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Alfred Wegener's Biography

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Alfred Wegener's Biography

Alfred Lothar Wegener was born on November 1, 1880. He was interested

in geophysics, and also became fascinated with the fields of

meteorology and climatology. During his life, Wegener made several key

contributions to meteorology; he pioneered the use of balloons to

track air circulation, and wrote a textbook that became standard

throughout Germany. In 1906 he joined an expedition to Greenland to

study polar air circulation. Returning, he accepted a post as tutor at

a German university. In 1914 he was drafted into the German army, but

was released after being wounded, and served out the war forecasting

the weather for the army. In 1924 he accepted a professorship in

meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz, in Austria.

Wegener made what was to be his last expedition to Greenland in 1930.

While at Marburg University, in the autumn of 1911, Wegener was

browsing in the university library when he came across a scientific

paper that listed fossils of identical plants and animals found on

opposite sides of the Atlantic. Intrigued by this, Wegener found more

cases of similar organisms separated by great oceans. Science at the

time explained such cases with land bridges, now sunken, had once

connected the continents. Wegener had also noticed the close fit

between the coastlines of Africa and South America. He wondered

weather the similarities among organisms might be due to the

continents having been joined together at one time.

Such a claim, if it were to be accepted, would require large amounts

of evidence. Wegener found that large geological features on separated

continents often matched very closely when the continents were brought

together. For example, some mountains of eastern North America matched

with the Scottish Highlands, and the distinctive rock strata of the

Karroo system of South Africa were identical to those of the Santa

Catarina system in Brazil. All of these facts supported Wegener's

theory of "continental drift." In 1915 the first edition of The Origin

of Continents and Oceans, a book outlining Wegener's theory, was
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