Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor
In 1948, Marie Tharp walked into the Lamont Geological Laboratory at Columbia University and demanded a job. At the time, few women worked in geology or any other field of science, but Marie was no ordinary woman. By 1956, she and her partner Bruce Heezen had completed the first full map of the ocean floor, using innovative sounding techniques to chart the ocean’s topography. And with Marie’s map came the first clues to the new theory of plate tectonics, which would explain the workings of the entire planet.
As a biography, this book takes an innovative approach, as the author freely inserts sections of personal narrative detailing her own quest to discover Marie’s history, along with liberal imaginings of how private scenes or discussions may have played out in Marie’s life. But while these interludes may at first appear to be signs of sloppy authorship, together they make the book a kind of patchwork quilt of history, alternating squares of memoir, biography, and science. The author’s research is thorough, and the fragmented narrative beautifully fits the subject. This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in geology, oceanography, cartography, or the broader history of women in science.