Harry Hammond Hess

Harry Hammond Hess (May 24, 1906 – August 25, 1969) was a geologist and a United States Navy officer in World War II.

Considered one of the "founding fathers" of the unifying theory of plate tectonics, Rear Admiral Harry Hammond Hess was born on May 24, 1906, in New York City. He is best known for his theories on sea floor spreading, specifically work on relationships between island arcs, seafloor gravity anomalies, and serpentinized peridotite, suggesting that the convection of the Earth's mantle was the driving force behind this process. This work provided a conceptual base for the development of the theory of plate tectonics.

Harry Hammond Hess
BornMay 24, 1906
New York City
DiedAugust 25, 1969 (age 63)
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
NationalityUnited States
Alma materPrinceton University
AwardsPenrose Medal (1966)
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorArthur Francis Buddington
Doctoral studentsEugene Merle Shoemaker[1]
John Tuzo Wilson[2]
Ronald Oxburgh
InfluencesF. A. Vening-Meinesz[3]

Teaching career

Harry Hess taught for one year (1932–1933) at Rutgers University in New Jersey and spent a year as a research associate at the Geophysical Laboratory of Washington, D. C., before joining the faculty of Princeton University in 1934. Hess remained at Princeton for the rest of his career and served as Geology Department Chairman from 1950 to 1966. He was a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (1949–1950), and the University of Cambridge, England (1965).

The Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932

Hess accompanied Dr. Felix Vening Meinesz of Utrecht University on board the US Navy submarine USS S-48 to assist with the second U.S. expedition to obtain gravity measurements at sea. The expedition used a gravimeter, or gravity meter, designed by Meinesz.[4] The submarine traveled a route from Guantanamo, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, and return to Guantanamo through the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos region from 5 February through 25 March 1932. The description of operations and results of the expedition were published by the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office in The Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932.[5]

Military and war career

Hess joined the United States Navy during World War II, becoming captain of the USS Cape Johnson, an attack transport ship equipped with a new technology: sonar. This command would later prove to be key in Hess's development of his theory of sea floor spreading. Hess carefully tracked his travel routes to Pacific Ocean landings on the Marianas, Philippines, and Iwo Jima, continuously using his ship's echo sounder. This unplanned wartime scientific surveying enabled Hess to collect ocean floor profiles across the North Pacific Ocean, resulting in the discovery of flat-topped submarine volcanoes, which he termed guyots, after the nineteenth century geographer Arnold Henry Guyot. After the war, he remained in the Naval Reserve, rising to the rank of rear admiral.

Scientific discoveries

In 1960, Hess made his single most important contribution, which is regarded as part of the major advance in geologic science of the 20th century. In a widely circulated report to the Office of Naval Research, he advanced the theory, now generally accepted, that the Earth's crust moved laterally away from long, volcanically active oceanic ridges. He only understood his ocean floor profiles across the North Pacific Ocean after Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen (1953, Lamont Group) discovered the Great Global Rift, running along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.[6][7] Seafloor spreading, as the process was later named, helped establish Alfred Wegener's earlier (but generally dismissed at the time) concept of continental drift as scientifically respectable. This triggered a revolution in the earth sciences.[8] Hess's report was formally published in his History of Ocean Basins (1962),[9] which for a time was the single most referenced work in solid-earth geophysics. Hess was also involved in many other scientific endeavours, including the Mohole project (1957–1966), an investigation onto the feasibility and techniques of deep sea drilling.

Accolades and affiliations

Hess was president of The Geological Society of America in 1963 and received their Penrose Medal in 1966.[10]


Hess died from a heart attack in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1969, while chairing a meeting of the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences. He was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery and was posthumously awarded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Public Service Award.

