every semester in the search of something that she was good at, could get paid for, and that she enjoyed doing. In 1943 she graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in English and music. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 America joined World War II. Due to the lack of males to fill seats, the University of Michigan’s geology department opened its doors to women.
Tharp was accepted into the University of Michigan and earned a master’s degree in geology in 1944. She would often joke that if it were not for the attack on Pearl Harbor she may never have studied geology. After graduation Tharp went to work for Standlind Oil and Gas Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a junior geologist. Tharp soon came to discover that women were not allowed to do field work, leaving her stuck in an office coordinating maps and data for her male colleagues. It was during her time in Oklahoma that Tharp earned an additional advanced degree in mathematics at the University of Tulsa in 1948.

Young Florence Bascom
Florence's father, John Bascom
Young Tharp helping her father survey the soil
Tharp analyzing data during her time in college
Famous map Tharp created of the ocean floor
Project Focus
In 1912 the theory of continental drift was introduced by a geophysicist and meteorologist named Alfred Wegener. Continental drift was a theory that explained how continents shift position on Earth’s surface and why plant and animal fossils identical to each other, and similar rock formations were being discovered on different continents. This led Wegener to believe that all of the continents had once been joined together as a single super continent before breaking apart and moved to their current position. The theory was not accepted due to there not being a good mechanism in which to explain how the continents moved apart.
Decades after Wegener’s theory of continental drift was discarded scientists would confirm many of his ideas to be true. There once was a super continent that joined all of the world's land masses together now known as Pangea, which broke apart with each piece moving to its current location, and would explain the identical fossil and rock formations found on different continents. Evidence began to emerge in the 1950’s that renewed interest in Wegener’s initial suggestion, that a super continent once existed. Specifically, there were four major scientific developments that would lead to the formulation of the theory of plate tectonics: the youth of the ocean floor, validation of multiple magnetic reversals, seafloor- spreading and documentation of concentrated earthquake and volcanic activity along oceanic trenches and submarine mountain ranges (Kious and Tilling, USGS 2016).
Theory of Plate Tectonics
The concept of plate tectonics is relatively new, only being introduced around 30 years ago. Plate tectonics revolutionized and unified the study of the Earth and provided explanations to questions that scientists had grappled with for centuries (Kious and Tilling, USGS 2016).

Theory of Plate Tectonics
Many scientists have contributed to the study of plate tectonics. The purpose of this project is to introduce four female scientists and their work which has and will continue to contribute to the ongoing study of plate tectonics; Inge Lehmann (seismologist) whose field work led to the discovery of the existence of the two parts of Earth’s core, Florence Bascom (geologist) pioneered the use of microscopes to study rocks and minerals and whose studies led to further understanding the Appalachian Mountains, Tanya Atwater (geophysicist) specialized in plate tectonics with much of her work focusing on the evolution of the San Andreas fault, and Marie Tharp (geologist and cartographer) drew the first detailed physiographic maps of the seafloor and her discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge would lead to the acceptance of plate tectonics.
In the 105 years since Alfred Wegener first theorized that earth’s continent were in fact mobile, the science community has come to realize that plate tectonics is the cornerstone to modern geology. Many scientists have contributed to the inclusion of plate tectonics into the modern geologic curriculum. Of those many, four women in particular have made significant contributions. Lehman’s discovery of two parts of Earth’s core, Bascom’s use of microscopes to study rocks and minerals to help determine the geologic history of the Appalachian Mountains, Atwater’s work in determining the evolution of the San Andreas Fault, and Tharp’s discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge would finally lead to the acceptance of Plate tectonics.
Tanya Atwater was born in 1942 into a family with a great love and appreciation for mathematics and science. Her mother worked as a botanist and her father was an engineer. From an early age, Atwater found herself being drawn to the natural arts. Living in California, there were many opportunities for Atwater to informally begin to explore the geologic world. During family trips and outings, Atwater could often be found placing herself in charge of interpreting the maps and helping navigate. All of these things helped to foster Atwater's love for gaining a deeper understanding of the geology of the earth.
Young Atwater
Originally planning on pursuing art as a field of study, Atwater was inspired by global events that took place during her high school years. It was at this time that the Russians successfully placed Sputnik in orbit. This amazing feat swayed Atwater to enroll to study science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Throughout her undergraduate years, Atwater studied a multitude of scientific disciplines. Atwater switched between physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. While she preformed well in each field, none fulfilled her with a passion or a desire to continue learning more.
In her junior year of college, Atwater decided to attend a geology camp during her summer semester. At this camp she did extensive fieldwork doing geological mapping in Montana. It was this event that sparked Atwater's love for geology. Finally finding her niche, Atwater switched schools and transferred to the University of Berkeley, choosing geoscience as her area of academic focus. Atwater would continue to work in this field long after her academic career as a college student.
University of Berkeley where Atwater academically pursued her love of geoscience
In 1968, Atwater co-published a paper that was groundbreaking. It lent evidence to the Theory of Plate Tectonics by exploring movement in the oceanic crust at spreading centers. It discussed the changes observed in the direction of seafloor spreading and this impact on the age and formation of the crust.

Atwater is also famous for her contribution to our knowledge of the San Andreas Fault. In the 1970's Atwater published a paper that outlined the history and the evolution of the fault.
Atwater examining mid-ocean rock samples
San Andreas Fault that Atwater
is credited for mapping
Tanya Atwater, renowned geophysisct, is best known for her work on identifying the evolution of the San Andreas Fault. She is also credited for her extensive fieldwork and publications over movement at spreading centers on the seafloor.

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