Drummond Matthews
Drummond Hoyle Matthews FRS (5 February 1931 – 20 July 1997) was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 marine geologist and geophysicist and a key contributor to the theory of plate tectonics
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

. His work, along with that of fellow Briton Fred Vine
Fred Vine
Frederick John Vine is a British marine geologist and geophysicist and was a key contributor to the theory of plate tectonics.-Early life:...

 and Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 Lawrence Morley
Lawrence Morley
Lawrence Morley, Ph.D. is a Canadian geophysicist. He is best known for his studies on the magnetic properties of ocean crust and their effect on plate tectonics.-Biography:Morley worked with Britons Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews...

, showed how variations in the magnetic properties of rocks forming the ocean floor could be consistent with, and ultimately help confirm, Harry Hammond Hess
Harry Hammond Hess
Harry Hammond Hess was a geologist and United States Navy officer in World War II.Considered one of the "founding fathers" of the unifying theory of plate tectonics, Rear Admiral Harry Hammond Hess was born on May 24, 1906 in New York City...

's 1962 theory of seafloor spreading
Seafloor spreading
Seafloor spreading is a process that occurs at mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed through volcanic activity and then gradually moves away from the ridge. Seafloor spreading helps explain continental drift in the theory of plate tectonics....

. In 1989 he was awarded the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

's highest honour, the Wollaston Medal
Wollaston Medal
The Wollaston Medal is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London.The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston, and was first awarded in 1831...


During World War II he went to school at The Downs
The Downs School (Herefordshire)
The Downs, Malvern College Prep. is an independent coeducational school in the United Kingdom, founded in 1900. It is located in Colwall in the County of Herefordshire, on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills.-Overview:...

 in Malvern, and then Bryanston School in Dorset. He became head boy at both.

Alfred Wegener
Alfred Wegener
Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German scientist, geophysicist, and meteorologist.He is most notable for his theory of continental drift , proposed in 1912, which hypothesized that the continents were slowly drifting around the Earth...

's theory of continental drift
Continental drift
Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other. The hypothesis that continents 'drift' was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596 and was fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912...

 had never gained much scientific support due to its lack of any satisfactory mechanism to drive the process. During the 1950s, however, extensive surveys of the ocean floor revealed a global, linked system of mid-ocean ridges, all of which exhibited high thermal flow and considerable seismic activity. Hess hypothesized that new ocean crust was being formed at the ocean ridges by extrusions of magma from the Earth's mantle, and that convection currents within the mantle were continuously carrying the newly formed crust away from the ridge, widening the ocean basin and pushing the continents apart.

In 1962 Matthews, as a research fellow at King's College
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, made a survey across part of an ocean ridge in the north-west Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

. This revealed a pattern of magnetic anomalies running in parallel stripes and virtually symmetrically on either side of the ridge. The most plausible explanation for these anomalies required the assumption (already in circulation at the time, but not yet proven) that the Earth's magnetic field
Earth's magnetic field
Earth's magnetic field is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's inner core to where it meets the solar wind, a stream of energetic particles emanating from the Sun...

 had reversed its polarity repeatedly over time. Ocean crust consists of basic igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

, containing significant amounts of magnetite
Magnetite is a ferrimagnetic mineral with chemical formula Fe3O4, one of several iron oxides and a member of the spinel group. The chemical IUPAC name is iron oxide and the common chemical name is ferrous-ferric oxide. The formula for magnetite may also be written as FeO·Fe2O3, which is one part...

. When such rock solidifies, the magnetite aligns itself with the prevailing magnetic field at the time, thus providing a sort of "fossil" magnetic record. If new crust were being formed at the ridges and moving away, as Hess theorized, then reversals in the Earth's magnetic polarity would result in just the kind of parallel, symmetrical anomalies that Matthews' survey had found. The ocean crust would in effect act as a kind of giant tape recorder of magnetic anomalies over time.

Matthews and his research student, Fred Vine, published these ideas in the article "Magnetic Anomalies over Ocean Ridges" in the magazine Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

in 1963. From then on, rapid progress was made both in terms of acceptance of Hess's theory and of further verification. Subsequent surveys of other ocean ridges showed similar and correlatable anomalies in every case. Confirmation of the Earth's polarity reversals a few years later not only further validated the Matthews-Vine hypothesis but provided a timescale allowing the rate of spreading to be estimated for each section of ocean ridge. The contribution of Matthews and Vine proved to be an essential element in the development and acceptance of plate tectonics theory.
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