John Tuzo Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson, Ph.D , CC , OBE , D.Sc , FRS , FRSC , FRSE (October 24, 1908April 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, shifted slowly in a northwesterly direction 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 a young Canadian submarine volcano called the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts, which is a hotspot volcano at coordinates . The Wilson cycle of seabed expansion and contraction (also conversely called the Supercontinent cycle) bears his name.

Wilson was born to Scottish immigrants to Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. He became the first person in Canada to take a university course in geophysics, graduating from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1930. 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.

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. He was awarded the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London for 1978. 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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