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Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor Paperback – July 2, 2013
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“Felt is a playful, wildly thoughtful writer, who can extrapolate meanings about our view of the past from outdated scientific terms…that illuminate the text with the kind of evocative details that make the story of real life so real.” ―Oprah.com
“Felt's enthusiasm for Tharp reaches the page, revealing Tharp, who died in 2006, to be a strong-willed woman living according to her own rules, defying the constraints of her time.” ―The Washington Post
“This is a fascinating account of a woman working without much recognition who used recorded soundings to map the ocean floor and change the course of ocean science.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“[Soundings] provides a memorable account of oceanography during the 1940s to 1960s: a thrilling time when so much was being discovered. And it celebrates the extraordinary life of Tharp as a woman and a scientist.” ―Nature
“[Tharp] is the woman who mapped the ocean floor, forever changing scientific understanding of the planet. Ignored and marginalized for much of her career, Tharp has at last come into her own.” ―Science News
“Felt has been able to perform the sort of data-handling magic on these mountains of memorabilia that Tharp earlier performed on Heezen's soundings--distilling a sharp and illuminating biography that reveals the profiles and contours of a life.” ―Natural History
“Felt follows the traces of Tharp's life by deftly balancing the scientific and the poetic.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[Felt] wrestles complex research procedures and concepts into submission…In the same way researchers sound the floor of the ocean, Soundings finds the depths in Tharp. Both the life and the biography are rich in accomplishment.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Hali Felt poignantly imagines a private life the way her subject interpolated the unseen deep: hauntingly conjuring what cannot be known firsthand. Tharp [is] a fascinating character in the saga of oceanographic exploration and deserves this admiring biography.” ―Bust Magazine
“Felt's biography reimagines [Tharp's] progression from a nomadic childhood through scientific breakthroughs with a vivid, poetic touch, revealing an idiosyncratic and determined woman whose 'vigorous creativity' advanced everyone's career but her own.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Felt's biography brings [Tharp's] contributions to life...readers interested in biographies will appreciate Tharp's remarkable scientific work. Recommended.” ―Library Journal
“A complex, rich biography of a groundbreaking geologist who discovered 'a rift valley running down the center of the Atlantic'...A well-researched, engaging account of an important scientific discovery that should also find a place on women's-studies shelves.” ―Kirkus
“Delightful…[Soundings] is an artfully written biography about a rakish and headstrong woman in the sometimes antagonistic boys'-club atmosphere of academia in the mid-twentieth century…This is an exceptional story told by an equally exceptional writer.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Biography readers who love discovering stories of fascinating, historically important figures should rush to find a copy of Soundings…Felt's mission is not to embroider or alter Tharp's essence, but to discover it, and she succeeds in this powerful portrait of a woman so driven that society could not stop her from changing the world.” ―Shelf Awareness
“Felt has done an outstanding job bringing Marie Tharp to life as an eccentric and colorful character…it's a fascinating human story that reads better than some fiction.” ―Story Circle Book Reviews
About the Author
- Item Weight : 11.4 ounces
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250031451
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250031457
- Dimensions : 5.68 x 1.03 x 8.32 inches
- Publisher : Picador; Reprint edition (July 2, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #547,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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In the first half of Soundings, Hali Felt does a good job in establishing how Marie's eclectic early life and education probably provided the foundation for her unique and revolutionary approach to visualizing the ocean floor. But the author fails to document (despite several passing comments) Marie's "abundant other contributions" to marine science. Reading the second half of the book brought to mind images of Leonardo endlessly retouching La Gioconda. How significantly did Marie influence ideas that Bruce Heezen went on to publish and take credit for? What impact did the updates of her ocean floor maps have on the course of marine science after their initial dramatic appearance?
To her credit, the author does not dwell on discrimination as the basis for Marie's eventual banishment from Lamont. Sexism was certainly a component of the social atmosphere of Lamont, but it was not the primary driving force that defined status at the lab. That role fell to a hierarchical system based on education, friendships, and a sustaining (and perhaps fanatical) commitment to hard work and productivity. Tharp's woes are more properly assigned to the fact that she did not have a doctorate and that she remained steadfastly devoted and loyal to Bruce Heezen. Whatever Heezen's accomplishments, his expanding Earth explanation for the mid-ocean ridge put him outside the circle that eventually (ala Hess) put the Plate Tectonic/sea-floor-spreading model on the right track. With Heezen's untimely death, Marie was left high and dry. This raises some unseemly questions about the professional relationship between Heezen and Marie, not developed in this book. Certainly Bruce was aware of the underlying forces upon which power was wielded at Lamont and in the overall geoscience community. The issue of Marie completing her doctorate must have been mentioned at some point, and it is entirely conceivable that Marie, with her pre-eminent position in the geoscience community already established, could have obtained her doctorate without much trouble (there were women in the doctoral program by the late 1960s.) That Marie seemed to be satisfied with that odd arrangement is no excuse - it sealed her fate.
Marie's place in the pantheon of Plate Tectonic Theory is better established than Felt would have it. And, Tharp is not the only geoscientist to be slighted in the crush of praise reserved for Hess. For example, textbooks often give short shrift to J.T. Wilson's transform faults - without them the interpretation of the pattern of the mid-ocean rift would be meaningless.
When examining the history of scientific revolutions, one must take a holistic view and not focus on one idea or individual. The time was ripe for change. Geosynclinal theory had reached an absurd, Rube-Goldbergian low point. The ocean floor maps (and their iconic mid-ocean-rift-valley) provided the visual spark essential for understanding the parallel denouement of seismic and magnetic signals. The ocean-floor maps that Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen produced will stand the test of time - they are on a par with Americo Vespucci's 15th century map of the new world.
Several pages of notes and an index but no real bibliography accompany the text, which for the most part was free of errors (with the notable exception of the mirror-image cover photo.)
Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University
Anna M. Curren
it might be a bit dry, or dull, but it was not. I feel quite a kinship, and also some sorry for Marie Tharp. She was so brilliant, but
sadly did not receive much credit for all of her work.