The Harry H. Hess Medal

The American Geophysical Union established the Harry H. Hess medal in his memory in 1984 to "honor outstanding achievements in research of the constitution and evolution of Earth and sister planets."[11][12][13]

Past recipients

Selected publications

  • Hess, H.H. (1946). "Drowned ancient islands of the Pacific basin". Am. J. Sci. 244 (11): 772–91. Bibcode:1946AmJS..244..772H. doi:10.2475/ajs.244.11.772.
    • Also in:
      • —— (1947). "Drowned ancient islands of the Pacific basin". International Hydrographic Review. 24: 81–91.
      • —— (1948). "Drowned ancient islands of the Pacific basin". Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1947: 281–300.
  • ——; Maxwell, J. C. (1953). "Major structural features of the south-west Pacific: a preliminary interpretation of H. O. 5484, bathymetric chart, New Guinea to New Zealand.". Proceedings of the 7th Pacific Science Congress: Held at Auckland and Christchurch, New Zealand, 1949. 2. Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, Ltd. pp. 14–17.
  • —— (1954). "Geological hypotheses and the Earth's crust under the oceans". A Discussion on the Floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A. 222. pp. 341–48.
  • —— (1955). "The oceanic crust". Journal of Marine Research. 14: 423–39.
  • —— (1955). "Serpentines, orogeny and epeirogeny". In A. W. Poldervaart (ed.). Crust of the Earth. Geological Society of America, Special Paper No. 62 (Symposium). New York: The Society. pp. 391–407.
  • —— (1959). "The AMSOC hole to the Earth's mantle". Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. 40: 340–345. Bibcode:1959TrAGU..40..340H. doi:10.1029/tr040i004p00340.
    • Also in:
      • Hess, H.H. (1960). "The AMSOC hole to the Earth's mantle". American Scientist. 47: 254–263.
  • —— (1960). "Nature of great oceanic ridges". Preprints of the 1st International Oceanographic Congress (New York, August 31-September 12, 1959). Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science. (A). pp. 33–34.
  • —— (1960). "Evolution of ocean basins". Report to Office of Naval Research. Contract No. 1858(10), NR 081-067: 38. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


  1. ^ Chemistry Tree profile Harry Hammond Hess
  2. ^ "J Tuzo Wilson". Virtual Geoscience Center. Society of Exploration Geophysics. Archived from the original on 2010-07-15.
  3. ^ Frankel, H. (1987). "The Continental Drift Debate". In H.T. Engelhardt Jr; A.L. Caplan (eds.). Scientific Controversies: Case Solutions in the resolution and closure of disputes in science and technology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-27560-6.
  4. ^ Duncan, Francis (2012). Rickover: The Struggle for Excellence. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1591142218.
  5. ^ http://siris-libraries.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!210409!0 | The Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932
  6. ^ Ewing, John; Ewing, Maurice (March 1959). "Seismic-refraction measurements in the Atlantic Ocean basins, in the Mediterranean Sea, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and in the Norwegian Sea". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 70 (3): 291–318. Bibcode:1959GSAB...70..291E. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1959)70[291:SMITAO]2.0.CO;2.
  7. ^ Heezen, B. C. (1960). "The rift in the ocean floor". Scientific American. 203 (4): 98–110. Bibcode:1960SciAm.203d..98H. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1060-98.
  8. ^ Wilson, J. Tuzo (December 1968). "A Revolution in Earth Science". Geotimes. Washington DC. 13 (10): 10–16.
  9. ^ Hess, H. H. (November 1, 1962). "History of Ocean Basins". In A. E. J. Engel; Harold L. James; B. F. Leonard (eds.). Petrologic studies: a volume in honor of A. F. Buddington (PDF). Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America. pp. 599–620.
  10. ^ Eckel, Edwin (1982) Geological Society of America – Life History of a Learned Society, Boulder, Colorado, Geological Society of America Memoir 155, page 168, ISBN 0-8137-1155-X.
  11. ^ "Harry H. Hess Medal". American Geophysical Union. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
  12. ^ "Hess, Harry Hammond. Encyclopedia of Earth Science. New York Academy of Sciences, Timothy M. Kusky.
  13. ^ "Hess, Harry", Encyclopedia of Earth and Space Science, p. 375.
  14. ^ http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~sue/TJA_LindhurstLabWebsite/ListPublications/Papers_pdf/Seismo_1881.pdf
  15. ^ "Michael John O'Hara was Awarded the 2007 Harry H. Hess Medal" Archived 2015-12-24 at the Wayback Machine. ciw.edu.
  16. ^ Niu, Yaoling. "O'Hara Receives 2007 Harry H. Hess Medal". Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union. 89: 31. Bibcode:2008EOSTr..89...31N. doi:10.1029/2008EO040003.
  17. ^ "Professor David Walker Awarded Harry H. Hess Medal | Earth and Environmental Sciences". columbia.edu.
  18. ^ "NLSI Scientists Receive Career Awards". nasa.gov.
  19. ^ "Congratulations to Prof Bernie Wood on being awarded the Harry H Hess Medal of the American Geophysical Union. – University of Oxford Department of Earth Sciences" Archived 2013-09-19 at the Wayback Machine. ox.ac.uk.
  20. ^ https://honors.agu.org/winners/claude-p-jaupart/
  21. ^ https://eos.org/agu-news/alex-halliday-receives-2016-harry-h-hess-medal
  22. ^ http://news.agu.org/press-release/american-geophysical-union-announces-recipients-of-the-2017-union-medals-awards-and-prizes/
  23. ^ https://eos.org/agu-news/timothy-l-grove-receives-2018-harry-h-hess-medal

