*Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologer Can Save the World*

Still more incredible is the fact that one person almost single-handedly created the first maps of two-thirds of the planet yet is unknown to the average citizen of Earth (while Amerigo Vespucci, whose cartographic credentials are suspect, has two continents named for him).  The unsung mapmaker Marie Tharp, who earned a master’s degree in geology from the University of Michigan, worked briefly for an oil company, and then in 1948 became a drafter for a new oceanographic project led by Maurice Ewing at Columbia University.  For years, Ewing’s all-male team of graduate students collected sonar soundings of the ocean floor while Tharp laboriously transformed the linear strings of depth readings into three-dimensional topography.

Here is the Wikipedia page for Marie Tharp.  Here is a biography of Marie Tharp, which I just ordered.  Timefulness is by Marcia Bjornerud and you can order it here.


"Geologer"?? I thought it was "geologist".

Stole my comment. I've been in geology for more than a decade, and have used geologic and topographic maps extensively, yet have never heard the term. Apparently it's an outdated term.

That said, I will certainly agree with the notion that thinking like a geologist is necessary to understand many of today's issues. Plus, spending more time in mountains/sea shores and drinking good beer can only serve to increase the overall happiness!

Behind every successful woman is an all-male team of graduate students that are really doing all the work.

With remarkable consistency "feel good" stories like this encourage males to discount females in the workplace. Is that their point - to stir up ill feelings?

I may say that when I published papers for which assistants had produced diagrams under my direction I would always give them credit under "acknowledgments". I hope Ms Tharp was accorded a similar courtesy.

If her intellectual contribution justified it, of course, she should have been a co-author.

yeet and yet
we think the point is if you can't be a biologer
that topographically mapping out the ocean is actually pretty cool?

billionaire mike/killer mike 2019

The effort to rewrite history so that we can preach to you about your misogyny.

Her wikipedia page says:

"Nonetheless, Tharp's name does not appear on any of the major papers on plate tectonics that he and others published between 1959 and 1963 [...] In 1997, Tharp received double honors from the Library of Congress, which named her one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century"

I wonder if her biography describes what happened around 1963? Did she increasingly cajole or demand that Heezen give credit for her work? Did he gradually recognize the essential unfairness (or even academic misconduct) of the situation? Social attitudes in the US were changing at that time, reducing the restrictions placed upon women so I wonder if that played a role in the shift in their publication process.

Since most people have never seen a map of the ocean floor, nor care about the ocean floor at all, it is not surprising that they have not heard of someone who made a map of it. Indeed, from the quoted extract to say that she made a map of it may be giving her undue credit, did she have more than a clerical role?

Son to become a blockbuster movie, "Hidden Depths."

I think the key phrase is "laboriously transformed." The science and engineering team hired her to do the mind numbing grunt work, taught her how to do it, and went back to the important stuff. Nowadays you'd used Fivr or Mechanical Turk.

This whole post has to be a joke, no? Some Sokal-style hoax? Or what am I missing?

I mean, the whole first sentence of the quotation is absurd. How many people on earth could say the name of the proponent of the theory of continental drift ? Certainly less than 1%. And America (one continent, not two!) was not named after Vespucci because of his "cartographic credentials", but simply because he said clearly that the new lands discovered by Columbus were not the extreme part of Asia, but something different. Also it helped him that Columbus was at that time in disgrace, and the crown of Spain in legal dispute with its heirs (the crown arguing that Columbus was a brutal criminal in order not to pay him his due -- it reminds me of something happening recently at my University about the renaming of Columbus Day).

The whole thing about Tharp could have made a very interesting story if considered an illustration of the French proverb "Il n'y a pas de sot métier" -- something difficult to translate, maybe in first approximation "there is no menial job" but of which I am sure the idea is well-known. Something explaining how the apparently repetitive job of transforming depth "linear" data into a 3D maps brand on some 2D paper can require much more skill, cleverness, initiative, and talent than a layperson would guess, and can also be extremely important.

Primo Levi wrote a marvelous novel, "la chiave a stella" ("the wrench") guided by this theme, on the magics of the work of an industrial worker, and also on his chemical work as a maker of paints and glues. There is, of course, not an ounce of identity politics in it, and no complaint that his worker is not quite as well-known as Archimedes.

