Drummond Matthews (1931-1997)

Drummond Matthews (1931-1997), British marine geologist and geophysicist who made important contributions to the understanding of oceanic and continental crust, and to the foundation of the theory of plate tectonics. The theory of plate tectonics states that the earth`s crust is made up of plates that move on top of another fluid rocky layer called the asthenosphere.

Matthews grew up in Porlock

Matthews grew up in Porlock, England, on the coast, and developed a lifelong interest in the sea and ships. He went to school in Dorset and then served in the British Navy. After his stint in the Navy, he went to college at Cambridge, where he specialized in geology and petrology, the study of rocks. He spent 1955 to 1957 on the South Orkney Islands as part of the British survey of the Antarctic.

From 1961 to 1963 he oversaw British contributions

From 1961 to 1963 he oversaw British contributions to the International Indian Ocean Expedition and assigned his new graduate student, British geophysicist Fred Vine, to study the Carlsberg Ridge, a midocean mountainous ridge. Matthews`s insistence on a detailed geophysical survey of this ridge led to Matthews and Vine proposing in 1963 that the pattern of magnetic reversals across the ridge was a record of reversals in the earth`s magnetic field. They further proposed that this record was a product of the seafloor spreading apart where new oceanic crust is created along plate boundaries. At the time of its publication, other scientists did not seriously consider Vine and Matthews` paper. Within a few years, however, scientists recognized the research as a fundamental piece of the plate tectonics puzzle, and their research is now referred to as the `Vine-Matthews hypothesis.` American geophysicist Robert S. Dietz introduced the term "seafloor spreading" in 1961 for the process, proposed independently by Dietz and American geologist Harry H. Hess.

Matthews returned to Cambridge for his

Matthews returned to Cambridge for his Ph.D. degree, where he studied basalt rocks dredged from the floor of the North Atlantic. In the 1960s, Cambridge was an intellectual center for development of the plate tectonics theory, and Matthews played a key role. He remained at Cambridge for his academic career, becoming the head of the Marine Geophysics Group in 1966. During his leadership, this group took part in over 70 scientific cruises. After a sabbatical at Cornell in the late 1970s, Matthews helped establish a British scientific group for study of the deep continental crust. Under his directorship, this group made important contributions, particularly by studying the crust beneath shallow seas surrounding the British Isles.

Matthews received numerous awards for his

Matthews received numerous awards for his work. The Royal Society, a London-based group that promotes scientific research, recognized Matthews` scientific contributions in 1974 by giving him a membership as a fellow of the Society.

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