Google is celebrating Marie Tharp, an American geologist and oceanographic cartographer, on the anniversary of the day she was named one of the greatest cartographers of the 20th century.
In 1998, the Library of Congress named Tharp one of the greatest cartographers for her work proving theories of continental drift and for co-publishing the first world map of ocean floors.
Marie Tharp is quoted as saying: “I had a black canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities, a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to piece together.
“It was a once–in-a-lifetime, a once-in-the-history-of-the-world-opportunity for anyone, but especially for a woman in the 1940s.”
Who was Marie Tharp?
Marie Tharp was born on July 30, 1920, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her father worked for the US Department of Agriculture and introduced her to mapmaking at an early age.
She attended the University of Michigan, where she achieved a master’s degree in petroleum geology, which was especially impressive considering that few women worked in science at the time.
In 1948, Tharp moved to New York City, to become the first woman to work at Lamont Geological Observatory.
This is where she met geologist Bruce Hezeen, who gathered ocean-depth data in the Atlantic Ocean.
Tharp used this data to create maps of the ocean floor, and discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using new findings from echo sounders. However, these findings were dismissed by Heezen as “girl-talk”.
However, when they compared Tharp’s findings with earthquake epicentre maps, they discovered that the ridge really did exist.
In 1957, Tharp and Heezen co-published the first map of the ocean floor in the North Atlantic, which was published by National Geographic 20 years later.
In 1995, Tharp donated her entire map collection to the Library of Congress. Then, in 1998, on the centenary of the Geography and Map Division, the Library of Congress named Tharp one of the greatest cartographers of the 20th century.
In 2001, the observatory where she began her career awarded her with its first annual Lamont-Doherty Heritage Award.
Marie Tharp died in 2006, aged 86.
Her story is celebrated in today’s interactive Google Doodle, narrated by three women scientists who are working in the traditionally male-dominated field of ocean science and geology: Caitlyn Larsen, Rebecca Nesel, and DrTiara Moore.
Larsen told Google Doodle: “Marie’s story is one of perseverance and strength in a time when women were scarce in the geosciences, and not taken seriously when they were there at all.
“She stood up for what she knew was true and didn’t care how people perceived her for asserting herself, because she knew her ideas had to be asserted to be heard.”
She added: “I feel confident to assert information when faced with those who doubt me, and I’m proud to call myself a headstrong woman geologist, just like her.”
Nesel told Google Doodle: “Marie’s story inspires me because she was a woman in earth science, when that was very uncommon and dealt with many challenges because of that, like not being allowed on the research vessels or having her work dismissed by her own colleagues.
“Regardless, she remained confident in her work and her abilities, and didn’t let those challenges dim her creativity and passion towards her work. Marie’s story inspires me to keep sharing my own ideas with the world, even when it’s scary.”
Finally, Dr Moore said: “Marie Tharp is important to me because she is a formidable woman in science! Even when her colleagues were telling her she was wrong, an experience I know all too well, she decided that she knew her work was excellent and wouldn’t be proven wrong so she did it again. And she was right.
“She created the first maps of the ocean floor and they are still used today. Marie reminds me to always let my haters be my motivators, and excellent work simply can’t be discounted!”