history in gifs

In 1912 Alfred Wegener proposed a controversial theory about how the Earth’s land masses formed. He said the great continents had once formed a single landmass, which had broken up over time. The idea went against all conventional ideas, and was roundly dismissed.

It took the work of young cartographer Marie Tharp to prove him right.

In 1947, she worked on a team that were running expeditions around the world, mapping the ocean floors with echolocation. However, Marie wasn’t allowed on the missions because women were seen as ‘bad luck’…

But the work she did back at the university was invaluable. Converting endless data into detailed profiles, she realised that the ocean floor isn’t a flat, featureless plane, but a complex, varied landscape.

Most importantly, she spotted a long, V-shaped valley in each of her profiles: a rift valley that supported Wegener’s theory, formed by two land masses moving apart, splitting the ocean floor in two.

But even with this evidence, Tharp’s ideas were dismissed as ‘girl talk’.

She then realised that her profiles tied in with worldwide earthquake maps being developed by a colleague.

The mounting evidence started to convince some sceptics, but not all. Renowned explorer Jacques Cousteau was so unconvinced that he sent an expedition to film the ocean floor and clear things up once and for all. What did his footage show? Exactly what Tharp had predicted.

Tharp’s steadfast determination had paved the way for Wegener’s continental drift theory to gain traction. As the tide of opposition waned, it gave birth to our modern understanding of plate tectonics and secured Tharp’s position as one of the most outstanding cartographers of the 20th century.

Watch the full story on our YouTube channel.

On this day but in 1750, Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born.

Caroline Herschel was the sister of the astronomer William Herschel. After learning astronomy alone and math with the help of her brother, she became his assistant. His most significant contribution to astronomy were the discoveries of various comets, especially comet 35P / Herschel-Rigollet.

“I have as much muscle as any man and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed and can any man do more than that?” -Sojourner Truth

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, or National African American History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.

We are beginning by honoring Sojourner Truth, an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist who escaped slavery with her infant daughter in 1826. In 1828, she went to court to get back her son, who had been illegally sold into slavery at the age of 5. She became one of the first black women to go to court against a white man and win the case.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How to use rhetoric to get what you want - Camille A. Langston

Animation by TOGETHER

We’re sharing some of our favorite Black History Month figures you need to know about.

This is Bayard Rustin, a leading figure in the civil rights movement and advisor to Martin Luther King. He was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington and was heavily involved in the first Freedom Rides. 

He was also gay and a registered communist who went to jail for his sexual orientation. 

Although widely heralded, he was attacked even by fellow activists for his faith in nonviolence, unapologetic queerness, and attention to income equality. President Obama honored Rustin posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Read about more Black women and men currently making history as artists and activists.