Who Discovered The Earth is Round?

“When Columbus lived, people thought that the earth was flat. They believed the Atlantic Ocean to be filled with monsters large enough to devour their ships, and with fearful waterfalls over which their frail vessels would plunge to destruction. Columbus had to fight these foolish beliefs in order to get men to sail with him. He felt sure the earth was round.”
-Emma Miler Bolenius, American Schoolbook Author, 1919

One of the most enduring myths that children grow up with is the idea that Columbus was the only one of his time who believed that the Earth was round; everyone else believed it was flat. “How brave the sailors of 1492 must have been,” you might imagine, “to travel towards the edge of the world without fear of falling off!”

Indeed, there are many ancient references to the Earth being shaped like a disc. And if you knew only of the two most important astronomical objects in the sky — the Sun and the Moon — you yourself might reach the same conclusions.

If you go outside during sunset a day or two after the new moon, here’s the sight you’re likely to encounter.

Image credit: Doug Zubenel.

A thin sliver of Moon, where the illuminated portion appears to coincide with the same portion of a sphere that could be lit up by the Sun.

If you were both curious and scientifically-minded, you might go out after sunset during the next few days to see what happened next. In fact, if you were to go outside and look towards the southwest skies (assuming you, like me, live in the Northern hemisphere) during the coming days of September 29th to October 3rd, at sunset (~6:30 PM) each night, you’d notice something changing about the Moon.

Image generated by me, using the free software stellarium.

Not only does it appear to shift position by about 12 degrees each night, moving farther away from the Sun, but it appears that progressively more and more of it gets illuminated! And you would (rightly) conclude that perhaps the Moon orbits the Earth, and that its apparent change in phase is caused by light from the Sun illuminating different parts of a spherically-shaped Moon.

In fact, this is both the ancient and modern view of what causes the phases of the Moon.

Image credit: MoonConnection.com.

But about twice a year, something special happens during the Full Moon that allows us to determine something about the shape of the Earth: a lunar eclipse! When the Moon is full and the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon, the Earth’s shadow shows up on the Moon’s surface!

And if you look at the shadow that actually shows up on the surface of the Moon, you can clearly see that the Earth’s shadow is curved, and shaped like a disc!

Image credit: Micor Dimaguila.

But this doesn’t tell you whether the Earth is a flat disc or a round sphere; it only tells you that the shadow cast by the Earth is circular. In principle, just from looking at the Moon, the Earth could be either flat or round.

Image credit: Randy Russell.

But contrary to popular belief, this question wasn’t settled in the 1400s and 1500s (with Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe), but more than 2,000 years ago, in the ancient world! And what’s perhaps most amazing? It was done using nothing more than the Sun. Here’s how.

Image credit: Danilo Pivato.

If you follow the Sun’s path through the daytime sky, and you live in the Northern hemisphere, you’ll find that it rises in the eastern part of the sky, rises up to its apex in the south, and then lowers and sets in the west. And it does this every day of the year.

But it doesn’t take the exact same path every day out of the year; the Sun reaches a much higher point (and shines for more hours during the day) during the summer months, and reaches a significantly lower point (and shines for fewer hours) during the winter. To dramatically illustrate this, here’s a time-lapse photo of the Sun’s path through the sky taken during the winter solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Image credit: Charles Mason.

In fact, if you charted out the Sun’s path through the daytime sky, you would find that it takes its lowest path (for the fewest number of hours) on the Winter Solstice — usually December 21st — and its highest path (for the greatest number of hours) on the Summer Solstice, usually June 21st.

If you constructed a camera capable of photographing the Sun’s path through the sky over the course of the year, you would find exactly this: a series of arcs, where the highest, longest arc through the sky was made during the Summer Solstice and the lowest, shortest arc was made during the Winter Solstice.

Image credit: High School Physics Teacher Mr. Mallon.

