Chapter 2

Back to Scripps


McKenzie moved from CaltechCaltechThe California Institute of Technology originated in 1891, but took its modern form (and name) in 1921; seismology was a concern in southern California and in 1937 the Seismological Laboratory moved to Caltech. Charles F Richter and Beno Gutenberg established their measurement scale for earthquakes there and by the 1960s the Seismo Lab was a focus for earthquake research. Frank Press, who was Director from 1957-65, was an innovator in quantitative research, and put an emphasis on computing in earthquake seismology. back to ScrippsScrippsScripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California was established to support marine biological research, but from 1908 onwards pioneered geophysical research in the oceans. Teddy Bullard was a frequent visitor and undertook early ocean floor heat flow measurements with Roger Revelle. In 1962 the University of California established the new Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics alongside Scripps in La Jolla. in the summer of 1967 with no particular project in mind. “I sat down and read all of Harry HessHarry HessHarry Hess (1906-1969) began his career at Princeton in the 1930s, undertaking submarine gravity experiments with Vening Meinesz. After war service and promotion to an Admiral of the US Navy, he returned to Princeton and his interests in marine geology. His proposal of seafloor spreading and the conveyor belt carrying new ocean crust away from the mid-ocean ridges was influential. He had also worked on the gravity anomalies that became associated with subduction zones, encouraging him to consider mantle convection as a part of plate tectonics. ’s papers, which was very illuminating. And I looked again at Teddy’s continental fit.” BullardBullardMcKenzie’s PhD supervisor, Edward Crisp Bullard (1907 – 1980), was a noted experimental physicist who devised innovative equipment and developed a dynamo theory to model the origin of the Earth’s magnetic field. He was a student of Ernest Rutherford and a pioneer of marine geophysics in the UK. He was head of the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge through the 1960s, noted as a good leader who supported his staff, always managing to find a little money to get a student to a significant conference or to kick-start a new project. had assessed the fit between continents using the longitude; McKenzie realized that using the area was more helpful. “The penny dropped: I realized that this is the way to think about rigid motions on a sphere. Once you have the idea, the whole of plate tectonics is obvious to somebody whose background is in maths and physics. Within a few days I was clear that this was the description that one should use.”

McKenzie’s employment registration form for Scripps, July 1967.