Tribute to Marie Tharp – 03/08/21

On this International Women’s Day 2021, I’d like to pay special tribute to a mapping legend, one of the world’s greatest cartographers and oceanographers whom you’ve never heard of: Marie Tharp.

“Before the early 1950s, scientists knew very little about the structure of the ocean floor. Though studying geology on land was cheaper and easier, understanding the structure of the entire earth could not be accomplished without knowledge of the structure and evolution of the seafloor. In 1952, Tharp painstakingly aligned underwater sounding profiles to create a total of approximately six profiles stretching west-to-east across the North Atlantic. From these profiles, she was able to examine the bathymetry (elevation of the sea floor) of the northern sections of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Tharp identified an aligned, v-shaped structure running continuously through the axis of the ridge and believed that it may be a rift valley. She believed that the rift valley formed by the oceanic surface being pulled apart. Her idea would have supported continental drift, then a controversial theory. At the time many scientists believed that continental drift was impossible. Though her proposal was dismissed as “girl talk”, Tharp persisted and eventually the scientific community was persuaded to her ideas.” [Source: Wikipedia]

“The impact of Marie Tharp and her mapping of the ocean floor is still with us today. Her work has led to the widespread acceptance of the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics, and also led to the discovery of the oceanic ridges and the mapping of a previously unknown world. In any case, Marie Tharp has been popularly recognized for succeeding as woman in a field long dominated by men and as a pioneer in her science of oceanography.” [Source:]