You are here

Marie Tharp: The lady who showed us the ocean floors

TitleMarie Tharp: The lady who showed us the ocean floors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsNorth, GW
JournalPhys. Chem. EarthPhys. Chem. EarthPhys. Chem. Earth
Keywordshistory of science, history of oceanography, marine cartography, oceanographic cartography, seafloor mapping, William Edgar Tharp, Marie Tharp, soil survey, oceanography, cartography

Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia
University are best known for creating the first maps of the ocean floors. Bruce sailed the oceans
collecting the data and overseeing the projects, but the person who turned the precision depth
recordings and other geoscience data into the two-dimensional views of the bottoms was Marie.
Meticulously, she sketched the features that comprise the ocean floors, aligned the data
according to the orientations of the fracture zones, and identified volcanoes, earthquake
epicenters, faults and sea mounts. Marie’s discovery of a deep valley centered along the axis of
the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and her linkage of the major crustal plates for over 64,000 km (40,000
miles) around the Earth, showed us, and thus confirmed, the concept of plate tectonics and
crustal movement. How Marie came to her place in history, what she was like, and how her life
unfolded are the subjects of this paper.

Short TitlePhysics and Chemistry of the EarthPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth
Alternate JournalPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth