Tectonics at the 1972 Montréal International Geological Congress (IGC)

2022 Anniversaries in the History of Canadian Science and Technology: The Montréal Sessions of the 1972 International Geological Congress (IGC)

First posted Thursday, September 22, 2022 / Yom chamishi, 26 Elul, 5782.

By David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI


As I wrote here on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 / Yom shlishi, 24 Elul, 5782:

“The 1972 Montréal International Geological Congress… opened exactly one month and fifty years ago on Sunday, August 20[.]

“Next day, at Place des Arts, there would be the first 24th IGC General Assembly combined with the Opening Ceremonies from 10:00 am to 12 Noon….

“The [S]ections would start to meet on Tuesday, August 22, at 8:30 am [EDT], every section but Sections 2, 12, 13, and 17.” And that included Section 3 Tectonics, the essential session for most of our C-03 excursionists. They were about to view living examples of so many of these tectonic processes as they crossed the Canadian Cordillera.

The Tectonics sessions began like the others at 8:30. They were in the Bonaventure Hotel, in the space of the combined Outremont and Westmount Rooms. (They opened up the room divider.)

The Co-Conveners of Section 3, Tectonics, were John Tuzo Wilson (1908-1993), a geophysicist at the University of Toronto, and the Geological Society of Canada’s Robert J.W. Douglas (1920–1979).

The University had hosted the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics General Assembly, in 1957, as part of the International Geophysical Year. Wilson was the chief organiser and starting his three-year term as IUGG President. In 1978 he was awarded the first Tuzo Wilson medal for outstanding contributions to geophysics in Canada by the Canadian Geophysical Union.

His papers amply document the 1957 IUGG GA, but there’s little on Montréal, where he was an Honourary Vice-President.

Douglas was the editor of the 1970 fifth edition of the GSC’s Geology and Economic Minerals of Canada. There’s also a Douglas Medal, established in his memory by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists in 1980, recognising excellence in Sedimentary Geology. In 2006 it was won by the 2021 GAC Logan lecturer, Margot McMechan.

The opening Tectonics Session was on “Strike-Slip Faults / Grande failles de décrochement”, Thème C, of which the most famous one is the San Andreas Fault in California. It lasted form 8:30 until 11:00 am, followed by a short half hour coffee break.

The other Tuesday session convened at 11:30 am, after time for a washroom break, coffee or tea, or a lightening visit to Georama (in the adjacent Place Bonaventure’s East Hall – aka Concordia Hall).

It was the first part of Tectonics’ Theme A: “Problems of the Earth’s Interior / Problèmes concernant l’intérieur de ta terre”.

There was no Section 3 on Wednesday, instead the tectonics crowd were expected to be interested in the Geological Association of Canada’s Symposium 103, “Variations on Tectonic Style in Canada / Variations dans le style tectonique au Canada”, de l’Associaiton Géologique du Canada.

Douglas in giving “Variations in Tectonic Style in Canada”, along with R.A. Price, summarised the entire twelve-paper symposium. The West Coast’s Cordilleran Province was covered by J. O. Wheeler, the East (the Atlantic Provinces, with much of Québec) by H. Williams, M.J. Kennedy, and E.R.W. Neale for the Appalachian Province, and the Arctic Islands form the Innuitian Province as related by H.P. Trettin.

The Symposium had been oganised by Price, who chaired it along with D.S. Derry. The session ran from 8:30 am, on Wednesday, September 23, until 2:00 pm, with a half hour break at 11:00. The time slots for each speaker were mostly half an hour long.

It was published later that year, in November 1972, as Special Paper Number 11, The Geological Association of Canada, 25th Anniversary Volume. Douglas and Raymond A. Price were the editors of this 11-paper volume.

Wilson talked on “Hot Spots” in another Tectonics-related symposium, Symposium 116 “Mechanisms of Plate Tectonics / Méchanisme de la tectonique des plaques”, sponsored by the Inter-Union Commission for Geodynamics / Commission Inter-Union de Géodynamique. It was held on the Monday (August 28) of the second week of the Montréal sessions in the Mount Royal Hotel’s Dorée Room, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, with Wilson in the last spot.

The other tectonics symposium was Symposium 111 “Experimental Petrology and Global Tectonics / Pétrologie experimentale  et tectonique du globe” also sponsored by Inter-Union Commission for Geodynamics / Commission Inter-Union de Géodynamique but also by the  IUGS  Experimental Petrology Subcommission / la Sous-Commission de Pétrologie Expérimentale de l‘UISG. It was held on the afternoon of Thursday, August 24, from 2:15 to 5:00 pm., chaired by W. Shreyer and P.J. Wyllie.

Tectonics proper ran over six days, two sessions per day, totalling seventy-two papers, exclusive of the symposia, enough for a good size conference. Other themes included, “Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift” but also, “Evolution of Geosynclines”, and “Quaternary Deformation and Neotectonics”, co-sponsored by Section 12, Quaternary Geology.

After the final Tectonics Section 3 session on Tuesday, August 29, at 2:00pm, the Excursion C-03 members would be taking the IGC sponsored, chartered Flight GF 98, on Wednesday, August 30, Montréal to Calgary (for $91.00) to start their fortnight (August 30 to September 14) over the mountains from Calgary to Victoria.

The University of Toronto Press has recently published Tuzo, a biography of J. Tuzo Wilson by Nick Eyles, to be published this month, September 2022.

But that’s another story!



Nick Eyles (2022), Tuzo: The Unlikely Revolutionary of Plate Tectonics, University of Toronto

Press, Toronto. 288 pp.

John E. Armstrong (1973), General Proceedings / Comptes-Rendus Généraux,

24th International Geological Congress, Ottawa. (xi) + ii + 272 pp.

(1972), Program 24th International Geological Congress / Montréal, Canada, 1972 / Programme 24e Congrès Géologique, Ottawa (?). iii + 230 pp., incl. 15 pp. Author Index.



CSTHA Blog Posts for the 1972 Montréal IGC:

1972 IGC Congress Circulars, incl. Flight Announcements. Posted June 24, 2022.


Field Excursion C-03 Begins. Posted August 30, 2022


Inauguration of the 1972 Montréal IGC. Posted September 20, 2022.

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