Arthur Holmes

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Arthur Holmes in 1912

Arthur Holmes (born January 14, 1890 in Gateshead , † September 20, 1965 in London ) was a British geologist .


As one of the first geoscientists, Holmes suggested using the radioactivity discovered at the beginning of the 20th century as a tool for geochronology - the chronological classification of geological epochs. His measurements, carried out in 1911 with the simplest of means (about 600 million years for the beginning of the Cambrian ) are relatively close to the current value of 541 million years.

His book The Age of the Earth (1913) also caused a sensation , in which he attributed the then unimaginable age of 1.5 billion years to archaic gneisses .

Around 1930 he proposed a mechanism to explain the theory of continental drift developed by Alfred Wegener : convective heat flows in the interior of the earth generate enough force to move the earth's plates. Since Holmes had no experimental methods to test this hypothesis available, he called his proposal "speculation"; it can be counted among the pulsation hypotheses of geophysics. Today his assumption is considered to be very similar to those processes with which the modern theory of plate tectonics works.

The textbook author László Egyed , on the other hand, assigns Holmes' convection model to the expansion theories of the earth: The magma flowing under the supercontinent Pangea tore it apart and formed the roots of the mountains as it flowed away ; after the currents ceased, the Alpid mountains on both sides of the Pacific would have risen.

Holmes was Professor of Geology at Durham University and, in 1943, succeeding Thomas John Jehu , Regius Professor of Geology at Edinburgh University until his death in 1965 . His textbook Principles of Physical Geology is still considered a standard work today. In 1934 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , in 1944 to the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in 1955 to the Académie des sciences . In 1956 he received the Penrose Medal from the Geological Society of America and the Wollaston Medal from the Geological Society of London .

The Arthur Holmes Medal of the European Geosciences Union and the Arthur Holmes Isotope Geology Laboratory at the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Durham are named after him. In addition, the Holmes Summit , a mountain in the East Antarctic Coatsland , and the Holmes Hills , a group of ridges and nunatakkers in the West Antarctic Palmerland , bear his name.


  • The association of lead with uranium in rock-minerals, and its application to the measurement of geological time. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Ser. A, Vol. 85, pp. 248-256 (1911).
  • The Age of the Earth. Harper & Brothers (1913).
  • Principles of Physical Geology , 3rd edition, London 1945
  • Petrographic methods and calculations , London 1921


  • Cherry Lewis: The Dating Game: One Man's Search for the Age of the Earth. (2000)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ H. Hölder, Brief History of Geology , p. 82, Springer 1989
  2. Laszlo Egyed, Solid Earth Physics , pp. 275–297. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1969
  3. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed December 21, 2019 .
  4. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter H. Académie des sciences, accessed on November 27, 2019 (French).
  5. ^ Arthur Holmes Medal of the EGU
  6. ^ Arthur Holmes Isotope Geology Laboratory at Durham University
predecessor Office successor
Thomas John Jehu Regius Professor of Geology
1943 to March 1965
Frederick Henry Stewart