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剑桥雅思18Test4Passage3阅读原文翻译 Alfred Wegener: science, expl […]


剑桥雅思18Test4Passage3阅读原文翻译 Alfred Wegener: science, exploration, and the theory of continental drift 阿尔弗雷德·韦格纳


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This is a book about the life and scientific work of Alfred Wegener, whose reputation today rests with his theory of continental displacements, better known as ‘continental drift. Wegener proposed this theory in 1912 and developed it extensively for nearly 20 years. His book on the subject, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, went through four editions and was the focus of an international controversy in his lifetime and for some years after his death.



Wegener’s basic idea was that many mysteries about the Earth’s history could be solved if one supposed that the continents moved laterally, rather than supposing that they remained fixed in place. Wegener showed in great detail how such continental movements were plausible and how they worked, using evidence from a large number of sciences including geology, geophysics, paleontology, and climatology. Wegener’s idea – that the continents move – is at the heart of the theory that guides Earth sciences today: namely plate tectonics. This article is from laokaoya website. Plate tectonics is in many respects quite different from Wegener’s proposal, in the same way that modern evolutionary theory is very different from the ideas Charles Darwin proposed in the 1850s about biological evolution. Yet plate tectonics is a descendant of Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift, in quite the same way that modern evolutionary theory is a descendant of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

韦格纳的基本观点是,如果假设大陆在地球历史中沿水平方向移动,而不是保持固定位置,那么许多关于地球历史的谜团都可以解开。韦格纳详细展示了这种大陆运动为什么是可能的,以及它们的运作方式。他运用来自地质学、地球物理学、古生物学和气候学等多个科学领域的证据来支持这一理论。韦格纳的观点 – 大陆是移动的 – 是如今指导地球科学的核心理论,即板块构造学。板块构造学在很多方面与韦格纳的理论存在较大差异,就像现代进化论与查尔斯·达尔文在19世纪50年代提出的生物进化理论有很大的不同一样。然而,板块构造学是阿尔弗雷德·韦格纳大陆漂移理论的延续,就像现代进化论是达尔文自然选择理论的延续一样。


When I started writing about Wegener’s life and work, one of the most intriguing things about him for me was that, although he came up with a theory on continental drift, he was not a geologist. He trained as an astronomer and pursued a career in atmospheric physics. When he proposed the theory of continental displacements in 1912, he was a lecturer in physics and astronomy at the University of Marburg, in southern Germany. However, he was not an ‘unknown’. In 1906 he had set a world record (with his brother Kurt) for time aloft in a hot-air balloon: 52 hours. Between 1906 and 1908 he had taken part in a highly publicized and extremely dangerous expedition to the coast of northeast Greenland. He had also made a name for himself amongst a small circle of meteorologists and atmospheric physicists in Germany as the author of a textbook, Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere (1911), and of a number of interesting scientific papers.



As important as Wegener’s work on continental drift has turned out to be, it was largely a sideline to his interest in atmospheric physics, geophysics, and paleoclimatology’, and thus I have been at great pains to put Wegener’s work on continental drift in the larger context of his other scientific work, and in the even larger context of atmospheric sciences in his lifetime. This is a ‘continental drift book’ only to the extent that Wegener was interested in that topic and later became famous for it. My treatment of his other scientific work is no less detailed, though I certainly have devoted more attention to the reception of his ideas on continental displacement, as they were much more controversial than his other work.



Readers interested in the specific detail of Wegener’s career will see that he often stopped pursuing a given line of investigation (sometimes for years on end), only to pick it up later. I have tried to provide guideposts to his rapidly shifting interests by characterizing different phases of his life as careers in different sciences, which is reflected in the titles of the chapters. Thus, the index should be a sufficient guide for those interested in a particular aspect of Wegener’s life but perhaps not all of it. My own feeling, however, is that the parts do not make as much sense on their own as do all of his activities taken together. In this respect I urge readers to try to experience Wegener’s life as he lived it, with all the interruptions, changes of mind, and renewed efforts this entailed.



Wegener left behind a few published works but, as was standard practice, these reported the results of his work – not the journey he took to reach that point. Only a few hundred of the many thousands of letters he wrote and received in his lifetime have survived and he didn’t keep notebooks or diaries that recorded his life and activities. He was not active (with a few exceptions) in scientific societies, and did not seek to find influence or advance his ideas through professional contacts and politics, spending most of his time at home in his study reading and writing, or in the field collecting observations.



Some famous scientists, such as Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, left mountains of written material behind, hundreds of notebooks and letters numbering in the tens of thousands. Others, like Michael Faraday, left extensive journals of their thoughts and speculations, parallel to their scientific notebooks. The more such material a scientist leaves behind, the better chance a biographer has of forming an accurate picture of how a scientist’s ideas took shape and evolved.



I am firmly of the opinion that most of us, Wegener included, are not in any real sense the authors of our own lives. We plan, think, and act, often with apparent freedom, but most of the time our lives ‘happen to us’, and we only retrospectively turn this happenstance into a coherent narrative of fulfilled intentions. This book, therefore, is a story both of the life and scientific work that Alfred Wegener planned and intended and of the life and scientific work that actually ‘happened to him’. These are, as I think you will soon see, not always the same thing.


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