Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

The 1979 award of the Walter H. Bucher medal (for original contributions to the basic knowledge of the Earth's crust)


  • Allan Cox,

  • Edward Irving


The theory of plate tectonics and its forerunner, the theory of continental drift, have been aptly described by President-elect J. Tuzo Wilson as comprising a scientific revolution. No field has contributed more to this revolution than paleomagnetism, and no scientist has contributed more to this field than has Edward Irving.

In a seminal 1956 paper, Irving determined the paleolatitudes of North America, Europe, and Australia from paleomagnetic data and compared these with the geological records on these continents of paleocli-mates. He demonstrated that, except possibly for the Precambrian, the two data sets were in remarkably good agreement: coral reefs and rocks formed in ancient deserts lay at low paleomagnetic latitudes whereas ancient glacial deposits lay at high paleomagnetic latitudes. Using paleomagnetic data, Irving calculated pole paths for North America and Europe and noted that the path for North America lay to the west of the path for Europe. He concluded in his 1956 paper that during the Mesozoic and Paleozoic North America lay closer to Europe and that India, Australia, North America, and Europe had all undergone continental drift.