And in the ancient world, the greatest scholars and scientists from Egypt, Greece, and all over the Mediterranean went to work at the Library of Alexandria. One of these scientists was the Ancient Greek Astronomer, Eratosthenes of Cyrene.

While living in Alexandria, Eratosthenes received some amazing correspondence from the city of Syene in southern Egypt. In particular, it said that, on the Summer Solstice,

the shadow of someone looking down a deep well would block the reflection of the Sun at noon.

In other words, the Sun would be directly overhead at this time, not a single degree to the South, North, East or West. And if you had a completely vertical object, it would cast absolutely no shadow.

Image credit: B. A. Perara.

But Eratosthenes knew that this wasn’t the case where he was, in Alexandria. Sure, the Sun came closer to being directly overhead at Noon on the Summer Solstice in Alexandria than at any other time during the year, but vertical objects still cast shadows.

And — like any good scientist — Eratosthenes did the experiment. By measuring the length of the shadow cast by a vertical stick during the solstice noon, he could figure out what angle the Sun made with the vertical direction at Alexandria.

And the answer he got was one-fiftieth of a circle, or 7.2 degrees. But at this time, in Syene, the angle the Sun was making with an identical vertical stick was zero degrees! What could be causing this? In perhaps a stroke of genius, Eratosthenes realized that the Sun’s rays could all be parallel, and that the Earth could be curved!

If he could then figure out the distance from Alexandria to Syene, since he knew the angular difference between the two cities, he could figure out the circumference of the Earth! If only Eratosthenes had a grad student, he could have sent one to make the trip, and measure the distance!

Instead, he was forced to rely on the reported distance between the two cities. The most “precise” measurement of his day?

Image credit: Memphis Tours.

Travel-by-camel. (So I can understand criticisms of his accuracy.) Nevertheless, his results were that the distance between Syene and Alexandria were 5,000 stadia. The question, of course, is how big is a stadium? The answer depends, of course, on whether Eratosthenes, a Greek living in Egypt, was using an Attic stadium or an Egyptian stadium, something still debated among historians. An Attic stadium was used more commonly, and is 185 meters in modern terms. Using this value, one gets a circumference of the Earth of 46,620 kilometers, a number that’s only about 16% bigger than the actual value.

However, an Egyptian stadium is 157.5 meters, and it’s conceivable that’s what Eratosthenes meant. In that case, we get a value of 39,375 kilometers, which is off by less than 2% from the modern value of 40,041 km!

Image credit: E. H. Bunbury.

Regardless of what the actual values were, Eratosthenes went on to become the world’s first geographer, inventing the concepts of latitude and longitude that we still use today, and constructed the first models and maps based on a spherical Earth.

Although many things were “lost” during the subsequent millenium, neither the idea of a spherical Earth nor the rough knowledge of the Earth’s circumference were one of them. In fact, anyone can perform this same experiment today with two locations at the same longitude, and with simultaneous measurements of shadow lengths, you too can measure the circumference of the Earth! Not bad, considering that the first direct, photographic evidence of the Earth’s curvature would not arrive until 1946!

Image credit: U.S. Military, White Sands Naval Base, New Mexico.

Once we knew the shape and size of the Earth — from about 240 B.C. — we were able to figure out all sorts of remarkable things, including the size of and distance to the Moon! So give the credit where credit is due, to Eratosthenes, for discovering the Earth was round, and performing the first accurate calculation of its size!

If there’s anything Columbus should be known for, as respects the size and shape of the Earth, it was using unrealistically low numbers for the circumference of the Earth! His estimates, that he used to convince others that one could sail from Europe directly to India (were the Americas non-existant), were absurdly small! Had the Americas not existed, he and his crew surely would have starved before reaching Asia!

Comments

  1. #1 Kim
    September 21, 2011

    Hmmm, I hope you don’t consider an image a more direct proof than Magellan’s trip around the world…

  2. #2 Neil Bates
    September 21, 2011

    Yes, Aristarchus was right, however: if you imagine the Sun as a certain height above a flat Earth, then the angle of shadows would also change with whatever “latitude” was (although not in quite the same way.)

