Wegener, Alfred Lothar

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Wegener, Alfred Lothar

(äl`frĕt lōtär` vĕg`ənər), 1880–1930, German geologist, meteorologist, and Arctic explorer. Early in his life, he was on the staff of the aeronautical observatory at Lindenberg; was a professor of geophysics and meteorology at Hamburg from 1919 to 1924; was professor of meteorology at the Univ. of Graz from 1924 to 1930; and went on four polar expeditions (1906–8, 1912–13, 1929, and 1930) to test his meteorological and geophysical theories. He is known for his theory of continental driftcontinental drift,
geological theory that the relative positions of the continents on the earth's surface have changed considerably through geologic time. Though first proposed by American geologist Frank Bursley Taylor in a lecture in 1908, the first detailed theory of
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, set forth in his Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (1915; tr. The Origin of Continents and Oceans, 1924). According to Wegener, the present continents on earth were originally one large landmass he called Pangaea that gradually separated and drifted apart. He argued that the continents were still in the process of change and are still altering. His evidence included the jigsaw lineup of certain continents including the coast of Brazil and Africa's Gulf of Guinea, and paleontological similarities on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. His ideas were supported by some, including A. L. Dutoit, but rejected by most scientists until the early 1960s when scientists found paleomagnetic evidence (see paleomagnetismpaleomagnetism,
study of the intensity and orientation of the earth's magnetic field as preserved in the magnetic orientation of certain minerals found in rocks formed throughout geologic time.
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) of continental drift. He is also known for his expeditions to Greenland (on the last of which he lost his life) to establish meteorological stations and to ascertain the thickness of the icecap and the rate of drift of Greenland.


See the account of his last expedition, Greenland Journey (ed. by E. Wegener and F. P. Loewe, tr. 1939); biography by M. T. Greene (2015); J. Georgi, Mid-Ice (tr. 1934).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wegener, Alfred Lothar


Born Nov. 1, 1880, in Berlin; died in late November 1930, in Greenland. German geophysicist. Professor at the University of Graz, 1924.

Wegener was a participant in research expeditions in Greenland in 1906-08 and 1912-13, and he led an expedition in 1929-30. His last expedition was undertaken to organize a year-round research station, Eismitte, in the center of Greenland, at an elevation of about 3,000 m. Returning from this expedition, Wegener perished on the ice. His main scientific works were on the thermodynamics of the atmosphere and on paleoclimatology. He was the author (1912) of tectonic hypotheses on the shift of continents.


In Russian translation:
Vozniknovenie materikov i okeanov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925.
Termodinamika atmosfery. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.


Zalomanov, V. “Professor Al’fred Vegener.” Meteorologicheskii vestnik, 1931, nos. 5-8.
Posledniaia ekspeditsiia A. Vegenera v Grenlandiiu 1930-31. Leningrad, 1935. (Translated from German.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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