Marie Tharp was an American geologist and oceanographic cartographer. One of her major scientific accomplishments was the creation of the first scientific map of the Atlantic Ocean sea-floor, which Tharp created in collaboration with Bruce Heezen. When Tharp’s work showed a continuous rift valley along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, and she proposed this was due to plate tectonics, Heezen ridiculed her theory because she was a female. After confirming the rift with Howard Foster, who studied undersea earthquakes, Heezen and other earth scientists began to accept the theories of plate tectonics and continental drive.
Tharp grew up as the daughter of a map-maker for the United States Department of Agriculture, but originally aspired to be a teacher like her mother. Tharp graduated from Ohio University with bachelor’s degrees in English and Music with four minors. With the start of WWII, Tharp was recruited into a master’s program in petroleum geology at the University of Michigan given some of her coursework in geology as an undergraduate. After obtaining her master’s degree, Tharp went back to school and obtained a bachelor of science in mathematics. She then moved to New York and began working at the Lamont Geological Laboratory at Columbia University, where she met Bruce Heezen. This is when she began her research mapping the ocean floor.
In 1997, Tharp received double honors from the Library of Congress for being one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century. The first Lamont-Dohert Heritage Award was awarded to Tharp in 2001 for her pioneering work in oceanography. In this latter part of her career, Tharp was awarded numerous other awards in recognition of her research and scholarly work.
Photo Author and Owner of Copy Right: Bruce Gilbert