Philosophical Society of Washington

Probing the Depths of Geology

Paul G. Silver
Carnegie Institution of Washington

2100th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 05, 1999 at 8:15 PM


There have been two major revolutions in the field of geological sciences. The first, about 200 years old, was the discovery of deep time: that the Earth is very old. The second is plate tectonics. It has demonstrated that what we call geology is embedded within constantly moving tectonic plates that are driven by convective motions in the Earth's mantle. Plate tectonics has linked geologic processes separated by great distances on the Earth's surface. Equally important, it has deepened geology by revealing strong interactions between the plates and the mantle below. Recent research shows that many geologic processes are controlled by forces deep within the Earth's interior, even down to its core. Thus, to be a geologist today, one must consider the Earth in its entirety.

About the Author:

Paul Silver is a Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. He has studied Earth science problems from understanding and ultimately predicting damaging earthquakes to using seismological techniques to delineate the structure and dynamics of the Earth's mantle. He is a world leader in the use of seismology to detect mantle deformation and flow. This has enabled him to study the relationship between mantle convection and the motions of the tectonic plates. He is presently involved in a large-scale experiment that extends across Southern Africa to study the mantle beneath this very ancient continent. Mr. Silver received BA degrees in Geology from U. C. Berkeley and Psychology from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Geophysics from U.C. San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he received the Carl Eckart Prize for outstanding thesis. He has been a staff scientist at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism since 1982.

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