This is a very informative book about the life of Marie Tharp who mapped the ocean floor, noticed the Atlantic rift, and influenced the scientific world to discover plate tectonics All of the information was important, but it reads like a non fiction autobiography which is a littleof a slog for me to read Marie was so happy to be working on this important map work when so many qualified woman graduates in science were relegated to be nothingthan secretaries However, she never was allowed on a research ship because a woman was considered bad luck This from supposed scientists She was often ignored or downplayed Many times her name wasn t mentioned in articles describing the results of her work She worked closely with Bruce Heezen who gathered the data on the ships He sometimes got credit for the work they did, but both of them were sometimes ignored partly because of university department politics and competition with other oceanographers She was skilled in both art and science which made her perfect for the job she did This is yet another story of a woman whose contribution was ignored because of her gender If you ever see a colored map of the bottom of the ocean with its ridges and rifts, it might be a copy of one of those she made. This is the latest in a number of long overdue books that recognize the women who, assisted in, shared in, or in many cases made, fundamental scientific discoveries Marie Tharp devoted her life to the study of the ocean floor A region that was less understood than the face of the moon She took strings of data obtained from scores of observations by vessels of many nations and put them together into a map The ability to see this data at a glance on a map changed geology forever The current understanding of plate tectonics and continental drift comes directly from the study of her meticulous rendering of this data Pull up Google maps and take a look at any see bed This woman mapped 90% of what you are looking at On top of that she until very recently after her death by the way got very little credit for it.This is a very good book It tells in great detail the life of a brilliant woman and just what following your dream used to entail if you happened to be born female.I recommend this book very strongly to anyone who has an interest in science or the history of social change. Deftly Balances The Scientific And Poetic Minneapolis Star Tribune Soundings Is An Eloquent Testament Both To Tharp S Importance And To Felt S Powers Of Imagination The New York Times Book ReviewBefore Marie Tharp S Groundbreaking Work In The S, The Ocean Floor Was A Mystery Then, As Now, We Knew Less About The Bottom Of The Sea Than We Did About Outer Space In A Time When Women Were Held Back By The Casually Sexist Atmosphere Of Mid Twentieth Century Academia A Time When Trained Geologists And Scientists Like Tharp Were Routinely Relegated To The Role Of Secretary Or Assistant Tharp S Work Would Completely Change The World S Understanding Of Our Planet S Evolution By Transforming Dry Data Into Beautifully Detailed Maps That Laid The Groundwork For Proving The Then Controversial Theory Of Continental Drift, Tharp, Along With Her Lifelong Partner In Science, Bruce Heezen, Upended Scientific Consensus And Ushered In A New Era In Geology And Oceanography A Playful, Wildly Thoughtful Writer Oprah , Hali Felt Vividly Captures The Romance Of Scientific Discovery And Brings To Life This Strong Willed Woman Living According To Her Own Rules, Defying The Constraints Of Her Time The Washington Post At age 28, geologist Marie Tharpe began work at Columbia University as an assistant read glorified secretary By the end of her tenure there in 1982, she and her colleague Bruce Heezen had mapped the ocean floor using sonar readings and, in the process, identified the world girdling rift valley that laid the foundation for proving the theory of plate tectonics Part race to the finish tale of 20th century scientific discovery and part unconventional romance of Tharpe and Heezen, Soundings makes the overlooked story of a scientist and her work crackle with energy, as well as tackles some frustrating questions Heezen was given credit for his discoveries, while Tharpe was often completely ignored due to her gender The author, Hali Felt, seems to take some solace in believing that Tharpe found satisfaction in the work and may heavy, heavy emphasis on that may not have needed the recognition of others Regardless, it s a real tragedy that Tharpe died before reading this literary tribute Felt is a playful, wildly thoughtful writer, who can extrapolate meanings about our view of the past from outdated scientific terms like uniformitarianism and catastrophism, and she addresses the ins and outs of alarm clocks, washrags and frying eggs light tables, ink pens and smooth sheets of white paper erasers, fathoms and final drafts lunch andwork and breathing and cooking dinner and waiting until the last minute before darkness to turn on the electric lights that illuminate the text with the kind of evocative details that make the story of a real life so real.Read I had just completed my PhD in geology in 1977, the year in which the World Ocean Floor Panorama of Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen was published, and our department was one of the first to buy it And so, reading this fascinating story of its genesis, and of the key role played by Ms Tharp against many hurdles and gender prejudices, was a revelation in many ways By the time I started my geological studies, plate tectonics was largely accepted, and one of the first papers I read was by Robert Dietz and John Holden from 1970, a major work which, oddly, is not mentioned or referenced in Soundings In fact, I found Hari Felt s summary of the major breakthroughs somewhat selective, and I wish there had beenon the later consequences of the discovery of plate tectonics, many of which were and still are profound These omissions are the price to be paid for balancing science with the life story of Marie Tharp and her relationship with Bruce Heezen who, by the way, must have been an extremely difficult faculty member to manage What this book does well is to show how difficult it was for a woman to gain recognition for truly ground breaking work in the 1950s 1970s I only wish things were different today. A decent book but not my type I am glad that someone has given this woman, Marie Tharp, a voice and she now gets the recognition due her The writing was a bit irksome at times as the author puts in her own ideas of what happened in some scenes and dialogue Felt does admit this in the intro so it is not a surprise and it is due to the fact that she did