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Plate tectonics theory

the motion, formation and recycling of Earth’s crust East Anglia,

A map of the whole Earth centred on the Pacific Ocean, showing the contours of the ocean floor.
Topographical relief map of the Earth’s oceans, 1978. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Dan McKenzie (born 1942), a Cambridge geophysicist, developed the theory of plate tectonics using earlier ideas of continental drift. This is now the accepted model for explaining the structure of the Earth. 

His mathematical models explained how the Earth’s mantle slowly moves as heat rises from the inside of the planet to the surface. Tectonic plates that make up the crust are carried along on top of the liquid mantle through the process of convection. 

Understanding that the Earth’s surface is moving in this way has given scientists greater insight into how earthquakes and volcanoes occur. The theory that the Earth’s crust is made up of a few massive plates has also helped explain mountain ranges, ocean beds and the movement of continents. 

Science Museum

East Anglia
University of Cambridge
Key Individuals
Dan McKenzie,