Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Wegener, Alfred Lothar
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(äl'frĕt lōtär' vĕg'ӘnӘr), 1880–1930, German geologist, meteorologist, and Arctic explorer. Early in his life, he was on the staff of the aeronautical observatory at Lindenberg; was a professor of geophysics and meteorology at Hamburg from 1919 to 1924; was professor of meteorology at the Univ. of Graz from 1924 to 1930; and went on four polar expeditions (1906–08, 1912–13, 1929, and 1930) to test his meteorological and geophysical theories. He is known for his theory of continental drift, set forth in his Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (1915; tr. The Origin of Continents and Oceans, 1924). According to Wegener, the present continents on earth were originally one large landmass he called Pangaea that gradually separated and drifted apart. He argued that the continents were still in the process of change and are still altering. His evidence included the jigsaw lineup of certain continents including the coast of Brazil and Africa's Gulf of Guinea, and paleontological similarities on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. His ideas were supported by some, including A. L. Dutoit, but rejected by most scientists until the early 1960s when scientists found paleomagnetic evidence (see paleomagnetism) of continental drift. He is also known for his expeditions to Greenland (on the last of which he lost his life) to establish meteorological stations and to ascertain the thickness of the icecap and the rate of drift of Greenland.

  • See the account of his last expedition, Greenland Journey (ed. by E. Wegener and F. P. Loewe, tr. 1939).
  • Georgi, J., Mid-Ice (tr. 1934).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Wegener, Alfred
Science in the Early Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia

(b. Berlin, Germany 1880; d. Greenland icecap, 1930) Alfred Wegener has earned a reputation as being the father of continental drift and thus...

Full text Article Wegener , Alfred (Lothar) (1880 - 1930)
The Cambridge Dictionary of Scientists

Educated at the universities of Heidelberg, Innsbruck and Berlin, Wegener obtained his doctorate in astronomy in 1905....

Full text Article Wegener, Alfred Lothar
Philip's Encyclopedia

1880-1930 German geologist, meteorologist, and Arctic explorer. In The Origin of Continents and Oceans (1915), Wegener was the first to use...

See more from Credo