John Tuzo Wilson : biography
John Tuzo Wilson, CC, OBE, FRS, FRSC, FRSE (October 24, 1908–April 15, 1993) was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who achieved worldwide acclaim for his contributions to the theory of plate tectonics.
Plate tectonics is the idea that the rigid outer layers of the Earth (crust and part of the upper mantle), the lithosphere, are broken up into numerous pieces or "plates" that move independently over the weaker asthenosphere. Wilson maintained that the Hawaiian Islands were created as a tectonic plate (extending across much of the Pacific Ocean) which shifted to the northwest over a fixed hotspot, spawning a long series of volcanoes. He also conceived of the transform fault, a major plate boundary where two plates move past each other horizontally (e.g., the San Andreas Fault). His name was given to two young Canadian submarine volcanoes called the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts. The Wilson cycle of seabed expansion and contraction (also conversely called the Supercontinent cycle) bears his name.
Birth, education and military
Wilson's father was of Scottish descent and his mother was a third-generation Canadian of French Huguenot descent. He was born in Ottawa, Ontario. He became one of the first people in Canada to receive a degree in geophysics, graduating from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1930.Eyles, Nick and Andrew Miall, Canada Rocks: The Geologic Journey, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007, p. 38 ISBN 978-1-55041-860-6 He obtained various other related degrees from St. John's College, Cambridge. His academic years culminated in his obtaining a doctorate in geology in 1936 from Princeton University. After completing his studies, Wilson enlisted in the Canadian Army and served in World War II. He retired from the army with the rank of Colonel.
Career and awards
In 1969, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to the rank of Companion of that order in 1974. Wilson was awarded the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences in 1975. In 1978, he was awarded the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London and a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of London. He was the Principal of Erindale College at the University of Toronto and was the host of the television series, The Planet of Man.
He also served as the Director General of the Ontario Science Centre from 1974-1985. He and his plate tectonic theory are commemorated on the grounds outside by the Centre by a giant "immovable" spike indicating the amount of continental drift since Wilson's birth.
The eponymous John Tuzo Wilson Medal of the Canadian Geophysical Union recognizes achievements in geophysics.
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