Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, 1920 [The Origin of Continents and Oceans] [2nd EXPANDED EDITION ON THE THEORY OF CONTINENTAL DRIFT]. Alfred Wegener.

Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, 1920 [The Origin of Continents and Oceans] [2nd EXPANDED EDITION ON THE THEORY OF CONTINENTAL DRIFT]

Braunschweig: Vieweg & Sohn. Second [expanded] edition of WEGENER’S SEMINAL THEORY OF CONTINENTAL DRIFT, the argument that in the remote past the earth's continents were not separate (as now), but formed one supercontinent which later split apart, the fragments gradually drifting away from one another. Wegener’s “theory of continental displacement revolutionized the observations about the Earth's development” (Young, Alfred Wegener: Pioneer of Plate Tectonics, 2009). While his theories were dismissed during his lifetime, Wegener is now considered “the patron saint of plate tectonics” (Linda Hall Library, Wegener Archives).

The second edition offered here is expanded beyond that of the first and offers additional evidence of Wegener’s theory. Wegener himself later stated that “after the end of the war, a second [1920] edition became necessary [and] this made a more thoroughgoing revision possible” (Wegener, Dover Translation Historical Introduction, p. 2).

Alfred Lothar Wegener (1880-1930) was a German meteorologist, geophysicist, and polar researcher. Beginning “in 1912, [he] published several papers in which he postulated that the earth’s continents, 200 million years ago, were amassed in a super-continent that he called Pangaea. He proposed that Pangaea then broke up and the continents drifted apart, in the process raising mountain chains along their leading edges. Continental drift, he thought, would explain why South Africa, South America, Australia, and Antarctica once shared the same glacial terrain, and indeed hosted similar animals and plants. Wegener soon fleshed out his proposal in a book, Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, first published in 1915” (Linda Hall Library).

During his lifetime, Wegener’s work was largely discounted, but his drift theory ultimately “triumphed…[when in the 1950s] groups of geologists concentrated on new phenomena and geophysical data which had come to light since Wegener” (LeGrand, Drifting Continents and Shifting Theories, 1). With similarities to the Wegener’s theories as well as differences, new versions of the drift theory were put forth. “The new versions quickly won acceptance. By the early 1970s the ‘modern revolution’ in geology was complete: the plate tectonics version of Drift in which the surface of the earth was composed of slowly-moving slabs of crust, was firmly entrenched as the new orthodoxy” (ibid).

In 1930 and on his 50th birthday, Wegener “had his birthday picture taken and then departed from a camp in central Greenland for the coast. He was never seen alive again. Perhaps it was just as well. Even had he lived to be 80, Wegener would still have found his idea of continental drift almost universally rejected, and that would surely have been depressing. Had he lived to be 90, however, he would have found himself quite a hero, the patron saint of plate tectonics” (LHL). NOTE: As a courtesy we include a 1966 Dover publication of Wegener’s Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane with the translation into English by John Biram. Item #1364

CONDITION & DETAILS: Braunschweig: Vieweg & Sohn. Complete. [viii], 135, [1]. 33 illustrations, some full page. 8vo. Provenance: “F. E. Weiss”, likely the Anglo-German botanist Frederick Ernest Weiss; signature on the front ffp has a single line through it, replaced then with a largely unreadable one, perhaps “W. B. Andrews” (?). Publisher’s re-backed binding, tight and clean with slight rubbing at the edge tips. Interior is clean throughout. Near fine condition.

Price: $1,000.00

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