The Nazis knew their science, even when they used it for horrible purposes. It’s no secret that America built its atomic weapons program on the backs of Nazi scientists brought to America as part of Project Paperclip, and now it seems that the Nazis were ahead of the rest of the world in one other area, too: continental drift.
Plate tectonic theory is considered good science these days, but only decades ago it was held in the same regard as stories of the hollow Earth and the history of Atlantis. Most reputable scientists believed that it was all a little kooky. Well, almost everyone except Nazi scientists. The Nazis believed in continental drift, and they believed in its main proponent, a meteorologist and astronomer named Alfred Wegener. Wegener was no expert in geology, and continental drift was kind of his pet theory. In other words, he was a maverick scientist – the “worst” kind of scientist if you ask most establishment experts. Wegener’s theory was considered pure pseudoscience until it found acceptance among the Nazis. (To be fair, the Nazis believed much weirder things.)
Mental Floss has a nice breakdown of the story behind Wegener’s rise from fringe weirdo to scientific pioneer under the Nazi regime, but Wegener’s story doesn’t stop there. Wegener traveled the world researching plate tectonics and died in Greenland pursuing evidence to support his theory.
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