Hi, my name is Marie Tharp and I'm an Oceanographer and geologist who helped create the first map of the ocean floor, proving that it was not just the flat surface most people believed it to be.
I was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan on July 30, 1920. My father worked for the United States Department of Agriculture. He collected soil samples, rocks, and worked as a surveyor – someone who researches and charts areas. I often helped him with this task, which gave me an early introduction to map making.
Because I'm a female, I never thought I could do soil surveying like my father. Women during the time were deterred from working in the scientific field. I believed I'd be a teacher like my mother. At the time, jobs for young women were limited in options to: secretary, bookkeeper, nurse, school teacher or librarian. Talk about double standards, right?
I completed a full world’s ocean map in 1977 titled The World Ocean Floor. While completing my drawings, I helped make an even bigger contribution to science when my maps revealed 40,000 miles of an underwater ridge that runs along the globe. In 1953, my observations led me to promote the theory of continental drift, or seafloor spreading – the idea that the continents move by spreading across the ocean bed.
I continued to work at the University of Columbia until I retired in 1983. I opened a map making business from my home in South Nyack, New York.6 As a woman scientist in the mid 20th century, Tharp’s work was not always credited. But in 1996 she received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Society of Women Geographers; and in 1997 the Library of Congress’ Phillips Society honored her as one of the 20th Century’s Outstanding Cartographers.