John Tuzo Wilson

John Tuzo Wilson, CC, OBE, FRS,[1] FRSC, FRSE (October 24, 1908 – April 15, 1993) was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who achieved worldwide acclaim for his contributions to the theory of plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics is the idea that the rigid outer layers of the Earth (crust and part of the upper mantle), the lithosphere, are broken up into numerous pieces or "plates" that move independently over the weaker asthenosphere. Wilson maintained that the Hawaiian Islands were created as a tectonic plate (extending across much of the Pacific Ocean) shifted to the northwest over a fixed hotspot, spawning a long series of volcanoes. He also conceived of the transform fault, a major plate boundary where two plates move past each other horizontally (e.g., the San Andreas Fault). His name was given to two young Canadian submarine volcanoes called the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts.[3] The Wilson cycle of seabed expansion and contraction (associated with the Supercontinent cycle) bears his name.

John ('Jock') Tuzo Wilson
John Tuzo Wilson in 1992
John Tuzo Wilson in 1992
BornOctober 24, 1908
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
DiedApril 15, 1993 (aged 84)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater
Known forTheory of Plate tectonics
Scientific career
FieldsGeophysics & Geology
InstitutionsUniversity of Toronto
Doctoral advisorHarry Hammond Hess
Doctoral studentsHarold Williams


He was born in Ottawa on October 24, 1908, the son of John Armistead Wilson CBE, and his wife, Henrietta Tuzo.[4] Wilson's father was of Scottish descent and his mother was a third-generation Canadian of French descent.

He became one of the first people in Canada to receive a degree in geophysics, graduating from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1930.[5] He obtained a second (BA) degree from St. John's College, Cambridge in 1932 and then a doctorate (ScD). His academic years culminated in his obtaining his second doctorate (PhD) in geology in 1936 from Princeton University.

After completing his studies in 1936, Wilson joined the Canadian Geological Survey as a government geologist. This was interupted by the Second World War during which he served with the Royal Canadian Engineers, serving in Europe and reaching the rank of Colonel. He was involved in Operation Musk Ox.[6]

After the war, in 1946, he was appointed the first Professor of Geophysics at Toronto University. In 1967 he became Principal of the university. In 1974 he left to become the Director General of the Ontario Science Centre. In 1983 he became Chancellor of York University, Toronto.r

He retired in 1986 and died in Toronto on April 15, 1993.


In 1938 he married Isabel Jean Dickson.

Career and awards

John Tuzo Wilson was president (1957–1960) of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG). In 1969, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to the rank of Companion of that order in 1974.[7] Wilson was awarded the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences in 1975.[8] In 1978, he was awarded the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London and a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He also served as honorary vice president of the RCGS.[9] He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Canada, and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[10] He was the principal of Erindale College at the University of Toronto and was the host of the television series The Planet of Man. He was elected president-elect (1978–1980) and president (1980–1982) of the American Geophysical Union. He also served as the director general of the Ontario Science Centre from 1974 to 1985. He and his plate tectonic theory are commemorated on the grounds of the Centre by a giant "immovable" spike indicating the amount of continental drift since Wilson's birth.

The John Tuzo Wilson Medal of the Canadian Geophysical Union recognizes achievements in geophysics. He is also commemorated by a named memorial professorship and an eponymous annual public lecture delivered at the University of Toronto.

He is one of the 2016 inductees into Legends Row: Mississauga Walk of Fame.[11]


Wilson was an avid traveller and took a large number of photographs during his travels to many destinations, including European countries, parts of the then USSR, China, the southern Pacific, Africa, and to both polar regions. Although many of his photos are geological—details of rocks and their structures or panoramas of large formations—the bulk of his photos are of the places, activities and people that he saw on his travels: landscapes, city views, monuments, sites, instruments, vehicles, flora and fauna, occupations and people.