  3. #3 Jan
    September 21, 2011

    Who knows maybe they will finally discover what makes a TickleMe Plant suddenly close its fern like leaves and lower it branches when Tickled! http://www.ticklemeplant.com

  4. #4 David
    September 21, 2011

    Neil @2: while you can explain one pair of shadow observations that way, if the distances between the observation isn’t great, you can’t explain 3, or 2 widely spaced with 1 very far north. Put another way, as you get closer to the pole, the length of the shadow at the equinox goes to infinity. But you know htat the distance between the pole and the other measurement isn’t infinite. so the earth must be round.

    Ethan, lovely post, thanks. always enjoy this blog.

  5. #5 Ed Brown
    September 21, 2011

    Great post! I think the best explanation of this was by Carl Sagan, in Cosmos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8cbIWMv0rI

  6. #6 psweet
    September 21, 2011

    A quick question and a comment:

    Were similar discoveries made elsewhere, independently? I’m thinking specifically of China and Central/South America, both of which had well-developed astronomical knowledge as well.

    Regarding Columbus, I’ve read speculation (in Lies My Teacher Told Me, I think) that he had heard rumors of new lands to the west, and didn’t really plan on finding the Orient.

  7. #7 Russell
    September 21, 2011

    Greek astronomy produced the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, which works surprisingly well, despite its geocentrism. Aristarchus proposed a heliocentric model. The interesting thing is that Greek astronomers rejected heliocentrism on empirical grounds: if the earth revolved around the earth, they deduced there should be a parallax. Which was not observed. Hypothesis. Experiment. Data. Test.

    Well, we know there is a parallax. We have better instruments. The stars are just far too distant for ancient observation to detect it.

    Greek astronomy was amazingly good science. The sad thing is that the Almagest was current science more than a millennium after it was written.

  8. #8 Mason
    September 21, 2011

    I always thought that was fascinating myself. Columbus had the wrong number for the diameter of the Earth, and tried to convince anyone who would listen to set out an expedition westward to India, on the basis that his diameter/circumference calculations showed that it was survivable. Nobody wanted to fund it, as they all knew that the earth was much bigger than that, and anyone on such a mission would starve to death at sea. Nobody knew that there was actually an enormous landmass at a sailable distance from Europe, filled with natives who, unfortunately for them, were rather naive in the ways of Europeans and possessed much lower technology than them.

    Makes me wonder if there’s any merit to theories like psweet read…

  9. #9 Nemo
    September 21, 2011

    I know he was the first to calculate its size, but I’ve never before heard Eratosthenes credited with discovering that the Earth was roughly spherical to begin with. A more common story is that people first noticed the curvature of the Earth in the way that ships appeared or disappeared over the horizon — mast first (coming) or last (going).

    After a bit of Googling, I find the ships-over-the-horizon argument, along with some others, attributed to Aristotle, about a century before Eratosthenes.

  10. #10 Goatsonfire
    September 21, 2011

    Like Neil said, if the sun were much closer to the earth, it’s light rays would not be parallel and Eratosthenes’ observations would be consistent with a flat earth. Did he have some reason to believe that his assumption that the sun’s rays are parallel when they reach Earth was valid? I’ve wondered this for a long time, since I first saw Cosmos, maybe someone here knows.

  11. #11 Dave Dell
    September 21, 2011

    They must have realized the moon was a sphere. A disc would be fully illuminated once the flat surface of the disc faced the sun even at a slight angle. The smooth curve of the shadow marching steadily across the moon’s surface must have shouted,”spherical”.

  12. #12 Peter R.
    September 21, 2011

    As nemo said, Eratosthenes was interested in a method for calculating the size of the Earth. Aristotle, well before him, gave the principle arguments for its sphericity, which likely predated him.

