The geosyncline concept was first developed by the American geologists James Hall and James Dwight Dana in the mid-19th century during the classic studies of the Appalachian Mountains. Émile Haug actualized the geosyncline concept and "reintroduced" it to Europe with a 1900 publication. Eduard Suess, a leading geologist of his time, disapproved the concept of geosyncline and argued in 1909 against its use due to its associated theories. This did not stop further development of the concept by Leopold Kober and Hans Stille in the first half of the 20th century, both of whom worked on a contracting Earth framework. Stille and Kober had rather similar views.
The development of the geosycline concept in the aftermath of Eduard Suess' book Das Antlitz der Erde (1883–1909) by Stille and Kober was not unchallenged as another school of thought was led by Alfred Wegener and Émile Argand. This competing view rejected Earth contraction and argued for continental drift. These two views can be called fixist in the case of geosyncline theory and mobilist for the support of continental drift.
Marshall Kay adapted the geosyncline concept to plate tectonics in 1951 as did John F.Dewey and John M.Bird in 1970. The term continued to have usage within a plate tectonics framework in the 1980s, albeit Celâl Şengör argued in 1982 against its use considering its association to pre-plate tectonics ideas.
Regarding its status Encyclopædia Britannica reads as of 2013:
Most modern geologists regard the concept as obsolete and largely explain the development of linear troughs in terms of plate tectonics; the term geosyncline, however, remains in use.