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Morley, Lawrence Whitaker (1920- )

Morley, Lawrence Whitaker (1920- )

Canadian geologist

Lawrence Morley has had a long, successful career in geophysics, including work on remote sensing , aerophysics, palaeomagnetic research, and geophysical instrumentation and interpretation, publishing 65 scientific and technical papers. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Morley received his education at Collingwood, Owen Sound and Lakefield College School, Ontario. He then attended the University of Toronto, studying Physics and Geology, but his degree was interrupted by the Second World War, during which time he served four years with the Royal Navy as a radar officer. Morley graduated in 1946, after hostilities had ended. In 1949, Morley returned to the University of Toronto to complete a Masters and then a Ph.D. in geophysics, during which time he studied palaeomagnetism under Professor J. Tuzo Wilson .

Morley was the first to suggest the theory of the magnetic imprinting of rocks on the ocean floor in 1963, during a talk to the Royal Society of Canada. Previously in 1915, Alfred Wegner (18801930) had proposed that there had once been a super-continent, which he named Pangaea, that had slowly moved apart. However, Wegner's theory could not explain how such movement occurred, and his theory was largely ignored. In the early 1960s, Harry Hess (19061969) and Robert Dietz both independently hypothesized that that seafloor spreading was responsible for the motion of the continents. It had long been known that the earth had undergone a number of magnetic reversals in its long history. Morley suggested that new lava emerging from an ocean ridge would produce rock fixed in the current magnetic field of Earth. Rocks older than the last magnetic reversal would have an opposing polarity. These should appear as parallel stripes on both sides of an ocean ridge.

However, a paper submitted to the journal Nature was rejected, as was an article given to the Journal of Geophysical Research. By the time his ideas appeared in a special publication of the Royal Society of Canada, in 1964, Frederick J. Vine (1939) and Drummond Matthews (1931), working independently, had already published the same hypothesis. While the theory of magnetic striping in the earth's crust is sometimes referred to as the Vine-Matthews-Morley Hypothesis, just as often Morley's name is omitted. Surveys in the mid-1960s found the expected stripes at every ocean ridge. This evidence confirmed the ideas of Wegner, Dietz and Hess, and resulted in a revolution in Earth science , giving rise to the theory of plate tectonics .

Morley did pioneering work on aerial mineral and petroleum surveys using the airborne magnetometer in the 1940s, working in Venezuela, Columbia, and Canada. He was appointed to the Geological Survey of Canada in 1952, where he served for 17 years as Chief of the Geophysics Division to the Geological Survey. He promoted the Federal/Provincial Aeromagnetic Survey Program, which eventually covered the whole of Canada, producing more than 7,000 detailed maps. Much of his work was aimed at finding mineral and petroleum deposits, and he directed the surveying of Hudson's Bay and the Canadian offshore regions for oil reserves.

With Lee Godby, Morley helped establish the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing and was its founding Director-General from 1971 to 1980. He also served with the Canadian High Commission in London, England as its Science Counselor. Morley was consulted by York University to promote a University/Industry Institute for Space Research, becoming the founding Executive Director of the Institute for Space and Terrestrial Science in 1986. In the 1980s, Morley formed a consulting company specializing in remote sensing and geophysical exploration, and since 1990, this has been his main focus.

Morley is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Aeronaut and Space Institute, as well as being a member of the Society for Explorational Geophysics, the American Geophysics Union, the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Canadian Institute of Surveys and Mapping. Morley has received a number of honors, including the McCurdy medal (1974), and the Tuzo Wilson Prize (1980).

See also Plate tectonics; Sea-floor spreading

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