Wegener; Alfred; The Origin of Continents and Oceans. Translated from the Third German Edition by J. G. A. Skerl. F.R.S.c. with an Introduction by John W. Evans C.B.E., F.R.S. President of the Geological Society. New York, D. P. Dutton & Co. 1924. Octavo, pp. xx, 212, 44 illustrations and maps.
The work is complete and in the original dark green publisher’s cloth with gilt ruled borders and gilt titles and with the original pale green title wrap. The binding is tight and very clean with one small spot on the spine and light bumping to the corners. The text is exceptionally clean and bright. The title wrap has wear and chipping to the spine, edges and corners. Over all the book is in near fine condition with the original rare title wrap in fair condition.
This rare first English printing of one of the most important science works of the 20th century is seldom seen with the title wrap.
Alfred Lothar Wegener (1880-1930) was a German meteorologist and geophysicist and best remembered as the first scientist to formulate a complete statement of the continental drift hypothesis.
He earned his Ph.D in astronomy from the University of Berlin and became interested in paleoclimatology making four expeditions to Greenland between 1906 and 1930. He died during his last expedition in Greenland in 1930.
Like some scientists before him, Wegener became intrigued with the similarity in the coastlines of eastern South America and western Africa and speculated that these lands had once been joined together. In 1910 he speculated that in the late Paleozoic all the present day continents had formed one large supercontinent which he called Pangea. This idea was not new. Other scientists had proposed such a continent but explained the present day separation as being due to subsidence of portions of the supercontinent to form the Atlantic and Indian oceans. But Wegener proposed that the continents had slowly moved thousands of miles apart over long periods of geologic time. His term for this movement was “die Verschiebung Der Kontinente” or continental displacement which gave rise to the term continental drift. Wegener took an interdisciplinary approach to his research.
He had researched the geological and paleontological literature and found the similarities in rock type and fossils on both sides of the Atlantic and this information supported his proposed theory. Wegener first presented his theory in lectures in 1912 and published it in a first German edition in 1915 as “Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane”.
His work did not have a wide audience. There was a wide hostility to Germans as a result of World War I and this remained for several years. The first translation into English resulted in a much larger audience.
Wegener’s theory of continental drift won some adherents (Suess) in the coming decade, but his postulations of the driving forces behind the continents’ movement seemed implausible. His work was not readily accepted by most geologists but the seed had been planted.
Many truly revolutionary scientific theories may take years or decades to win general acceptance among scientists. In it was increased exploration of the Earth's crust, notably the ocean floor, beginning in the 1950s and continuing on to the present day that brought the theory of continental rift back. Wegener's theory was wrong in one major point: continents do not plow through the ocean floor. Instead, both continents and ocean floor form plates, which "float" on the asthenosphere.
But Wegener’s theory was to still form a part of the theory of plate tectonics as we know it today.