Landmark contributions: Credit pioneer in plate tectonics

William Kidd is at the State University of New York at Albany, USA.

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Kevin Burke is at the University of Houston, Texas, USA.

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Your Editorial on the discovery of plate tectonics (Nature 550, 7; 2017) makes no mention of J. Tuzo Wilson. This is particularly surprising because his publication ‘A new class of faults and their bearing on continental drift’ was the earliest to set out the plate hypothesis and it appeared in Nature itself (J. T. Wilson Nature 207, 343–347; 1965).

In this paper, Wilson defined all three general types of plate boundary, and showed how they “formed a continuous network of mobile belts about the Earth which divide the surface into several large rigid plates”. He pointed out that the motion predicted along transform faults could be used to test the hypothesis of plate motion, which was confirmed two years later (L. R. Sykes J. Geophys. Res. 72, 2131–2153; 1967).

Wilson’s 1965 paper was not ‘precursory’ to plate tectonics in the sense used in your Editorial: it is the seminal document of that discovery, 52 years ago.

Nature 551, 565 (2017)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07559-0

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