2012 Foster Hewett Lectures

100 Years of Continental Drift

picture of alfred wegener

Alfred Wegener

This is the 100th anniversary of Alfred Wegener's classic work on continental drift. The idea of continents in motion was dismissed in North America for over half the 20th century, but plate tectonics, the direct descendant of continental-drift theory, is now the unifying paradigm for the Earth sciences. In 2012, the D. Foster Hewett lecture series explores the history of this complex scientific revolution and current research towards understanding our dynamic planet.

Program and Schedule (February 9 & 10, 2012)

Along with EES, cosponsored by the Department of History and the Science, Technology and Society Program

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 (Sinclair Auditorium)

3:30 pm: Refreshments
4:30 pm: Professor Henry Frankel, University of Missouri-Kansas City
"Why mobilism was accepted in the mid-1960s"
5:30 pm: Professor Rob van der Voo, University of Michigan
"Developments in paleomagnetism: Continental drift, paleolatitudes, paleolongitudes"

Friday, February 10th, 2012 (101 STEPs Building)

12:00 pm: Dr. Rob McCaffrey, Portland State University
"Great subduction zone earthquakes"
1:00 pm: Professor Joann Stock, California Institute of Technology
"Plate tectonics of the Antarctic region"

Contact Prof. David Anastasio (8610-758-5117) or Prof. Ken Kodama (610-758-3663) for additional details or answers to questions.

picture of alfred wegener in field tent

Wegener in Greenland conducting meteorology research

ees page-end glyph


The Annual Donnel Foster Hewett Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and is supported by a bequest which was made to the department by one of its most distinguished alumni, Donnel Foster Hewett.

Hewett matriculated at Lehigh University in September 1898. Following graduation in 1902, he spent another year at Lehigh as an assistant in metallurgy and mineralogy under the direction of Joseph Barrell. After Joseph Barrell moved to the Department of Geology at Yale in 1907, Hewett went there in 1909 to study geology and received his Ph.D.

In 1911, he joined the U.S. Geological Survey and his career with the organization spanned 60 years until his death in 1971. When in 1951, Donnel Foster Hewett reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, his full-time employment by the Survey was continued indefinitely by Presidential order. To a great host of geologists, he became a legend in his own time and was affectionately referred to as "Mr. Geological Survey" or "Mr. Manganese", the latter because of his devotion to and advancement of our understanding of the mineralogy and genesis of manganese ores.

During his career he received many honors:

  • Vice President, Geological Society of America in 1935 and 1945
  • President of the Society of Economic Geologists in 1936
  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1937 and the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1949
  • Distinguished Medal of the Department of the Interior in 1951
  • Penrose Medal in 1964
  • Honorary Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1942