Further reading

External links

Arville Irving Levorsen

Arville Irving Levorsen (1894–1965) was an American geologist. He served as the dean of the School of Mineral Sciences at Stanford University.

Cape Johnson Guyot

Cape Johnson Guyot is a guyot in the Pacific Ocean, more precisely in the Mid-Pacific Mountains, and the type locality of guyots. It is of middle Cretaceous age and a number of fossils have been dredged from it.

Charles L. Drake

Charles Lum Drake (July 13, 1924 – July 8, 1997) was an American geologist who was Professor of Geology at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.

Eliot Blackwelder

Eliot Blackwelder (June 4, 1880 – January 14, 1969) was an American geologist who from 1922 to 1945 was head of the Stanford University department of geology. He served as President of the Geological Society of America in 1940 and of the Seismological Society of America from 1947 to 1949.

Geology of Antigua and Barbuda

The geology of Antigua and Barbuda is part of the Lesser Antilles volcanic island arc. Both islands are the above water limestone "caps" of now inactive volcanoes. The two islands are the surface features of the undersea Barbuda Bank and have karst limestone landscapes.

Barbuda is primarily flat and formed from coral reefs. The Middle Miocene Highlands Formation has limestones which are the oldest rocks on the island, rising 120 feet above sea level. The Beazer Formation and the Codrington Formation are both from the Pleistocene and comprise reef and lagoon related rocks.The geologic record of Antigua indicates a transition from island arc volcanism to limestone deposition in the Late Oligocene. Hence the island is characterized by a Basal Volcanic Suite (BVS) on the mountainous southwest, a Central Plain Group (CPG) extending from St. Johns to the southeast, and the Antigua Formation on the northeast portion of the island in the direction of regional dip. The CPG consists of siliciclastic and limestone, marine and non-marine sedimentary rocks, containing petrified wood and gastropods within chert. The Antigua Formation includes benthic foraminifers and molluscs, scleractinian corals, echinoids, crabs, bryozoans, crinoid columns and sponges. The limestone Devil's Bridge, is an example of this formation.On Antigua, the south of the island is mainly calc-alkaline volcanic rock such as dacite and quartz basalt or andesite, along with limestone lenses, agglomerate and tuff formed during the Oligocene. Generally andesite dominated volcanism across the island gave way to limestone and chert formation.Between 200 and 500 CE, native peoples on Antigua were active in lapidary, working local diorite, shells and carnelian as well as imported nephrite, amethyst, turquoise and serpentinite.

George A. Thompson (geologist)

George A. Thompson (June 5, 1919 – May 12, 2017) was an American geologist.


In marine geology, a guyot (pronounced ), also known as a tablemount, is an isolated underwater volcanic mountain (seamount) with a flat top more than 200 m (660 ft) below the surface of the sea. The diameters of these flat summits can exceed 10 km (6.2 mi). Guyots are most commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, but they have been identified in all the oceans except the Arctic Ocean.

Harry Hammond (disambiguation)

Harry Hammond (c. 1932–2002) was a British street evangelist.

Harry Hammond may also refer to:

Harry Hammond (footballer) (1868–1921), English footballer

Harry S. Hammond (1884–1960), American football player and businessman

Happy Hammond (Harry Hammond, 1917–1998), Australian comedian and children's show host

Harry Hess (disambiguation)

Harry Hess (born 1968) is a Canadian singer and guitarist.

