WGCG Spring 2021 Newsletter - Flipbook - Page 14
Spring 2021 Newsletter
Alfred Wegener and the Kenilworth Connection
Some surprising coincidences have emerged from the valiant efforts of our publicity team to raise interest
in the Group, its initiatives and activities, and the Earth Sciences in general. One avenue we use is the Twitter
feed (@WGCG_UK) presided over by Jon Radley. Way back before the Covid-19 crisis, in September 2019,
Jon was tweeting about plate tectonics which generated a response from a lady in Kenilworth quite unknown
to our local members. The gist of the reply was …...
Interesting that you are having a meeting on plate tectonics …... I believe that one of my relations was
involved with plate tectonics in the 1920s, but I can't remember his surname! Jon thought 'Hmm, plate
tectonics, 1920s – not very likely'. Then she said He was German. German, 1920s – so Jon had a guess and
said, 'His name wasn't Wegener [he of Continental Drift fame], was it?' That's right, she said, Alfred
Jon just happens to have a copy of Wegener's 1915 book, in which he advanced the hypothesis that the
continents had drifted apart, so he sent the lady an image of the title page which seems to have excited her
considerably. She was quite unaware of Wegener's pivotal role in the development of ideas which led
eventually to the formulation of the plate tectonic theory in the 1960s.
Wegener's proposition was just that, an idea. In 1915 he was unable to provide (a) any proof that the
continents had actually moved apart or (b) ideas or evidence on what might have driven such tectonic
movements. Arthur Holmes, Professor of Geology at Durham and Edinburgh, had been fascinated by
Wegener's hypothesis and in the 1940s suggested that convection flows in the Mantle could be the drivers
(now apparently discounted, or much elaborated on).
It transpired that the lady in question runs the Tree House
Bookshop in Kenilworth and had seen Jon’s tweets through
the shop’s own Twitter: @TreeHouseBkshop. Jon mentioned
this remarkable coincidence during our recent (October
2020) Zoom talk by Marco Maffione (University of
Birmingham) on plate tectonic theory and its history, in which
Alfred Wegener featured majorly. So, Ann and Ian Fenwick,
armed with Ann's copy of the 1944 edition of Arthur Holmes'
book Principles of Geology, called in to see her. This book
summarises Wegener's ideas, and reproduces his original
maps showing how he envisaged the world to have looked in
the Late Carboniferous, the Eocene and the Early Pleistocene.
Reconstruction of the world map according to the
'displacement' theory for three periods.