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Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History Of The Modern Theory Of The Earth Paperback


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Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History Of The Modern Theory Of The Earth + The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813341329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813341323
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Widely dismissed as crank science in earlier generations, the theory of plate tectonics--which explains the movement of continents in geological time, as well as the formation of the earth's major features--is now largely accepted as fact within the scientific community.

Drawing on the memories of major theoreticians in the field, scientist and historian Naomi Oreskes offers a vivid history of just how that transformation occurred. She describes the early quest on the part of James Dana, Alfred Wegner, J. H. Hodgson, and other scientists to account for the mechanics of earthquakes and certain puzzling features of geomorphology, a quest widened and strengthened by the work of deep-ocean explorers who were able, beginning in the 1960s, to study tectonics at work far below the surface of the world's waters. Such advances, as pioneer Peter Molnar and others explain, did not immediately change the way geologists went about their work, but they quickly went on to revolutionize science--and then, as such things do, to become orthodox.

A useful reference for students of geology and the history of science, this book is also easily accessible to nonspecialists. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Readers who went to school before the late 1960s will probably remember that their science teachers couldn't explain why South America and Africa seemed to fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. It was not until 1968 that the theory of plate tectonics was formulated and quickly accepted by scientists around the world. This collection of 18 essays is written by the researchers (such as Frederick J. Vine and Lawrence Morley) who made the discoveries that established the phenomenon of plate tectonics. While the idea of "continental drift" had been proposed as early as 1596 and reappeared at various times throughout history, scientists had always rejected it. Then in the late 1950s and '60s, geologists discovered great rifts in the undersea mountain ranges that girdle the ocean, as well as regular patterns of alternating magnetic polarities in the ocean floor. These and other findings confirmed continental drift and explained the existence of volcanic islands and even earthquakes en masse. Readers with little or no background in geology will be able to follow these well-written and generally jargon-free personal accounts, but the book will appeal most to hard-core science buffs and budding geophysicists.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Dr. Oreskes deserves the highest praise for this.
E. N. Anderson
This book takes us on a journey in history giving us a historical background of continental drift to plate tectonics.
Joe Zika
The book is engaging to read and is understandable to an audience at the level of Scientific American.
William B. F. Ryan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 57 people found the following review helpful By William B. F. Ryan on January 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly informative account of both the ideas that led to the development of Plate Tectonic theory and the concepts of how the earth works. The book is engaging to read and is understandable to an audience at the level of Scientific American. I am using it as a required text in my course at Columbia University titled "Plate-tectonic theory and its geological corollaries". For those fascinated in how the human mind puts observations together to build ideas and then test them, this book is first rate. Each chapter is crafted by a different researcher describing his or her contribution to the over all theory. The reader encounters brilliant and original ideas discarded by peer review, scientists peeping over each other's shoulder, the rush to the goal line to publish first, competition for access to key data sets, a last minute conversion from the static earth perspective, and the thrill of exploration at sea. The authors presents a wonderful history in Chapter 1 of the intellectual passage from the first inkling of continental drift in the 16th century to the breakthrough in 1966-1968 of the full-blown theory of rigid lithosphere paving stones and narrow plate boundaries.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book will delight all historians of science. The indefatigable Naomi Oreskes, known for her excellent history of continental drift and plate tectonics, has assembled reminiscences by the surviving founders of plate tectonics theory. Dr. Oreskes deserves the highest praise for this. Alas, the senior figures such as Arthur Holmes and Harry Hess are no longer with us; the writers of these essays were graduate students in the critical early 1960s. Now elders themselves, they recall the excitement of coming on the scene just when all was breaking loose. Even the most sober number-crunchers manage to write with infectious enthusiasm. The theories are explained in a notably accessible fashion, and the varied intellectual currents of the time (and, in some essays, subsequent decades) are brought out. My one complaint--as a reader interested in the history of science--is that the writers don't say much about their personal lives. One suspects that some of them have no personal lives beyond number-crunching. Most, however, hint at or partially reveal rich and interesting backgrounds that clearly affected their thoughts. Only Peter Molnar does much more than hint, and, although he claims that one reader called his essay "unexpurgated," even he is rather reticent. Still, this volume is a gold mine, providing a very different look at one of the most "revolutionary" (in scare quotes) theoretical advances in the history of science. The consensus here seems to be that it was indeed a revolution, at least in the eyes of American graduate students of the 1960s, but not a Kuhnian revolution brought about by highly intellectualized "paradigm shifts" (Kuhn 1962); it was brought about by new field methods that brought floods of new data.Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joe Zika TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History of the Moden Theory of the Earth edited by Naomi Oreskes is a book about the movement of the land masses on the Earth and how the theory of plate tectonics came about. In the book there are seventeen original essays by the scientists who made earth history as they explain how placte tectonics works.
Plate tectonics is a science that you'd think has been around for a long time, but in fact, not until 1968 has the theory, research, data collection and analysis came together. The movement of relatively static land masses was not a popular idea, especially in the oil industry, where they believed that tectonics was not a viable theory.
This book takes us on a journey in history giving us a historical background of continental drift to plate tectonics. What I find extemely interesting about this book is the actual players in the development of the theory are represented here. Giving their accounts and insight into why things are as they are... explaining their thought processes in confirmation of the theory of plate tectonics.
Each author gives a piece of the puzzle until there is enough evidence that a workable theory can be developed. These authors tell us in their own words, making for a compelling book about discovery. Also, the reader will find an overview of definitions of terms used throughout the book, this keeps the readers interest as you will not be overburdoned with terms you do not understnd.
All in all, this is a very readable book as it explains the science of plate tectonics and the inter-relationship of this science to man's well-being on earth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By gaby on December 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the book, it gives you the view the scientific articles dont give, I love the personal notes, the views of the scientists that wrote the different chapters, and the insights on their personalities and character which the scientific articles always are void of. You learn things about plate tectonics that are not in the books and makes you remember what is good science and how it is done.
A must for any earth science student,but also for any science lecturer.
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