Dan McKenzie: taking the opportunity of a lifetime

Dan McKenzie explains how he became famous for pioneering work in plate tectonics very early in his career.

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Then I went back to Scripps for six months, and that was where I wrote the first paper on plate tectonics, with Bob Parker. And then I stayed there probably for five months, rather than six. And then I went to Lamont and then I went to Princeton. And then I came back here for six months, to my Fellowship at King’s. Then I went back to Caltech, and then to Scripps, and then I came back here. You know, I was totally wandering for then quite a long period. And that’s really when I became extremely well known. I mean I was only just out of Graduate School but I went from being, you know, just another graduate student to somebody who everybody invited to major international conferences to give, you know, and things. 

Was that a result of the first very well known paper on plate tectonics? 

Partly. It was partly that all kinds of things then. I mean once [laughs] once the problems which I was talking to you about earlier, the solutions to those became clear, a whole lot of other things became clear. So that an enormous chunk of the earth sciences suddenly made sense and fell into place. I thought that this was really the opportunity of my lifetime, was to take these things and go everywhere that this stuff led. And, you know, worked very hard, had essentially no social life at all and very few friends. You know, I was just never there, and when I was there I was, you know, twelve hours a day on the computer getting things to work, which things were much harder to get things to work then than it is now. But, you know, I had always wanted to do scientific research and given this sort of opportunity and both, you know, institutional and I had support, I wasn’t – I had no teaching position, I was still a Research Fellow at King’s, you know, I had something. I had something here I could come back to if things went wrong, which meant I could pick up – if anyone just had sort of, you know, a couple of months postdoc left at the end of a grant, fine, I’ll come for a couple of months and I’d stay for six, you know, ‘cause I lived cheaply and wanted to do it. So, I mean, you know, I just simply – I was absolutely unconcerned with any of the things that bother people now about, you know, a career structure and thinking where I was going. I didn’t care a damn, I thought I was employable, right [laughs] I just [laughs] wanted, you know, I’d been given this opportunity, I was going to take it with both hands.

  • Interviewee Dan McKenzie
  • Duration 00:02:54
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 8/10/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/24

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