Selected publications

  • One Chinese Moon (1959)
  • Wilson, Tuzo (July 14, 1962). "Cabot Fault, An Appalachian Equivalent of the San Andreas and Great Glen Faults and some Implications for Continental Displacement". Nature. 195 (4837): 135–138. Bibcode:1962Natur.195..135W. doi:10.1038/195135a0.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (February 9, 1963). "Evidence from Islands on the Spreading of Ocean Floors". Nature. 197 (4867): 536–538. Bibcode:1963Natur.197..536W. doi:10.1038/197536a0.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (1963). "A Possible Origin of the Hawaiian Islands" (PDF). Canadian Journal of Physics. 41 (6): 863–870. Bibcode:1963CaJPh..41..863W. doi:10.1139/p63-094.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (July 24, 1965). "A new Class of Faults and their Bearing on Continental Drift". Nature. 207 (4995): 343–347. Bibcode:1965Natur.207..343W. doi:10.1038/207343a0.
  • Vine, F. J.; Wilson, J. Tuzo (October 22, 1965). "Magnetic Anomalies over a Young Oceanic Ridge off Vancouver Island". Science. 150 (3695): 485–9. Bibcode:1965Sci...150..485V. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.150.3695.485. PMID 17842754.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (August 13, 1966). "Did the Atlantic close and then re-open?". Nature. 211 (5050): 676–681. Bibcode:1966Natur.211..676W. doi:10.1038/211676a0.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (1966). "Are the structures of the Caribbean and Scotia arc regions analogous to ice rafting?". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 1 (5): 335–338. Bibcode:1966E&PSL...1..335T. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(66)90019-7.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (December 1968). "A Revolution in Earth Science". Geotimes. Washington DC. 13 (10): 10–16.
  • Wilson, J. Tuzo (1971). "Du Toit, Alexander Logie". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 4. pp. 261–263.

See also


  1. ^ a b Garland, G. D. (1995). "John Tuzo Wilson. 24 October 1908–15 April 1993". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 41: 534–552. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1995.0032.
  2. ^ West, Gordon F.; Farquhar, Ron M.; Garland, George D.; Halls, Henry C.; Morley, Lawrence W.; Russell, R. Don (2014). "John Tuzo Wilson, a man who moved mountains". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 51 (3): xvii. Bibcode:2014CaJES..51D..17W. doi:10.1139/cjes-2013-0175.
  3. ^ Cousens, Brian L.; Chase, R. L.; Schilling, J.-G. (1985). "Geochemistry and origin of volcanic rocks from Tuzo Wilson and Bowie seamounts, northeast Pacific Ocean". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 22 (11): 1609–17. Bibcode:1985CaJES..22.1609C. doi:10.1139/e85-170.
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5.
  5. ^ Eyles, Nick and Andrew Miall, Canada Rocks: The Geologic Journey, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007, p. 38 ISBN 978-1-55041-860-6.
  6. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5.
  7. ^ "Order of Canada citation". Governor General of Canada.
  8. ^ "John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  9. ^ "Gold Medal". Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
  10. ^ "John Tuzo Wilson" (PDF). obituary. Royal Society of Edinburgh.
  11. ^ "Malton native and NHL legend Paul Coffey heads Legends Row Class of 2016". October 27, 2016.

External links

  • "J. Tuzo Wilson". GSA Today, Rock Stars. September 2001. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
Academic offices
Preceded by
John S. Proctor
Chancellor of York University
Succeeded by
Larry Clarke
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
Henry Duckworth
President of the Royal Society of Canada
Succeeded by
Guy Sylvestre
1908 in Canada

Events from the year 1908 in Canada.

1993 in Canada

Events from the year 1993 in Canada.

Bancroft Award

The Bancroft Award is an award of the Royal Society of Canada "given for publication, instruction, and research in the earth sciences that have conspicuously contributed to public understanding and appreciation of the subject".

The award was endowed in 1968 to honour her late husband by the wife of Joseph Austin Bancroft (1882–1957), formerly Dawson Professor at McGill University. It is normally awarded on a biennial basis and consists of a presentation scroll and a cash award of CAD $2,500.

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame was conceived by Maurice R. Brown as a way to honor Canada's mine finders and builders, in recognition of accomplishments by leaders in the Canadian mining industry.

It The Hall was established in 1988; in 2006 it had over 120 members.

Distinguished Canadians

Distinguished Canadians (originally titled Interview) is a Canadian talk show television series which aired on CBC Television from 1971 to 1972.

Hawaii hotspot

The Hawaii hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located near the namesake Hawaiian Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean. One of the best known and intensively studied hotspots in the world, the Hawaii plume is responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, a 5,800-kilometre (3,600 mi) mostly undersea volcanic mountain range. Four of these volcanoes are active, two are dormant; more than 123 are extinct, most now preserved as atolls or seamounts. The chain extends from south of the island of Hawaiʻi to the edge of the Aleutian Trench, near the eastern coast of Russia.

