Tuzo Wilson’s well-known pre-1961 opposition to continental drift stemmed from his early experience as a geologist in the Appalachians and the Canadian Shield, which convinced him that orogenesis did not change drastically over geologic time. Conversely, Taylor (in 1910) and Wegener (in 1912) hypothesized that continental drift began in Cenozoic or Mesozoic time. Between 1949 and 1960, Tuzo Wilson with Adrian Scheidegger developed a quasi-uniformitarian model of progressive continental accretion around fixed Archean nuclei. Tuzo abruptly jettisoned this model in 1961 when, under pressure from paleomagnetic evidence for continental drift and a nascent concept of sea-floor spreading, he finally entertained the possibility of pre-Mesozoic as well as younger continental drift. He immediately found it a superior fit to Appalachian and Shield geology, while his uniformitarian conviction remained intact. Tuzo had blinded himself to the evidence for continental drift so long as he confined it to Taylor or Wegener’s conception. In continental drift operating continuously over geologic time, he found a theory he could eagerly accept.

You do not currently have access to this article.