The history of the plate tectonics theory dates back to the second decade of the 20th century, when Alfred Wegner proposed the idea of a continental drift to explain the fact that coastlines of the continents seemed to fit together like puzzle pieces. He proposed that this was because the continents used to all be fused together in one big land mass (Pangaea) and that they gradually spread out over the the oceans. Wegner’s theories were largely rejected, however, because he could not come up with an adequate explanation for why Pangaea had broken up and spread out. One of the theories he did come up with was that convection currents in the mantle caused the movement of plates. Unfortunately, this theory did not receive much attention, and Wegner’s Continental Drift theory was largely forgotten until the 1960s, when discoveries of mid-ocean ridges and other previously unseen oceanic features provided evidence that the ocean floors were moving as well as the continents. With this added evidence, the theory of mantle convection causing chunks of the Earth’s surface to move came back into the light, and so in the mid-1960s modern plate tectonics theory was established.
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