Marie Tharp was an American geologist and was also a cartographer of the ocean. She was born on July 30, 1920 in Ypsilanti, Michigan and died on August 23, 2006 in Nyack, New York.
She was introduced to map making by her father who worked for the United States Department of Agriculture. He collected samples of rocks and many other things and would take Marie attended the University of Ohio in 1939 and graduated in 1943 with a bachelor’s in English and math and later decided to attend the University of Michigan to join a program about geology where she wanted to go into the oil industry. Marie was not sure at first what she wanted to become and because her mom was a teacher she wanted to follow her path because women were not allowed to do many things.
Unfortunately, there was lack of opportunity for women and she was not allowed to work on the field so she was assigned to create maps for the male workers and as she was doing this she decided to enrol at the University of Tulsa and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1948. Marie later attended the University of Columbia in New York where she worked as a research assistant and it is where she met Bruce Heezen. Bruce was collecting data about the depth of the Atlantic ocean, they would use echo sounding to determine the depth of the ocean. Echo sounding is when they send a high pitch sound to the bottom of the ocean and they would count how long it would take for the sound to come back up.
He would collect the data and bring it back to Marie where she would be able to interpret the data and plot it on a map. This is where Marie discovered that the ocean was not just flat as everyone believed so, but instead there were valleys and hills under the ocean. She discovered a V-shape figure that appeared in every image. This is where she discovered rift-valleys and she helped support Wegener’s theory on continental drift.
Marie discorvered sea-floor spreading, but after consulting it to Bruce he did not believe that her interpretation was correct and he fired her. She did not let him stop her and she continued with her map and even made it better by including physiographic on it. Physiographic is when someone divides landforms of the earth into regions. Of course she could not do all this work on her own and she had the help of Howard Foster whose job was to plot the epicenters on the map.
Marie was able to find a correlation between her map and the map that Howard made. Marie noticed if she saw mid-ocean ridges on her map it would correlate with Howards epicenter locations. After she had all this information put down she approached Bruce and showed him the results of her findings and how there were ridges all around the earth’s oceans. They later decided to make it public to the scientific community in 1957, but they were not too sure about the information. One gentlemen wanted to prove Marie wrong so he decided to go out and explore the ocean floor to gather his own data by filming it, but he discovered that she was right about her findings when they examined the footage.
Her findings helped shape the scientific world and it help support Wegener’s theory on continental drift.