    @Russell: of course the Greeks rejected heliocentrism on empirical grounds, because there was no empirical evidence of the earth’s motion. Mathematically, it accounts for the phenomena just fine, but in physical terms, and in terms of their own experience (and our everyday experience, for that matter), it was absurd to think that the Earth actually moved.

    Why is it sad that the Almagest was science for a Millenium? It speaks to the power of Ptolemy as an extraordinarily successful astronomer and the predictive power of his system, for those who had access to it. There was no need to replace it, until Tycho Brahe’s extensive observations made at the end of the 16th century compelled Kepler to abandon ancient principles of astronomy (Copernicus’ system was no more accurate than Ptolemy’s).

  13. #13 Russell
    September 21, 2011

    I’ve never quite understood the notion that only moderns realized steady motion is imperceptible. Every sailor will tell you that the motion you feel on a boat isn’t its progress through the water, but the lateral rocking of waves, which is worst when in irons, and least when everything is trimmed well.

    And every other Greek was a sailor.

  14. #14 Ethan Siegel
    September 22, 2011

    For the very curious, the first written allusion to the notion the Earth is spherical that I’ve ever come across not only predates Eratosthenes, but also predates Aristotle by a good century.

    In his epic Histories, Herodotus talks about the origins of the Nile river farther south in Egypt. The last idea he gives is one he heard talking to someone in Egypt, who says that it comes from mountains far to the South, where it gets colder than the more temperate climates in the north, an allusion to the fact that on a round Earth, there would be an equator, and if you traveled towards either of the poles, you would encounter cooler overall temperatures. And of course, Herodotus, after relating this story, concludes that of course that’s absurd, because everyone knows that things get colder in the north, not the south!

  15. #15 Matt
    September 22, 2011

    There’s actually very little evidence that anyone educated ever believed the world was flat. There were some ancient Greeks that hypothesized that the earth was cylindrical, but that’s as close as it got. There’s a much simpler way of observing that the Earth is curved and it is something that most people living in Greece would have had fairly regular experience. If you watch a ship disappear over the horizon, you see that the bottom of the ship disappears first, while the mast is the last thing to pass beyond the horizon.

    It’s not surprising that the lie about a flat earth gets perpetuated. The story of the far sighted Columbus standing up to the Queen of England who thought the world was flat and setting sail to discover America, makes a grand myth in keeping with America’s subsequent history. The truth that the Queen correctly told Columbus he was an idiot who had miscalculated the circumference of the earth and would run out of supplies, doesn’t quite fit so well with the rest of the mythology.

  16. #16 Lassi Hippeläinen
    September 22, 2011

    AFAIK, the idea of a spherical Earth is attributed to the School of Pythagoras (possibly the man himself), but they were only theorists. Erathostenes was the first to do a real life test. His result is inaccurate in part because Syene (modern Aswan) isn’t exactly on the Tropic of Cancer.

    But Aristoteles, Pythagoras, etc. are just the European branch of history. The best proof of round Earth is that the starts change when the latitude changes. The Mediterranean is not a good place to discover it, because it is long in east-west-direction, but narrow in north-south.

    There were other places where navigators sailed much further in N-S, and used stars to get their latitude. I’m not sure who was the first, but it is well known that the Polynesians navigated with a spherical Earth model, and they must have it figured out by the time they reached Fiji more than 3000 years ago. And before they got that far, people were boating along the East Asian coast from Malay Peninsula to Japan. And who knows what happened along the eastern coast of Africa?

  17. #17 Jim Davila
    September 22, 2011

    Nice post. I have posted a codicil to it at PaleoJudaica, explaining how Columbus got that unrealistically low estimate of the earth’s size.

    http://paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2011_09_18_archive.html#358058826000372812

  18. #18 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    Of course, Columbus thought the earth was round, but SMALLER than everyone else thought it was. He thought he was travelling to India and the Far East when he landed on the Americas.

    Hence North American Indians, as opposed to North American Aborigines.

    He wasn’t discovering America, he was discovering a shorter path to the Far East.

