Marie Tharp was a geology and oceanography researcher. She discovered the existence of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Ridge.
Born in 1920, Marie did a Masters in Geology at the University of Michigan. She went on to work at Columbia University where she worked on the first attempt to map the entire ocean floor. From hundreds of surveys collected by ships, she built up a picture of what the Atlantic Ocean floor looked like. She began to notice a pattern of a deep V-shaped valley through the middle of the ocean floor. She realised that this was evidence for the controversial theory of plate tectonics but nobody would listen to her. Even her boss dismissed her ideas as “girl talk”.
When her seniors didn’t believe her, Marie famously said:
“I figured I’d show them a picture of where the rift valley was and where it pulled apart. There’s truth to the old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words and that seeing is believing.”
Eventually, the evidence became too strong and her ideas could no longer be ignored. Theories about continental drift and plate tectonics, that are widely accepted now, were finally recognised. In 2001, Marie was awarded the first annual Lamont-Doherty Heritage Award for her life’s work as a pioneer of oceanography. Google Earth now includes the Marie Tharp historical layer that allows people to view her map in 3D.
See her story told in this video:
For more information about the amazing work of Marie Tharp, visit here.