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Fellows Directory

Anthony Laughton

Sir Anthony Laughton FRS


Elected: 1980


Anthony ‘Tony’ Laughton is an oceanographer who helped to pioneer sonar-based research of ocean floors. His research has made a major contribution to our understanding of plate tectonics and seafloor spreading. His findings have also been important in establishing different countries’ claims to parts of ocean floor, and thus any underlying resources.

The device used by Tony and his team in the 1960s weighed 6 tons. Nicknamed GLORIA — Geologic Long Range Inclined Asdic — it was described as the ‘grandfather’ of side-looking sonar devices. GLORIA was towed behind a ship, capturing acoustic pictures of the sea floor over a range of about 22 kilometres. An early success of the project was identifying an active fault valley east of the Azores.

Tony initiated the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Deep Sea Drilling Project, which provided data to support hypotheses on seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. He became Director of the then Institute of Oceanographic Sciences in 1978. His many awards include the Royal Geographical Society’s Founders Medal. He was knighted in 1987 for services to oceanography.

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Deep sea geology and geophysics., Ocean floor mapping, Plate tectonics, Sea floor.  Sonar, Underwater photography