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Why plate tectonics was not invented in the Alps


In the Alps, folds were recognized in the early eighteenth century, thrusts in the middle of the nineteenth century. The nappe theory, developed from 1884 to 1902, led to a mobilistic approach, implying large-scale relative movements of Europe and of a prong of Africa (Argand, Staub). The existence of Mesozoic oceans or ocean-like basins was also realized. Ampferer introduced the concept of subduction (Verschluckung). Around 1935, Alpine geologists somehow became afraid of their own courage, and failed to present a coherent interpretation of the structure and evolution of the chain. The theory of plate tectonics was developed primarily by geophysicists at sea, who took little account of the Alpine evidence.

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Trümpy, R. Why plate tectonics was not invented in the Alps. Int J Earth Sci 90, 477–483 (2001).

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  • Alps History of geology Nappe tectonics Plate tectonics Ampferer Argand Staub