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Marie Tharp

Marie Tharp
Watercolor on 9″ x 12″ watercolor paper
The latest addition to the She Changed the World series!

Marie Tharp (1920-2006) actually changed how we understand the world. The daughter of a teacher and a geologist, Tharp became a geologist herself after graduating from Ohio University in 1943, followed by a master’s in geology from the University of Michigan and a degree in mathematics from the University of Tulsa.

Employed by the Lamont Geological Laboratory at Columbia University, she initially was only able to map information collected by her partner Bruce Heezen while he was on the ocean, as women were not allowed from working aboard ship. It wasn’t until 1965 that she was allowed to work on the ocean directly. She and Heezen were to first to set out to create a systematic attempt to map the entire ocean floor, with their complete map published in 1977.

Her work revealed the presence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which was the critical information needed to allow the general acceptance within the scientific community of plate tectonics and continental drift. The Ridge showed that the sea floor was spreading in a definitive way. Think about that for a moment. Marie’s work at the time was disregarded as ‘girl talk’, even by Heezen, but it ended up changing the way every human being understands the world we live upon.