Nature PastCast, September 1963: Plate tectonics – the unifying theory of Earth sciences

This year, Nature celebrates its 150th birthday. To mark this anniversary we’re rebroadcasting episodes from our PastCast series, highlighting key moments in the history of science.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, the formation of mountains; we understand all these phenomena in terms of plate tectonics (large-scale movements of the Earth’s crust). But when a German geologist first suggested that continents move, in the 1910s, people dismissed it as a wild idea. In this podcast, we hear how a ‘wild idea’ became the unifying theory of Earth sciences. In the 1960s, data showed that the sea floor was spreading, pushing continents apart. Fred Vine recalls the reaction when he published these findings in Nature.

This episode was first broadcast in September 2013.

From the archive

Magnetic Anomalies Over Oceanic Ridges, by Vine & Matthews

For information regarding your data privacy, visit