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Interesting Facts about Marie Tharp, an American geologist, oceanographic cartographer, and co-publisher of the first world map of the ocean floor



Celebrating Marie Tharp Google Doodle

Search engine giant Google honours American geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp, who together with Bruce Heezen produced the first scientific map of the Atlantic Ocean floor. On this day in 1998, the Library of Congress named Tharp one of the greatest cartographers of the 20th century. Here are some interesting and fun facts you should need to know about Marie Tharp.

Here is a look at the life and work of Marie Tharp.

Who was Marie Tharp?

Marie Tharp
Marie Tharp


  • Birth date: July 30, 1920
  • Birthplace: Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Died on: August 23, 2006 (aged 86)
  • Death place: Nyack, New York
  • Nationality: United States
  • Citizenship: United States
  • Father name: William Edgar Tharp
  • Mother name: Bertha Louise Tharp
  • Spouse name: David Flanagan
  • Education:
    • Ohio University
    • University of Michigan
    • University of Tulsa
  • Known for: Seafloor topography

Interesting Facts about Marie Tharp

  1. Marie Tharp was born on July 30, 1920, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the only child of Bertha Louise Tharp, a German and Latin teacher, and William Edgar Tharp, a soil surveyor for the US Department of Agriculture.
  2. She frequently went with her father on his fieldwork, which gave her an early prologue to mapmaking. In spite of this, she cared very little about chasing after a career in fieldwork as during that time this was perceived to be men’s work. Because of the nature of William Tharp’s work, the family moved continually until he retired in 1931.
  3. By then, Marie Tharp had attended over a dozen public schools in Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana, which made it hard for her to establish friendships.
  4. Her mother, who died when Marie was 15, was her nearest female associate. A full school year in Florence, Alabama, was especially influential for her.
  5. There, Marie Tharp attended a class called Current Science, in which she found out about contemporary scientists and the research projects they were working on. Also, she had the opportunity to undertake school field trips on weekends to study trees and rocks.
  6. After his retirement, William Tharp and the rest of the family moved to a farm in Bellefontaine, Ohio, where, soon after, Marie graduated from secondary school.
  7. Influenced by her mother, an educator, Marie Tharp went home for the year prior to setting off for college; in the wake of graduating, she excessively wanted to become a teacher.
  8. Staying on the farm to help after her mother’s death in 1936, Marie later registered for college.
  9. Encouraged by her father to pick a subject of study that she loved as well as would give her a career and financial security, Tharp graduated from Ohio University in 1943 with bachelor’s degrees in English and music and four minors.
  10. Having taken a geology class in Ohio, Marie Tharp was selected to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s petroleum geology program, where she finished a master’s degree.
  11. Marie Tharp took a job at the Stanolind Oil organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a junior geologist, but soon found it unsatisfying.
  12. Confined to the office, Marie Tharp’s duties were to gather the maps and data for the men going into the field. While actually working as a geologist for the Stanolind Oil organization, Tharp signed up for the faculty of mathematics at the University of Tulsa, getting her second BSc.
  13. By 1948, Marie Tharp had spent four years in Tulsa and was searching for her next career step.
  14. In 1948, Marie Tharp married David Flanagan and moved with him to New York. They were divorced by 1952.
  15. She moved to New York City and at first looked for work at the American Museum of Natural History, yet subsequent to learning how time-consuming paleontological research was, she searched for positions at Columbia University.
  16. Marie Tharp eventually found drafting work with Maurice Ewing, the founder of the Lamont Geological Observatory (presently the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). Tharp was one of the first women to work at the Lamont Geological Observatory.
  17. While there, she met Bruce Heezen, and in early work together they used photographic data to find brought down military aircraft from World War II. Eventually, she worked for Heezen exclusively, plotting the ocean floor. Tharp was employed and constantly elevated from 1952 to 1968 when her position was cut and moved to grant-funded status because of lab politics including Heezen (she stayed in a grant-funded position until Heezen’s death in 1977).
  18. For the initial 18 years of their cooperation, Heezen gathered bathymetric data on board the research ship Vema, while Tharp drew maps from that data since women were banished from working on ships at the time.
