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Alfred Wegener
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Scientist
    (November 1, 1880-November 1930)
    Born in Berlin, Germany
    Geologist and meteorologist
    Developed the theory of continental drift that all the continents were once joined in a single landmass and have since drifted apart
    Wrote 'The Origin of Continents and Oceans' (1915)
    Died during a meteorological expedition to Greenland
    The idea of continental drift had been proposed earlier by Abraham Ortelius (1596) and Alexander von Humboldt (1801), among others.
    He never came up with a plausible mechanism for the continents moving, so most contemporary scientists resisted his theory.
    He did not live long enough to see his ideas vindicated.
    He was a heavy smoker, which, coupled with overexertion during his Arctic expeditions, contributed to his death from heart failure.
    Promoters of pseudoscientific woo like to use Wegener's initial rejection to argue that scientists are too hidebound to look at new ideas with an open mind.
    As a meteorologist, he pioneered the use of weather balloons to track air masses.
    His 'Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere' became a standard meteorlogical textbook.
    He developed the theory of continental drift independently and provided fossil evidence to support it.
    In the 1950s and 60s, the discovery of seafloor spreading led to the acceptance of continental drift (slightly modified into plate tectonics).
    He had a peninsula in Greenland, craters on Mars and the Moon, and an asteroid named after him.

Credit: C. Fishel


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