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Matthews, Drummond Hoyle

ocean ridges mid crust

(1931–97) British geophysicist: his work with on magnetic anomalies across mid-ocean ridges aided acceptance of plate tectonic theory.

Matthews served in the Royal Navy before studying science at Cambridge. Survey work in the South Atlantic Ocean preceded return to Cambridge and further work in marine geophysics, in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Together with his student , Matthews showed in 1963 that the oceanic crust on either side of mid-ocean ridges is remanently magnetized in alternately normal and reversed polarity, in bands running parallel to the ridge. This, they argued, was consistent with the sea-floor spreading hypothesis proposed by the year before, and was seen as powerful support for Hess’s hypothesis. Newly-formed crust would become magnetized in the prevailing direction of the Earth’s magnetic field at the time of its emergence, but since this field undergoes periodic reversals, the oceanic crust would be expected to be magnetized alternately in opposite directions. Vine and Matthews showed that this was indeed the case, and also showed that the magnetic patterns were symmetrical about the mid-ocean ridges and that the same patterns were found for ridges in different oceans.

In 1980, with D Blundell, the very popular ‘Drum’ Matthews founded the British Institutions Reflection Profiling Syndicate (BIRPS), which collated data from deep seismic reflections to study the lithosphere to depths of 80 km, an order of magnitude deeper than could be reached by drilling. ‘Drum’ Matthews: an informal snapshot made in the 1960s.

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