>Still more incredible is the fact that one person


Many years ago I listened to a podcast by a geographer (geography and geology overlap, the former dealing with the actual physical shape of the earth while the latter deals with how it got that way) who explained that human existence has been determined by geography. I thought he was an extreme example of the myopia we all have about our chosen fields (economics, history, law, etc.), but after listening for awhile it all made sense. The oceans' bottom has no doubt affected humanity, its shape, its location, etc. Several hundred miles inland from my low country home is the shore line. Well, the shore line a long time ago (and maybe again sometime in the future). How do I know (besides reading science books)? Sea shells as thick as the sand at the coast. Oil, that which fueled the industrial revolution, is where it is for a reason. Ever noticed that the bulk of the world's supply of oil (and phosphate) is located within a relatively small band of latitudes? Why? A geographer knows. The earth is a constantly changing shape. It's a good idea to know something about it, not just the shape of it today but the shape of it many years ago and the shape of it in the future. Humanity's survival may depend on it.

Ever read 'Guns, Germs & Steel'?

I hope she felt appreciated, in her lifetime, by her peers, for her cartographic skill. But the "sung or unsung" framing, Tyler. I reject it. She is one of the very lucky ones of the world - she got to do what she was good at, whatever that exactly was, and it was something important and at the forefront of her field, for a long time. She thus enters the small natural aristocracy. I'm reminded of a marvelous old "History of Chemistry," at my public library. I was amazed at the contributions of so many people I had never heard of (not a few of whom died in pursuit of science). My husband tended to have heard of them - and could utter a sentence or two about them when prompted - but his reading habits make him one in fifty thousand non-scientists, I'd judge. I think this relentless push - from the "humanities" - to turn the history of science into a grievance story, devalues it and obscures the reasons people in the sciences get up and do what they do. In short, I don't think it ever has or ever will, produce a scientist, if that is in fact the aim.

By the by, my husband glanced over at my screen. "Timefulness?" Marie Tharp, I replied. On cue, he said, animatedly, "Oh, she's the reason for my globe!"

His childhood globe. I mentioned once, do we need to keep this? - the countries have changed ... Yes, we need to keep it! - who cares about the political map, it's a good globe because it's a relief map of the world. He seemed to think that set it apart from most people's globes.

I could have been your husband. Well, you know what I mean.

^^ voice of reason.

+1, interesting and germane

Very well said.

Was intended to peri's message above.

That's interesting. I thought I had seen these maps since forever, maybe I first did when National Geographic push them out .. probably shortly after 1977?

I was also raised to believe that every map of the ocean is called a chart.

National Geographic mass produced versions of the "Heezen-Tharp" maps. Opening out to something like 3 feet by 3 feet, they were folded and put in your copy of National Geographic magazine. I was fascinated by them when they came out.

Indian Ocean floor - 1967
Atlantic Ocean floor - 1968
Pacific Ocean floor - 1969
Arctic Ocean floor - 1971

Ah, that explains it. That was my youth.

No, a chart is what used to be called a graph. We can thank Lotus 1-2-3 and Ezra Klein for that.

You made me look it up, and learn something.

"A nautical chart represents hydrographic data, providing very detailed information on water depths, shoreline, tide predictions, obstructions to navigation such as rocks and shipwrecks, and navigational aids.

The term “map,” on the other hand, emphasizes landforms and encompasses various geographic and cartographic products. Some examples of maps might be road maps or atlases, or city plans. A map usually represents topographical information."

Possibly these are maps, because while of the ocean they are concerned with landmass, rather than navigation.

If you require that 3.9 billion people "know" "what the scientist did" (roughly), then I wonder how many scientists would be "known"? More than a handful? I doubt it. Of course, ("modern") science (as opposed to natural philosophy) hasn't been around all that long - the term "scientist" was coined in 1833. Of course, we all know who by.

ok we give up
how the f***
did the anthropomorcene geologists/ographers
figure out how to map the ocean floor?

Sonar and radar.

Her role was actually somewhat creative, for an unusual reason. What Lamont (and other places!) were collecting was echo soundings from research vessels--depths along the track the ship followed. (Now you can use satellites but not in the 1960's). Somebody had to take these numbers and plot them on a blank map, and then guess what the topography was and draw the guess. Usually the result would be a contour map, but the Navy wouldn't allow this for security reasons, so Tharp produced pictorial representations (which were much more appealing visually). So her job could be menial in parts and creative in others. There were other people making maps as well, so saying she "mapped two-thirds of the planet" is to overstate her role.

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