Discoverer of the "smoking gun" of seafloor spreading
Mapper of seafloor magnetic anomalies
Theorist of sea level and stratigraphy
Explainer of "Noah's Flood"
Beloved teacher and mentor
In early 1966, Walter Pitman took his freshly plotted profile of seafloor magnetic anomalies that he has recently acquired when crossing the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge aboard the Research Vessel Eltanin and recognized a remarkable symmetry about the ridge axis. Immediately he realized that this pattern was the recording of a series of reversals in the polarity of Earth's magnetic field reaching back more than 10 million years. His calculation that the ocean floor along the ridge had been widening at a rate of 4.5 centimeters per year provided overwhelming proof of the hypothesis of seafloor spreading. His publication of these results with his advisor, James Heirtzler, in the journal Science provided the spark that ignited the revolutionary paradigm of plate tectonics.