J. Tuzo Wilson

J. Tuzo Wilson


1908 - 1993

J. . Tuzo Wilson was a Canadian scientist who achieved worldwide acclaim for his contributions to the theory of plate tectonics which had an important bearing on the theories of continental drift, seafloor spreading, and convection currents within the earth.


Wilson was born in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. His father was of Scottish descent and mother was a third-generation French Canadian. He received a degree in geophysics from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1930. He obtained other related degrees from St. John’s College, Cambridge. He obtained his doctorate in geology in 1936 from Princeton University. After completing his studies, Wilson enlisted in the Canadian Army and served in World War 11. He retired from the army with the rank of Colonel. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards: In 1969 he was made an officer of the Order of Canada and in 1974 promoted to the rank of Companion of that order; awarded in 1975 the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London and a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society of Canada; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of Canada, and The Royal Society of London and Edinburgh. He was elected President of the American Geophysical Union and served as the Director General of the Ontario Science Centre.


In the early 1960’s, Wilson became the world’s leading spokesman for the  revived  submarine theory of continental drift, at a time when prevailing opinion held that continents were fixed and immovable as described in his 1965 paper entitled, “A New Class of Faults and their Bearing on Continental Drift “ . Whereas previous theories of continental drift had conceived of plates as either moving closer together or further apart, Wilson asserted that a third kind of movement existed whereby plates slide past each other. This theory became one of the bases for plate tectonics, which revolutionized the geological sciences in the 1970’. His name was given to two young Canadian  submarine volcanoes called the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts. The Wilson cycle of seabed expansion and contraction (also called the Supercontinent cycle) bears his name.


Head of Border Trail Between US and Canada

Maine Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail • 27 Blake Street * Presque Isle, ME 04769