    The Norse were the first sea-bourne Europeans to get to North America.

  19. #19 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    “Did he have some reason to believe that his assumption that the sun’s rays are parallel when they reach Earth was valid?”

    Yes, they knew that the sun was a long distance away.

    “measurements by Aristarchus of Samos (310 BC – 230 BC) of the positions of the Sun and Moon when the Moon is at quarter phase (half lit), allowed him to use triginometery to estimate the ratio of distances to these two objects. His crude estimate of 1200 Earth radii (about 8 million kilometers), although far from the modern value of 150 million kilometers, was quite good considering their lack of modern observational tools like telescopes.”

    See: http://www.galaxyzoo.org/historical_measures_of_the_size_of_the_solar_system

    You can do the same thing with Venus.

  20. #20 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    “if the sun were much closer to the earth, it’s light rays would not be parallel and Eratosthenes’ observations would be consistent with a flat earth.”

    However, your distance to the sun would be far too close and you’d have much vaster cooling as you went “north” (since the cooler latitudes are the result of the angle of the ground cf the direction to the sun).

    The existence of the Arctic 24-hour night also disproves it.

    I.e. the Arctic would never be able to be in complete darkness, since only an infinite planar earth could produce just an eternal sunset, and we know that you don’t walk infinity miles to get to the arctic circle.

    Multiple lines of evidence.

    PS how come nobody here’s complained about how the consensus science of a round earth is not science at all, just proof that if you want to get ahead in science you have to agree to a round world..?

  21. #21 Randy Owens
    September 22, 2011

    @Wow: Because they’ve all been silenced by Big Round Earth, obviously.

  22. #22 yogi-one
    September 22, 2011

    @ wow: also because there is no huge industry that makes billions of dollars off people believing the earth is flat, who can then buy out all the politicians, and stage a Congressional panel where, one by one, state senators all announce that they sincerely believe the earth is flat.

    Believe me, if the money was there, they would do just that.

  23. #23 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    @Randy, or “fell off” the edge of the world… !

  24. #24 Neil Bates
    September 22, 2011

    OK, thanks to Wow (often putting many helpful points up, do you have your own blog etc?) for reference to Aristarchus – the article rightly referred to Eratosthenes as being first, but I am reminded (and had that running in my head) that Aristarchus had more completely figured out the “big picture” for why the Earth had to be round, in that the Sun was too far away for the shadow angles to vary because of its height above a flat surface. BTW, sure there are many reasons why the latitudinal difference can’t be just the Sun above a flat Earth, but naturally my point was off the top of the head and directed to, “but would scholars at time Eratosthenes made his case, have known enough to know the difference.” In reflection, I suppose it’s rather “obvious” that differential lengths of days would prove the point, but that’s something more ancient peoples like Egyptians and Hebrews (butt of science v. fundamentalism jokes because of Biblical descriptions couched as flat-earth) would know. So, did *they* (or their best scholars) figure the Earth must be round?

    Matt: I can believe that about Columbus v. the Queen, but then how did CC get away with calling the native peoples of the Americas, “Indians” that we still bizarrely use today? It seems to me, there should have been big push back right away and the early recognition that CC had found a “new world”, so it’s odd how that misleading name stuck.

  25. #25 Eric Lund
    September 22, 2011

    mountains far to the South, where it gets colder than the more temperate climates in the north

    This is not necessarily evidence of a spherical Earth. I’m not sure whether the ancient Greeks would have known this, but their contemporaries in China and India almost certainly did: The climate generally gets colder as you go to higher elevations. Many national capitals (e.g., Mexico City, Quito, Nairobi) are at high elevation because the climate is more temperate than at low elevations at the same latitude.

  26. #26 Richard Simons
    September 22, 2011

    psweet @5:

    Regarding Columbus, I’ve read speculation (in Lies My Teacher Told Me, I think) that he had heard rumors of new lands to the west, . .

