The concept of Pangea refers to a „supercontinent“ that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras, approximately 300 to 200 million years ago. The term „Pangea“ itself is derived from the Ancient Greek words for „all, entire“ and „Earth,“ which aptly describes this massive landmass that was once thought to contain most of the Earth’s continental plates.
German meteorologist Alfred Wegener was the first to popularize the idea of Pangea, as part of his broader theory of continental drift, first presented in 1912. Wegener proposed that the continents had once been part of a larger supercontinent but had drifted apart over millions of years. His theory was supported by a wide range of evidence, including:
- Geological Similarities: Rock formations and mountain ranges seemed to continue across different continents, suggesting they were once connected.
- Fossil Evidence: Identical or closely related fossil species were found on continents that are now separated by vast oceans.
- Fit of Continents: The coastlines of continents like South America and Africa appeared to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Despite the compelling nature of his evidence, Wegener’s theory was initially met with skepticism, largely because he could not explain the mechanism by which these large landmasses could move. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century, with the discovery of plate tectonics, that the scientific community began to accept the theory of continental drift and, by extension, the existence of Pangea.
Over time, Pangea began to break apart due to the movement of these tectonic plates, eventually leading to the current configuration of continents. The study of Pangea and continental drift has provided invaluable insights into Earth’s geological history, the evolution of life, and the dynamic processes that continue to shape our planet.
Alfred Wegener first proposed his theory of continental drift in 1912, and it was largely rejected by the scientific community of his time. There were several reasons for this reluctance:
Lack of mechanism explanation: One of the main reasons was that Wegener could not provide a mechanism that would explain the movement of the continents. He could show that the continents fit together like puzzle pieces and that there were geological and paleontological similarities between the continents, but he could not explain how these massive landmasses moved.
Stuck thinking: In Wegener’s time, the prevailing theory was that the Earth was essentially static and that mountains and oceans were formed by vertical movements of the Earth’s crust, not horizontal ones.
Scientific Skepticism: Every revolutionary idea is viewed with skepticism in science until sufficient evidence is presented. Wegener’s theory did not have enough empirical data to overcome skepticism.
Cross-disciplinary research: Wegener’s training and professional background were in meteorology, and he was not an established geologist. This may also have led to some skepticism towards his ideas.
Nationalism and academic traditionalism: Some researchers at the time may also have opposed the theory for nationalistic or traditional reasons. The idea that continents are not firmly anchored has been, for some, a challenge to the status quo.
It was only in the 1950s and 1960s, with the discovery of plate tectonics, that a mechanism was found that could explain Wegener’s observations. The development of technologies such as seismology, deep-sea floor mapping, and the study of seafloor magnetic stripes provided the empirical data necessary to support and ultimately confirm the theory of continental drift.
When we created our first global project back in 2006 we were interviewing in 120 countries. Our technology put the pieces of the planet back together. At the same time we are interviewing people in a different way, using different interaction formats. We know that this is the right way even though the market research industry is not believing in this approach. Alfred Wegner had a much tougher time when presenting his ground breaking theory of pangea. We are honoring him by naming the company after his discovery. We know that we are right, but the scientific community is just not ready yet.