  19. Marie Tharp was later ready to join a 1968 data-collection expedition. She independently used data gathered from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s research ship Atlantis, and seismographic data from undersea earthquakes. Her work with Heezen represented the first systematic attempt to map the entire ocean floor.
  20. Marie Tharp additionally found the rift valley on her more precise graphical representations of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which depended on new measurement data acquired with the echo sounder. It required her a year to persuade Bruce Heezen of this. Afterward, she likewise mapped the other mid-ocean ridges.
  21. Tharp and Heezen published their first physiographic map of the North Atlantic in 1957. In any case, Tharp’s name doesn’t show up on any of the significant papers on plate tectonics that Heezen and others published between 1959 and 1963.
  22. Hence, in collaboration with the Austrian landscape painter Heinrich Berann, Tharp and Heezen understood their map of the whole ocean floor, which was published in 1977 by National Geographic under the title of The World Ocean Floor.
  23. Albeit later recognized and ascribed to for her work today on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it was Heezen, who at the time in 1956, put out and got credit for the discovery that was made.
  24. After Heezen’s death, Tharp kept on serving on the faculty of Columbia University until 1983, after which she worked a map-distribution business in South Nyack during her retirement.
  25. Marie Tharp donated her map collection and notes to the Map and Geography Division of the Library of Congress in 1995.
  26. In 1997, Tharp got double honors from the Library of Congress, which named her one of the four biggest cartographers of the 20th century and remembered her work in an exhibit in the 100th-anniversary celebration of its Geography and Map Division.
  27. In 2001, Tharp was awarded the first annual Lamont-Doherty Heritage Award at her home institution for her life’s work as a pioneer of oceanography.
  28. Marie Tharp’s work uncovered the detailed topography and multi-dimensional geographical landscape of the ocean bottom. Her work incorporated a more exact cartographic representation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and her discovery of the rift valley along its axis, causing a paradigm shift in earth science that prompted acknowledgment of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.
  29. Marie Tharp died of cancer in Nyack, New York, on August 23, 2006, at 86 years old.
  30. In the same way, as other women scientists of her era, Marie Tharp was recognized principally later in life. Her awards include:
    1978 – National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal
    1996 – Society of Woman Geographers Outstanding Achievement Award
    1999 – Woods Holes Oceanographic Institution’s Mary Sears Woman Pioneer in Oceanography Award
    2001 – Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory Heritage Award
  31. Marie Tharp was perceived in 1997 by the Library of Congress as one of the four biggest cartographers of the twentieth century. The position of Marie Tharp Lamont Research Professor was made in her honor.
  32. Made by Lamont in 2004, the Marie Tharp Fellowship is a competitive academic visiting fellowship awarded to women to work with researchers at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
  33. Google Earth incorporated the Marie Tharp Historical Map layer in 2009, permitting individuals to see Tharp’s ocean map using the Google Earth interface.
  34. Marie Tharp is the subject of the 2013 biography by Hali Felt entitled Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor, which was referred to by the New York Times for its standing as an “eloquent testament both to Tharp’s importance and to Felt’s powers of imagination.”
  35. Marie Tharp was animated in “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth”, the 9th episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and voiced by actress Amanda Seyfried.
  36. Her life story is told in three children’s books, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raúl Colón, Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret by Jess Keatting and represented by Katie Hickey and in 2020 MacMillan published Marie’s Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains under the Sea written and illustrated by Josie James.
  37. This picture book of Marie Tharp’s life was honored as a National Science Teaching Association Best STEM Book of 2021 and a National Council for the Social Studies 2021 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young Readers.
  38. In 2015 the International Astronomical Union named the Tharp Moon crater in her honor.
  39. In 2022 the non-profit Ocean Research Project named their 72ft research schooner after her.
  40. On 21st, November 2022, Google featured a Google Doodle on its homepage for celebrating Marie Tharp. On this day in 1998, the Library of Congress named Tharp one of the greatest cartographers of the 20th century.
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