Harry Hess may also refer to:

Harry Hammond Hess (1906–1969), American geologist and United States Navy officer during World War II

Harry Hess (American football), American college football coach

Hess-Apollo (crater)

Hess-Apollo is a feature on Earth's Moon, a crater in Taurus–Littrow valley. Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt landed north of it in 1972, on the Apollo 17 mission, but did not visit it. The astronauts referred to it simply as Hess during the mission.

Hess is adjacent to the similarly-sized crater Mackin. To the north is Camelot, to the northwest are Shorty and Lara, and to the west is Nansen. To the northeast is Emory.

The crater was named by the astronauts after geologist Harry Hammond Hess.

Hess (surname)

Hess or Heß, a German and Ashkenazic surname, meaning somebody originally from the region of Hesse. Two alternative origins have been reported. Usage in the south of Germany may arise from a contraction of the personal name Matthäus, whereas appearance in Germany or The Netherlands may arise from a modification of the personal name Hesso.Notable people who share this surname include:

Adam Hess (born 1981), American basketball player

Adam Hess (Comedian), British Comedian

András Hess, Hungarian printer

Beat W. Hess (born 1949), Swiss businessman

Bernhard Hess (born 1966), Swiss politician

Bernhard von Hess (1792–1869), Bavarian Lieutenant General and War Minister

Carl von Hess (1863–1923), German ophthalmologist

Catherina Hess, (born 1985), German actress

Damian Hess aka MC Frontalot, nerdcore rapper

Dean Hess (1917-2015), American Air Force Colonel

Derek Hess, (born 1964), American artist

Elizabeth Hess (born 1953), Canadian actress

Elmar Hess (born 1966), German artist

Eric Hess, American wrestler

Erika Hess (born 1962), Swiss alpine skier

Fred Hess (1944–2018), American jazz musician

Fred Hess (Wisconsin) (1858-1925), American politician

Fred J. Hess (1848-1928), American politician

Germain Henri Hess (1802–1850), Russian-Swiss chemist

Gregory Hess (born 1962), 16th President of Wabash College

Hans-Georg Hess (1923-2008), German U-boat captain

John Jacob Hess (1584-1639), Swiss-German Anabaptist minister and martyr

Harry Hammond Hess (1906–1969), American geologist best known for his theories on sea floor spreading

Harry Hess, American college sports coach

Harvey Hess (1939-2012), American lyric poet

Heinrich von Heß (1788–1870), Austrian fieldmarshall

Heinrich Maria von Hess, German painter

Hieronymus Hess, Swiss drawer, painter, caricaturist (1799-1850)

Ilse Hess, German writer (1900-1995)

Jake Hess, American southern gospel vocalist

Jared Hess (born 1979), American writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite

Johann Hess (Hesse), (1490–1547), German theologian

Karl Hess (1923–1994), American speechwriter and author

Karl Hess (painter) (1801-1874), German painter

Leon Hess Founder, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Hess Corporation and the New York Jets NFL Football franchise until his death

Markus Hess, German hacker

Michael A. Hess (1952-1995), American lawyer

Moses Hess (1812–1875), Jewish philosopher and proto-Zionist

Myra Hess (1890–1965), British pianist

Nigel Hess, British composer

Ortwin Hess, British optician and physicist

Orvan Hess (1906–2002), doctor who invented the fetal heart monitor

Peter von Hess, German painter

Robert Hess (college president) (1938-1994), American President of Brooklyn College

Rudolf Hess (1894–1987), Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany

Rudolf Hess (1903–1986), Californian painter and art critic

Sara Whalen Hess (born 1976), American Olympic soccer player

Ursula Hess (born 1946), Swiss archer

Ursula Hess (psychologist) (born 1960), German psychologist

Victor Francis Hess (1883–1964), Austrian-American physicist who discovered cosmic rays

Walter Rudolf Hess (1881–1973), Swiss physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949

Willy Hess (violinist) (1859–1939), German famous violin virtuoso

Willy Hess (composer) (1906–1997), Swiss musicologist, composer, and famous Beethoven scholar

Wolf Rüdiger Hess (Heß) (1937–2001), German architect, right extremist and son of Rudolf Hess

History of geophysics

The historical development of geophysics has been motivated by two factors. One of these is the research curiosity of humankind related to planet Earth and its several components, its events and its problems. The second is economical usage of Earth's resources (ore deposits, petroleum, water resources, etc.) and Earth-related hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tides, and floods.

