The woman who mapped the ocean

What she accomplished was thanks to her skill and perseverance. Marie Tharp fought against scientific prejudices to prove her theories. Thus, she succeeded in being the woman who mapped the ocean.

She was born in Michigan in 1920. She took a postgraduate degree in Geology and another in Mathematics. Then she worked as a geologist in an oil company. In New York she met the marine geologist Bruce Heezen, collaborator in several projects.

Marie Tharp, the woman who mapped the ocean.
Marie Tharp, the woman who mapped the ocean.

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Plate tectonic theory

His professional activities included locating sunken ships during World War II. But then came his main contribution to science and understanding of the world. His maps of the relief of the seabed. Together with Bruce he produced the first complete map of all the oceans of the planet.

At that time, women were not allowed to work aboard research vessels in the United States. It was Heezen who took the data. Tharp composed the information to draw the maps by hand. His first cartography depicted the North Atlantic. It was first published in 1957. They identified a submarine ridge running through the seabed.

At the age of 45, in 1965, Tharp was able to embark for the first time. More than 10 years later, in 1977, together with Heezen, he published his map of the entire ocean floor. He had the collaboration of the Austrian painter Heinrich Berann.

These maps contributed to evidence for the theory of plate tectonics. She remained active at Columbia University until 1983. The woman who mapped the ocean passed away in 2006, at the age of 86.

She remained active at Columbia University.
She remained active at Columbia University.


“Today Marie Tharp is recognized for what a revolutionary she was. In 1997, the Library of Congress named her one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century.” Columbia University lays this out in an outreach article. “She died of cancer in 2006, at the age of 86. But her legacy lives on in the countless women scientists she inspired,” the academic campus adds.

The company Google dedicated this November 21 its famous Doodle (‘doodle’, in English). It is a sometimes animated illustration. It could be seen on the main page of the search engine for 24 hours.

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