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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Alfred L. Wegener Quotes

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Alfred L. Wegener
(1 Nov 1880 - c. Nov 1930)

German geophysicist and meteorologist who presented the first complete statement of the continental drift hypothesis. He proposed that about 250 million years ago, all present-day continents existed combined in a single supercontinent which subsequently fragmented and drifted apart.


Science Quotes by Alfred L. Wegener (7 quotes)

In the whole of geophysics there is probably hardly another law of such clarity and reliability as this—that there are two preferential levels for the world’s surface which occur in alternation side by side and are represented by the continents and the ocean floors, respectively. It is therefore very surprising that scarcely anyone has tried to explain this law.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 37.
Science quotes on:  |  Alternation (2)  |  Clarity (27)  |  Continental Drift (8)  |  Explanation (128)  |  Floor (9)  |  Geophysics (3)  |  Law (334)  |  Level (28)  |  Occurence (2)  |  Ocean (64)  |  Plate Tectonics (20)  |  Probability (69)  |  Surface (47)  |  Surprise (28)  |  World (365)

It is a strange fact, characteristic of the incomplete state of our present knowledge, that totally opposing conclusions are drawn about prehistoric conditions on our planet, depending on whether the problem is approached from the biological or the geophysical viewpoint.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Approached (2)  |  Biological (5)  |  Characteristic (49)  |  Conclusion (91)  |  Condition (93)  |  Depending (2)  |  Drawn (2)  |  Fact (414)  |  Incomplete (9)  |  Knowledge (879)  |  Planet (107)  |  Prehistoric (3)  |  Present (62)  |  Problem (240)  |  State (50)  |  Strange (30)  |  Totally (3)  |  Viewpoint (3)

Scientists still do not appear to understand sufficiently that all earth sciences must contribute evidence toward unveiling the state of our planet in earlier times, and that the truth of the matter can only be reached by combing all this evidence. ... It is only by combing the information furnished by all the earth sciences that we can hope to determine 'truth' here, that is to say, to find the picture that sets out all the known facts in the best arrangement and that therefore has the highest degree of probability. Further, we have to be prepared always for the possibility that each new discovery, no matter what science furnishes it, may modify the conclusions we draw.
— Alfred L. Wegener
The Origins of Continents and Oceans
Science quotes on:  |  Geology (165)

South America must have lain alongside Africa and formed a unified block which was split in two in the Cretaceous; the two parts must then have become increasingly separated over a period of millions of years like pieces of a cracked ice floe in water.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Africa (10)  |  America (54)  |  Become (25)  |  Block (7)  |  Floe (2)  |  Formed (4)  |  Ice (20)  |  Million (44)  |  Part (74)  |  Period (41)  |  Piece (20)  |  Plate Tectonics (20)  |  Separated (4)  |  South (4)  |  Split (5)  |  Two (12)  |  Unified (3)  |  Water (171)  |  Year (110)

The first concept of continental drift first came to me as far back as 1910, when considering the map of the world, under the direct impression produced by the congruence of the coast lines on either side of the Atlantic. At first I did not pay attention to the ideas because I regarded it as improbable. In the fall of 1911, I came quite accidentally upon a synoptic report in which I learned for the first time of palaeontological evidence for a former land bridge between Brazil and Africa. As a result I undertook a cursory examination of relevant research in the fields of geology and palaeontology, and this provided immediately such weighty corroboration that a conviction of the fundamental soundness of the idea took root in my mind.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Accident (39)  |  Africa (10)  |  Atlantic (4)  |  Brazil (3)  |  Coast (9)  |  Congruence (2)  |  Continental Drift (8)  |  Conviction (33)  |  Corroboration (2)  |  Evidence (107)  |  Examination (55)  |  Fall (46)  |  Fundamental (76)  |  Geology (165)  |  Idea (313)  |  Map (15)  |  Paleontology (19)  |  Report (22)  |  Research (400)  |  Weight (49)  |  World (365)

The forces which displace continents are the same as those which produce great fold-mountain ranges. Continental drift, faults and compressions, earthquakes, volcanicity, transgression cycles and polar wandering are undoubtedly connected causally on a grand scale. Their common intensification in certain periods of the earth’s history shows this to be true. However, what is cause and what effect, only the future will unveil.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 179.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (167)  |  Compression (3)  |  Connection (58)  |  Continent (29)  |  Continental Drift (8)  |  Cycle (19)  |  Displacement (4)  |  Earth (313)  |  Earthquake (25)  |  Fault (17)  |  Fold (3)  |  Force (108)  |  Mountain (85)  |  Period (41)  |  Plate Tectonics (20)  |  Pole (10)  |  Truth (573)  |  Unveiling (2)  |  Volcano (28)

The Newton of drift theory has not yet appeared. His absence need cause no anxiety; the theory is still young and still often treated with suspicion. In the long run, one cannot blame a theoretician for hesitating to spend time and trouble on explaining a law about whose validity no unanimity prevails.
— Alfred L. Wegener
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 167.
Science quotes on:  |  Anxiety (10)  |  Continental Drift (8)  |  Explanation (128)  |  Law (334)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (213)  |  Plate Tectonics (20)  |  Suspicion (19)  |  Theorist (20)  |  Theory (446)  |  Validity (16)  |  Young (34)



Quotes by others about Alfred L. Wegener (1)

The Wegener hypothesis has been so stimulating and has such fundamental implications in geology as to merit respectful and sympathetic interest from every geologist. Some striking arguments in his favor have been advanced, and it would be foolhardy indeed to reject any concept that offers a possible key to the solution of profound problems in the Earth's history.
Published while geologists remained sceptical of Alfred Wegener's idea of Continental Drift, Though unconvinced, he published these thoughts suggesting that critics should be at least be open-minded. His patience was proven justified when two decades later, the theory of plate tectonics provided a mechanism for the motion of the continents.
Some Thoughts on the Evidence for Continental Drift (1944).
Science quotes on:  |  Plate Tectonics (20)


See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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