D.P. McKenzie, D.H.Matthews, F.J.Vine

1981 Balzan Prize for Geology and Geophysics

Distinguished for their outstanding joint contribution to earth sciences, in particular, for their work on sea floor spreading and continental drift, and the development of the theory of plate tectonics.

From 1963 to 1970 Frederick John Vine and Drummond Hoyle Matthews studied the phenomenon of the sea-floor spreading, with special reference to the earth’s magnetic field reversal. Vine and Matthews gathered experimental data that made a vital contribution to confirming the theory of sea-floor spreading.

In 1966, Dan Peter McKenzie, on the basis of both the results of the research carried out by Matthews and Vine and of his own personal research work initially carried on in the Pacific, introduced the overall theory of plate tectonics, subsequently developed during the course of further research work continued up to the present day, also in other oceans.

According to this theory the earth’s crust and the upper mantle consist of a number of rigid plates which « float » on a plastic Iower mantle. This is an entirely new concept of geology and of the earth’s geological history — very important also for their future developments — and has revolutionized the field of geophysics.

There are numerous facts supporting this theory, i.e. results of studies of materials and processes from the mid-ocean ridge crests to the continental margins, geological derivations from the earth’s magnetic field reversal and deep-sea drilling, and also the studies of the geographic distribution of earthquakes and volcanos on the plate boundaries.

In conclusion, the research of the inversion of the earth’s magnetic field carried out by Drummond Hoyle Matthews and Frederick John Vine brought final proof of the principle of sea-floor spreading. On these bases, Dan Peter McKenzie has introduced the theory of plate tectonics.

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