Demystifying the inner workings of the planet we call home

John Tuzo Wilson was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who received worldwide acclaim

John Tuzo Wilson (1908 – 1993) was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who achieved worldwide acclaim for his contributions to the theory of plate tectonics.

John Tuzo Wilson was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who received worldwide acclaim for his contributions to plate tectonics. Need a refresher? Plate tectonics is the theory according to which earth’s outer crust is composed of seven main plates, which move according to forces deep inside the planet. The shifting of these plates can cause earthquakes and prompt major geological changes—think forming volcanoes, raising mountains and opening and closing ocean basins. Wilson’s work, which remains authoritative to this day, helped explain various geological phenomena and provided further evidence for plate tectonic theory.

Born in Ottawa in 1908, John Tuzo Wilson studied at the University of Toronto and was one of the first people in Canada to obtain a degree in geophysics. He went on to receive his doctorate in geology from Princeton, after which he put his academic career on hold to enlist in the army. He served during the Second World War and reached the rank of colonel before retiring and returning to his alma mater in Toronto, this time as a professor and researcher. He spent twenty years in this position before taking an appointment as principal at Erindale College. After he retired seven years later, he became the director general of the Ontario Science Centre and took on various roles at the University of Toronto and York University. Following his second retirement he pursued numerous writing and research projects, working until his passing in 1993.

Outside of his involvement with plate tectonics, Wilson made valuable contributions to many other facets of earth sciences. He furthered humankind’s understanding of glaciers, ocean basins and mountain building, and helped pioneer the use of photos in geological mapping. He’s also behind the first glacial map of Canada.

In addition to his work in geology and geophysics, Wilson wrote two books about China and was an avid global traveller. He also spent his leisure time pursuing mountaineering, photography and sailing.

John Tuzo Wilson was granted 15 honorary degrees during his lifetime, in addition to numerous awards and medals. He notably received the prestigious Vetlesen Prize, widely regarded as the Nobel Prize for earth scientists. An Arctic mountain range, a volcano on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and a geophysics medal have all been named in his honour. His instrumental contributions to plate tectonic theory are fittingly commemorated by a sculpture outside the Ontario Science Centre. The piece represents the scope of continental drift that’s occurred since the 1908 birth of one of Canada’s greatest scientists.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘It’s job No. 1 right now’: B.C.’s Harmac Pacific providing pulp for critical medical supplies

Bryan Reid Sr. of Williams Lake said they received a call of thanks from Canada’s Chrystia Freeland

Clearwater Famers Market looking for help

“The Farmers Market and the North Thompson (Valley) need more local food.”

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Rainer Meat Cutting continues family tradition

Finding a new role in the days of COVID-19

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan, amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

UNBC opts for virtual convocation in June, commits to face-to-face after COVID-19

Interim president Geoff Payne said feedback prompted him to commit to traditional one when possible

Researchers to study whether plasma of recovered patients can treat COVID-19

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains the antibodies that protect against illness

Most Read