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Plate tectonics at 50

The Geological Society has been celebrating 50 years of plate tectonics. Flo Bullough* has a round-up.

jghIn December 1967, Dan McKenzie and Bob Parker published a paper in Nature – ‘The North Pacific: an example of tectonics on a sphere’. This paper, building on work by many other scientists in preceding years, was arguably the crucial final step in establishing the paradigm of plate tectonics, providing a unifying context for Earth science that was rapidly accepted across the geological community.

Photo credits: Will Amlott.   

jkgOur celebrations culminated in September and October, with a host of events and initiatives across the Society. The William Smith Meeting was an exceptional event attended by over 200 people in Burlington House, joined online by over 600 individuals and organisations from 36 countries. It featured the William Smith Lecture, given by Dan McKenzie, and was covered on BBC radio, the BBC website and in a Nature editorial.

We launched the Dan McKenzie Archive website (W:, and held an associated exhibition at Burlington House. We also organised a schools event on plate tectonics and mineral resources – one of over 50 events taking place across the country during Earth Science Week (7-15 October), the theme for which was ‘Our Restless Earth’ (See Photo competition).

jhgPlate Tectonic Stories

The Society also launched an online resource and competition entitled ‘Plate Tectonic Stories’, celebrating the role of narrative and storytelling in geology. The online resource tells the stories of 20 geological sites in the UK and Ireland that were shaped by plate tectonic processes. These sites have been ‘twinned’ with others around the world where similar tectonic processes and geological features can be observed in operation today. See W:

jkgFor the Competition, we are inviting school students, members of the public and even enthusiastic geologists to tell us a plate tectonic story of their own, in any medium.  You might take inspiration from one of the 20 sites already featured, or from one of the twinned sites, or from the many plate tectonic resources on the website - including the Dan McKenzie Archive or the 2017 photo competition.

The closing date for entries to the competition is 30 April 2018, so please do your creative best in telling stories about the impact of plate tectonics around the globe.

* Flo Bullough is the Society’s Policy Officer