Philosophical Society of Washington

Plate Tectonics and the Fossil Record: The Evolution of the Modern World

Daniel E. Appleman
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

2006th Meeting Abstract
Friday, January 22, 1993 at 8:15 PM


The history of life on Earth is intimately intertwined with the geologic history of the Earth as a planet. The fossil record provided some of the earliest (and most convincing) evidence for changes in the configuration of continents and oceans on the Earth's surface through time. Similarly, the impacts of continental drift on the development of living organisms provided most of the evidence which led Charles Darwin to speculate upon the impermanence of species. Our understanding of these fundamental physical and biological processes was largely initiated during the early 19th Century by scientists participating in global exploring and surveying expeditions. The history of their work sheds much light on the nature of scientific thought, the interface between science and the real world of politics and power, and the role of luck in the development of seminal scientific theories.

About the Author:

Daniel E. Appleman received a B.S. degree from the California Institute of Technology, and a M.S. and Ph.D from the Johns Hopkins University. He was employed as a research geologist for the United States Geological Survey from 1956 to 1974, when he joined the staff of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He was Chairman of the Department of Mineral Sciences from 1978-1983 and again from 1988-1989, when he assumed his present position as Associate Director for Science. His research interests lie in the atomic structure of minerals, especially silicates and uranium compounds, and in the crystallographic basis of mineral properties and reactions. Mr. Appleman has also been involved in several major exhibits, including the moon rock exhibit, the new paleontology halls, "Magnificent Voyagers" based on the Wilkes expedition of 1838-1842, and the current new Geology, Gems, and Minerals Halls.

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