Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, February 25, 2019

Remembering a Veteran: Alfred Wegener, German Army – Scientist-Explorer Extraordinaire

Alfred Lothar Wegener (1880–1930) earned a PhD in astronomy from the University of Berlin in 1905. He had meanwhile become interested in paleo-climatology, and from 1906–08 he took part in an expedition to Greenland to study polar air circulation. He would make three more expeditions to Greenland, in 1912–13, 1929, and 1930. 

In 1914, however, he put his brilliant scientific career aside to serve as an infantry officer.  Deployed to the Western Front, he was wounded twice, the second time so seriously he was deemed unfit for further front line combat  Nevertheless, Wegener stayed in the army with its meteorological service for the duration of the war.

Arctic Explorer
Wegener is best known for his theory of Continental Drift, which was opposed by much of the scientific community while he was alive. He had written about the phenomenon before the First World War and fleshed out the idea while he was recuperating from his wounds in 1915.  Out of his work eventually evolved the theory of Plate Tectonics, which is today universally accepted. As a meteorologist he did ground breaking work on the use of weather balloons, gathering atmospheric data, climatology, the ice ages, and ice-crystal formation.

After the war, he taught meteorology at Marburg and Hamburg and was a professor of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz from 1924 to 1930. Meanwhile, his enthusiasm for arctic exploration continued. Alfred Wegener died during his last expedition to Greenland in 1930. His remains were never found.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


  1. And his diary is apparently buried in the ice as well.
    What an astonishing life!

  2. Great and interesting story. I wonder if his remains ever will be found.