Plate Tectonics - A Scientific Revolution

Wegener eventually proposed a mechanism for continental drift that focused on his assertion that the rotation of the earth created a centrifugal force towards the equator. He believed that Pangaea originated near the south pole and that the centrifugal force of the planet caused the protocontinent to break apart and the resultant continents to drift towards the equator. He called this the "pole-fleeing". This idea was quickly rejected by the scientific community primarily because the actual forces generated by the rotation of the earth were calculated to be insufficient to move continents.

Wegener also tried to explain the westward drift of the Americas by invoking the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon, this idea was also quickly rejected.

Wegener's inability to provide an adequate explanation of the forces responsible for continental drift and the prevailing belief that the earth was solid and immovable resulted in the scientific dismissal of his theories.

Wegener's ideas were also subjected to ridicule and he was called an eccentric. Many geoscientists were hostile towards Wegener's ideas claiming that he did not have enough training as a geologist and that his hypothesis was totally outlandish.


Brooklyn College - Geology Department