Fred Vine: plate tectonics revealed by a new discipline - marine geophysics

Fred Vine comments on the role of Teddy Bullard and the relatively new discipline of marine geophysics in the revelation of plate tectonics in the 1960s, often at odds with the discipline of geology.

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And then Teddy Bullard, he came into the lecture theatre in the Cavendish, and, you know, it was a fairly fancy lecture theatre for the days, you know, it had blinds that went up and down, controlled electrically and a board and this and that. So he started off sort of pretending he didn’t understand all the controls, so that things were going up and down, you know, it was absolutely a hoot to start [laughs]. And he, as I say, was inspirational because he just started talking off the cuff. I mean he had a syllabus about recent developments in geophysics sort of thing. And it was absolutely fantastically exciting, you know, everything they did turned up something new, which was roughly true. You know, they put a – and partly because they'd only just devised the instruments, you know; it’s technology led very largely. But they just had to deploy a magnetometer and a buoy off the Western Approaches or something, got some fascinating data which they weren’t expecting, you know. And they just – well not so many years earlier, he and people at Woods Hole had developed a probe that could measure heat flow from through the ocean floor and this sort of thing, you know. And they were just beginning to get all these – this magnetic data off the west coast of the US, showing magnetic lineations and – it seemed to me as though anything you did turned to gold. You know, you came up with [laughs] not surprisingly, because we knew so little about the oceans. So this whole course was just, you know, such a contrast to everything else, it was just [laughs] a complete inspiration. And you thought wow, I mean this is the thing to do, this is the exciting area, you know, this is marine geophysics, can’t go wrong. The geologists were much more staid, quite apart from anything else they didn’t like Teddy’s rather flamboyant [laughs] extrovert [laughs]. But I meant this was reflected nationally, you know, down in London. I mean it didn’t go down very well there, you know, in those days they were a bit more snooty than they are now. Teddy didn’t have a lot of respect for geologists actually [laughs]. I always remember he was always making rude remarks about geologists and they were making rude remarks about him. I remember, erm, you know, once we’d got through the plate tectonic revolution as it’s called, in the late ‘60s, and – I was with him once or with a group of people and he said – we were saying, you know, what a sort of change it was and how everything had been sort of simplified and integrated in a way within plate tectonics. And Teddy said, ‘Well give the geologists, ten or twenty years, they’ll bugger it all up again,’ you know, ‘they’ll make it so terribly complicated.’ [Laughs]

  • Interviewee Fred Vine
  • Duration 00:02:34
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 8/20/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/25

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