John Rodgers (geologist)

John Rodgers (11 July 1914 – 7 March 2004) was an American geologist who was Silliman Professor of Geology at Yale University.

Julian Goldsmith

For the British politician see Sir Julian Goldsmid, 3rd BaronetJulian Royce Goldsmith (1918–1999) was a mineralogist and geochemist at the University of Chicago (Moore, 1971). Goldsmith, along with colleague Fritz Laves, first defined the crystallographic polymorphism of alkali feldspar (Newton, 1989). Goldsmith also experimented on the temperature dependence of the solid solution between calcite and dolomite (Newton, 1989). Goldsmith’s research also led him to experiment with the determination of the stability of intermediate structural states of albite (Newton, 1989). For his outstanding contributions to the study of mineralogy and geochemistry, Goldsmith was awarded the prestigious Roebling Medal by the Mineralogical Society of America in 1988 (Newton, 1989). The mineral julgoldite was named for him.

Laurence L. Sloss

Laurence L. Sloss (August 26, 1913 – November 2, 1996) was an American geologist. He taught geology at Northwestern University from 1947 until his retirement in 1981.He was president, Geological Society of America (GSA), with his tenure beginning in 1980. The GSA's Laurence L. Sloss Award is named in his honor. He was also president of the Society for Sedimentary Geology and American Geosciences Institute.

Robert S. Dietz

Robert Sinclair Dietz (September 14, 1914 – May 19, 1995) was a scientist with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey. Dietz was a marine geologist, geophysicist and oceanographer who conducted pioneering research along with Harry Hammond Hess concerning seafloor spreading, published as early as 1960–1961. While at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography he observed the nature of the Emperor chain of seamounts that extended from the northwest end of the Hawaiian Island–Midway chain and speculated over lunch with Robert Fisher in 1953 that something must be carrying these old volcanic mountains northward like a conveyor belt.In later work he became interested in meteorite impacts, was the first to recognize the Sudbury Basin as an ancient impact event, and discovered a number of other impact craters. He championed the use of shatter cones as evidence for ancient impact structures. He received the Walter H. Bucher Medal from the American Geophysical Union in 1971, the Barringer Medal from the Meteoritical Society in 1985 and the Penrose Medal from the Geological Society of America in 1988.

Dietz was an outspoken critic of creationism, and was the faculty advisor of two student groups at Arizona State University in 1985, Americans Promoting Evolution Science (APES) and the Phoenix Skeptics. Dietz spoke on evolution and creationism at meetings of these groups, and debated creationist Walter Brown and Christian apologist William Lane Craig at Arizona State University.

Ronald Oxburgh, Baron Oxburgh

Ernest Ronald Oxburgh, Baron Oxburgh, (born 2 November 1934) is a British geologist, geophysicist, and politician. Lord Oxburgh is well known for his work as a public advocate in both academia and the business world in addressing the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and develop alternative energy sources as well as his negative views on the consequences of current oil consumption.

Samuel Calvin (geologist)

Samuel Calvin (February 2, 1840 – April 17, 1911) was Iowa's first systematic geologist, helping to make the first bedrock and landform maps of Iowa, as well as leading geological research throughout the state. He was born in Scotland, attended Lenox College (now defunct) in Hopkinton, Iowa, where he later taught. One of his collaborators was Thomas Huston Macbride, the notable Iowa naturalist. Calvin became a University of Iowa professor in 1873 and the Iowa State Geologist in 1892, and led the Iowa Geological Survey from 1892 until his death. Calvin documented the Devonian and Aftonian beds of Iowa, and was an expert on Pleistocene fauna. He was a founder of the American Geologist journal. Calvin Hall at the University of Iowa is named for him. His photographic collection of Iowa scenes is an important collection for historians and geologists. Calvin was president of the Geological Society of America in 1908.

W. Jason Morgan

William Jason Morgan (born October 10, 1935) is an American geophysicist who has made seminal contributions to the theory of plate tectonics and geodynamics. He retired as the Knox Taylor Professor emeritus of geology and professor of geosciences at Princeton University. He currently serves as a visiting scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.



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