While most volcanoes are created by geological activity at tectonic plate boundaries, the Hawaii hotspot is located far from plate boundaries. The classic hotspot theory, first proposed in 1963 by John Tuzo Wilson, proposes that a single, fixed mantle plume builds volcanoes that then, cut off from their source by the movement of the Pacific Plate, become increasingly inactive and eventually erode below sea level over millions of years. According to this theory, the nearly 60° bend where the Emperor and Hawaiian segments of the chain meet was caused by a sudden shift in the movement of the Pacific Plate. In 2003, fresh investigations of this irregularity led to the proposal of a mobile hotspot theory, suggesting that hotspots are mobile, not fixed, and that the 47-million-year-old bend was caused by a shift in the hotspot's motion rather than the plate's.

Ancient Hawaiians were the first to recognize the increasing age and weathered state of the volcanoes to the north as they progressed on fishing expeditions along the islands. The volatile state of the Hawaiian volcanoes and their constant battle with the sea was a major element in Hawaiian mythology, embodied in Pele, the deity of volcanoes. After the arrival of Europeans on the island, in 1880–1881 James Dwight Dana directed the first formal geological study of the hotspot's volcanics, confirming the relationship long observed by the natives. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was founded in 1912 by volcanologist Thomas Jaggar, initiating continuous scientific observation of the islands. In the 1970s, a mapping project was initiated to gain more information about the complex geology of Hawaii's seafloor.

The hotspot has since been tomographically imaged, showing it to be 500 to 600 km (310 to 370 mi) wide and up to 2,000 km (1,200 mi) deep, and olivine and garnet-based studies have shown its magma chamber is approximately 1,500 °C (2,730 °F). In its at least 85 million years of activity the hotspot has produced an estimated 750,000 km3 (180,000 cu mi) of rock. The chain's rate of drift has slowly increased over time, causing the amount of time each individual volcano is active to decrease, from 18 million years for the 76-million-year-old Detroit Seamount, to just under 900,000 for the one-million-year-old Kohala; on the other hand, eruptive volume has increased from 0.01 km3 (0.002 cu mi) per year to about 0.21 km3 (0.050 cu mi). Overall, this has caused a trend towards more active but quickly-silenced, closely spaced volcanoes—whereas volcanoes on the near side of the hotspot overlap each other (forming such superstructures as Hawaiʻi island and the ancient Maui Nui), the oldest of the Emperor seamounts are spaced as far as 200 km (120 mi) apart.

Iapetus Ocean

The Iapetus Ocean was an ocean that existed in the late Neoproterozoic and early Paleozoic eras of the geologic timescale (between 600 and 400 million years ago). The Iapetus Ocean was situated in the southern hemisphere, between the paleocontinents of Laurentia, Baltica and Avalonia. The ocean disappeared with the Acadian, Caledonian and Taconic orogenies, when these three continents joined to form one big landmass called Euramerica. The "southern" Iapetus Ocean has been proposed to have closed with the Famatinian and Taconic orogenies, meaning a collision between Western Gondwana and Laurentia.

Because the Iapetus Ocean was positioned between continental masses that would at a much later time roughly form the opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean, it can be seen as a sort of precursor of the Atlantic. The Iapetus Ocean was therefore named for the titan Iapetus, who in Greek mythology was the father of Atlas, after whom the Atlantic Ocean was named.

J. Tuzo Wilson Medal

The J. Tuzo Wilson Medal is given out annually by the Canadian Geophysical Union to recognize scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of geophysics in Canada. Factors taken into account in the selection process include excellence in scientific or technical research, instrument development, industrial applications and/or teaching. The award was created in 1978 and named after its first recipient, John Tuzo Wilson.

Larry Clarke

Larry Denman Clarke, OC, LLD (Hon) (June 12, 1925 – October 22, 2015) was a Canadian businessman and the founder, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of SPAR Aerospace Limited, the designer of the Canadarm. He is a founding Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and from 1987 to 1991, was the Chancellor of York University.

Larry Clarke was born in London in 1925 and moved to Canada in 1939 after attending Eton College. After graduating from Trinity College School and serving as a Technician in the Royal Canadian Navy during the second world war, he earned a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1949. He later worked in the Canadian Department of Defense and at de Havilland Aircraft before founding SPAR Aerospace and leading its acquisition from de Havilland in 1967.In 1988, Clarke was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2004 he was awarded the Canadian Space Agency's Chapman Award for 2004 for "his remarkable contribution to the advancement of the Canadian Space Program".Clarke died on October 22, 2015 in West Vancouver.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1968

This page lists Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1968.