not actually have anyone to interview, all her information is gathered second hand So, while I understand her dilemma and her attempts to work with what she has, it just didn t work well for me Also, she seemed to shift often between present and past tense which annoyed me.Another reason I was not enthralled was the topic itself I did learn some interesting facts about geology and oceanography, while generally interesting, it did not hold my interest with all the details Someone withinterest in these areas may find the bookappealing. Hali Felt did a thorough job of researching a complicated history and scientific processes to reveal the story of Marie Tharp Highly recommend. Check out for other reviews and sundry thoughts Biography readers who love discovering stories of fascinating, historically important figures should rush to find a copy of Soundings, Hali Felt s astute reconstruction of the life of Marie Tharp.In 1948, when Marie Tharp went to work as a draftsperson at Columbia University s Lamont Geological Observatory, scientists viewed advocates of continental drift with the sort of skepticism usually reserved for UFO sightings No one believed, or even wanted to believe, that Earth s continents were moving At that time, the Lamont Observatory owned the largest collection of oceanic data in the world, including the records of soundings, a procedure that measures oceanic depth Tharp, brilliant and independent in a society that valued neither quality in its women, came to work at Lamont having already fought a hard battle for an education in the sciences and a career Barred from fieldwork due to her gender and relegated to drafting maps under men her junior in both age and education, Tharp nonetheless made a startling contribution to the world of earth sciences While interpreting soundings into oceanic cartography, Tharp discovered the Mid Oceanic Ridges, an underwater mountain range that proved the theory of continental drift to an astonished scientific community.Felt writes much as early oceanic cartographers worked, attempting to sound the depths of Tharp s life and create a detailed picture from cold data While historical accounts show Tharp as a self contained and outwardly unemotional woman, the topography of her life contained mountains and valleys created by the impact of her mother s early death, her fight for acceptance in a man s world and her unorthodox relationship with Bruce Nezeen, her partner and lover, whose power struggle with Lamont s administration would turn Tharp s career into a bargaining chip Tharp s private nature leaves Felt with a skeleton of facts she fleshes out both by using her finely tuned intuition and by encouraging the reader s sympathy and imagination.Felt s skill revives Marie Tharp, finding the shape of an intelligent, passionate woman s personality, the political machinations of the Cold War scientific community and an underwater world where steaming hot springs resemble ladles of consomm Felt re creates scenes as though they were movie montages, depicting Tharp s race to produce a map of the Indian Ocean for the scientific community While she takes a necessary amount of poetic license, Felt s mission is not to embroider or alter Tharp s essence, but to discover it, and she succeeds in this powerful portrait of a woman so driven that society could not stop her from changing the world This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at for the latest news and reviews This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness. I had never heard of Mary Tharp until I read this book How come I have plenty of college education and have read and studied all my life, and should have heard about here before then The story of her life is fascinating, exciting, inspirational and sad at the same time By reading the last chapters in the book, I was constantly thinking about how muchshe could have accomplished withacknowledgement and support of her work from the scientific community before she retired Even though her name is not a household word, her work a map was included in an exhibit called American Treasures from the Library of Congress 1997 She was also recognized as one of the 4 greatest cartographers of the 20th century.The author, Hali Felt, did a great job of researching vast amounts of primary and secondary resources, and putting it together in this story I found this book through a GoodReads giveaway and is to date the best book free book I ve read I can highly recommend it Not only do you get a look at the life of a scientist and what it takes to fund and persevere in groundbreaking research and discovery, but you also get a fascinating view of the history of oceanography and related sciences at a crucial time in their histories the first mapping of the ocean floors, the discovery of the mid Atlantic ridge and the genesis of the continental drift theory A great read A new addition to one of my favorite unofficial sub genres of nonfiction chronicles of obsessions as well as a fresh, if problematic, take on biography and science writing, Soundings tells the story of a important, neglected, hard driving woman who changed the way the world s population conceptualizes the planet we all live on.Felt reverses many of her precursors treatment of the particular scientific moment that oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp was most productive She reinserts Tharp into the context of the revolution in geologic studies precipitated by the discovery of the mid Atlantic Rift and, subsequently, plate tectonics a development traditionally attributed to men she worked with The biography is incomplete because Felt was never able to interview Tharp herself, and the cartographer was idiosyncratically private and modest To supplement missing information, the biography is interwoven with Felt s experiences writing the book and uncovering the facts Tharp s life a storytelling tactic usually effective, usually interesting.One of the overarching messages of the book is that the oceans floors have been and remain mysterious Just as much of Tharp s enigmatic personality is hidden under waves and scrolls of old maps, the seabed is still vastly unexplored yet crucial to environmental challenges bearing down on us.
Hali Felt teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh She received her MFA from the University of Iowa and has completed residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and Portland Writers in the Schools In the past, she has reported for the Columbia Journalism Review and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review She currently lives in Pittsburgh.
- 352 pages
- Hali Felt
- 06 October 2018 Hali Felt