A Woman to Know: Marie Tharp

It was very exciting in those days. We were explorers. — Marie

(image via The New York Times)

She was a mapmaker. But she was also an artist. And even more importantly, she was a scientist.

At Columbia University's Earth Institute, she began sketching the Atlantic Ocean — first, in pen and ink. Previous versions of these maps involved huge blank spaces, deemed "incomprehensible" by her male contemporaries. But Marie wanted to know more. She began examining earthquake patterns and tectonic plate movements — the first to ever note sea floor movement. She was the first to "discover" ocean-floor mountain ranges, memorialized in her minutely detailed cartography.

As her contemporary William Ryan noted: "The maps that hang on the walls of corridors in so many universities around the world and in so many science departments are not just the ocean. They're Marie Tharp's ocean."

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** Thank you to Amy N. Diegelman for recommending Marie and her stellar map skills. Please send your own recommendations for women to know! You can browse the archive here for ladies featured previously. Reply to this newsletter with your lady and she might show up in a future edition! **