List of presidents of the Royal Society of Canada

The list of presidents of the Royal Society of Canada is a list of all the past and present presidents of the Royal Society of Canada.

Logan Medal

There is also a Logan Medal of the arts, awarded by the Chicago Arts Institute.The Logan Medal is the highest award of the Geological Association of Canada. Named after Sir William Edmond Logan, noted 19th-century Canadian geologist. It is presented annually to an individual for sustained distinguished achievement in Canadian earth science.

Tuzo Wilson Seamounts

The Tuzo Wilson Seamounts, also called J. Tuzo Wilson Knolls and Tuzo Wilson Knolls, are two young active submarine volcanoes off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, located 200 km (124 mi) northwest of Vancouver Island and south of the Haida Gwaii archipelago (briefly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.) The two seamounts are members of the Kodiak-Bowie Seamount chain, rising 500 m (1,640 ft) to 700 m (2,297 ft) above the mean level of the northeastern Pacific Ocean and is a seismically active site southwest of the southern end of the Queen Charlotte Fault. They are named after Canadian geologist John Tuzo Wilson.

Volcanic belt

A volcanic belt is a large volcanically active region. Other terms are used for smaller areas of activity, such as volcanic fields. Volcanic belts are found above zones of unusually high temperature (700-1400 °C) where magma is created by partial melting of solid material in the Earth's crust and upper mantle. These areas usually form along tectonic plate boundaries at depths of 10–50 km. For example, volcanoes in Mexico and western North America are mostly in volcanic belts, such as the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt that extends 900 km from west to east across central-southern Mexico and the Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province in western Canada.

The deeply deformed and eroded remnants of ancient volcanic belts are found in volcanically inactive regions such as the Canadian Shield. It contains over 150 volcanic belts (now deformed and eroded down to nearly flat plains) that range from 600 to 1200 million years old. These are zones of variably metamorphosed mafic to ultramafic volcanic sequences with associated sedimentary rocks that form what are known as greenstone belts. They are thought to have formed at ancient oceanic spreading centers and island arc terranes. The Abitibi greenstone belt in Ontario and Quebec, Canada is one of the world's largest greenstone belts.

Volcanic belts are similar to a mountain range, but the mountains within the mountain range are volcanoes, not mountains that are formed by faulting and folding by the collision of tectonic plates.

Willet G. Miller Medal

The Miller Medal is an award of the Royal Society of Canada given for outstanding research in any branch of the earth sciences. The award consists of a gold-plated silver medal and is awarded every two years if there is a suitable candidate.In 1941, twelve friends of Willet Green Miller, FRSC (1867–1925), a distinguished geologist, and a guiding force in the development of the Ontario mining industry, subscribed funds to provide the Willet G. Miller Medal for geology.

Wilson Mountains

The Wilson Mountains (72°15′S 061°50′W are a group of mountains including Hjort Massif, rising to approximately 1,600 metres (5,250 ft) to the west of Merz Peninsula, Black Coast, Palmer Land in Antarctica. The feature is bounded to the west by the Du Toit Mountains, to the north by Beaumont Glacier and Hilton Inlet, and to the south by Defant Glacier.

First photographed from the air by USAS, 1940. Mapped by USGS from U.S. Navy aerial photographs taken 1966-69. In association with the names of continental drift scientists grouped in this area, named by US-ACAN after John Tuzo Wilson (1908–93), Canadian geophysicist who visited Antarctica on US Navy Operation Deep Freeze, 1958. Wilson was professor of Geophysics, University of Toronto, 1946–74 and Director-General, Ontario Science Centre, 1974-85.

Wilson cycle

The Wilson cycle is a model where a continent rifts, forms an ocean basin in-between, and then begins a process of convergence that leads to the collision of the two plates and closure of the ocean. The model is named after its originator John Tuzo Wilson. It has been suggested that Wilson cycles on Earth started about 3 Ga (3 billion years) ago in the Archean Eon of Earth's history.A Wilson cycle is not the same as a supercontinent cycle, which is the break-up of one supercontinent and the development of another and takes place on a global scale. The Wilson cycle rarely synchronizes with the timing of a supercontinent cycle. However, supercontinent cycles and Wilson cycles were both involved in the creation of Pangaea and Rodinia.

Wollaston Medal

The Wollaston Medal is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London.

The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston, and was first awarded in 1831. It was originally made of gold (1831–1845), then palladium, a metal discovered by Wollaston (1846–1860). Next in gold again (1861–1929) and then in palladium again (1930–present).


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