The theory of "continental drift" was first popularly proposed by the German geologist Alfred Wegener. Continental drift proposed that the continents were constantly "drifting", or moving across the surface of the Earth (and occasionally bumping into each other). Continental drift was the fist hint of plate tectonics, the current accepted theory of the way the lithosphere functions.

Map courtesy of CR Scotese, PALEOMAP Project
  • On November 1, 1880, geologist Alfred Wegener was born in Berlin, Germany. Wegener was one of the earliest advocates of the theory of continental drift. Continental drift is the movement (“drift”) of continents across Earth’s surface.Many scientists and cartographers had noticed that the landmasses of the planet fit together like a giant jigsaw puzzle—the most noticeable example probably being the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa.Wegener searched for evidence that these continents were once united, and had “drifted” apart. To do this, he sampled rock strata and fossils from either side of the Atlantic Ocean. The material collected from both continents was similar—too similar to have developed independently.
    Wegener’s theory of continental drift was ultimately supported by the more robust theory of plate tectonics, which developed in the mid 20th century.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    continent Noun

    one of the seven main land masses on Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continent
    continental drift Noun

    the movement of continents resulting from the motion of tectonic plates.

    Encyclopedic Entry: continental drift
    plate tectonics Noun

    movement and interaction of the Earth's plates.

    robust Adjective

    healthy and strong.

    strata Plural Noun

    (singular: stratum) layers of rock or other materials.