    The suggestion I heard was that, until relatively soon before he sailed, Greenland was still represented by a bishop in Rome. Columbus, who is said to have visited Iceland, knew about this and extrapolated south. Of course, that does not explain why he was convinced he had reached the Indies.

  27. #27 Wow
    September 22, 2011

    “often putting many helpful points up, do you have your own blog etc?”

    That’d be more work for me.

    If I post on others, though, it’s not.

    :-)

    “the article rightly referred to Eratosthenes as being first”

    I think he was the first to measure the diameter, though we don’t know the units any more, and our “guess” at what length that is in our system gives a suspiciously accurate answer…

    “BTW, sure there are many reasons why the latitudinal difference can’t be just the Sun above a flat Earth”

    Well sunsets happen differently too on a flat world: you’d only get the same length of shadow at sunrise and sunset if you were in the middle.

    The error of “the same length” attribution then gives you a minimum size to the earth.

    But the sun appears to travel at a uniform angular distance over the sky, and that means a circular orbit, so that gives a maximum size of the earth.

    Which is smaller than the minimum worked out earlier.

    Worse, because you can measure the same shadow difference at widely spaced Eastern and Western locations, you have a MUCH larger minimum size of the earth, since your baseline can’t be more than a certain fraction of the size of the earth.

    (NOTE: Not that this is how it was done, but how it COULD be done by the inquisitive)

    The only shape that wherever you are, you’re in the middle of the surface is a sphere.

    To an extent, there’s absolutely no problem with a round earth for almost every religion apart from Abrahamic ones (which also has pi=3, natch). After all, the earth is a god, so that’s why we don’t fall off a round earth. Goddidit. And the Sun doesn’t fall down like we do because THAT’S a god too.

    “So, did *they* (or their best scholars) figure the Earth must be round?”

    The christian theologians knew that the earth was round because they were one of the few people who kept the books of the ancient world alive in the Dark Ages.

    But Holy Writ implied otherwise. Rather than confuse the laity with “It’s not literal” which would lead the unsophisticated to think “Well, is the doctrine of heaven and hell not literal too?” which would be discomforting, they told the laity that the earth was flat.

    Those educated (which was often by Church scholars) could be trusted because they would understand that the earth shape isn’t important, God’s Existence was. You have to get them young to ensure they believe in God before you can tell them the Bible isn’t 100% true and accurate.

    The scholars of the time certainly had the capability to check for themselves, and they also (pre Dark Age) had the access to the teachings that would tell them of a round earth.

    But this is where Ptolemy REALLY screwed the pooch for science.

    He INSISTED that you could discern the truth by pure thought alone and that actual testing and experimentation was not only a waste of time, would actually lead you astray.

    He was also a thorough-going mystic, with the intolerance to differences of opinion that implies with the successful and prominent.

    But its the removal of the practical testing of hypothesis that killed science for around a thousand years and the lasting legacy of Ptolemy. He was damn smart, but we’d have had several more just as smart in a thousand years.

    So the answer to your query could well be: they didn’t because that would be doing experimentation and therefore they didn’t look.

  28. #28 Roger
    September 22, 2011

    Besides the myth that Columbus discovered the round Earth, there is also the myth that Copernicus or Galileo discovered the moving Earth. Some Greeks said that the Earth went around the Sun, and Copernicus and Galileo did not add any significant evidence.

  29. #29 Rockyspoon
    September 22, 2011

    Magellan could have simply floated around the ocean in a circle, losing track of the days, and erroneously concluded the earth was spherical. A picture is better proof–unless you’re using a fisheye lense.

  30. #30 Raging Bee
    September 22, 2011

    So give the credit where credit is due, to Eratosthenes…

    But then we’d have to give blame where blame is due: to the Christians, for working so dilligently to suppress, marginalize and ignore all knowledge that came from pagan sources, and keep their part of the world in the dark for as long as they could.

  31. #31 Ian Kemmish
    September 22, 2011

    The first person to scale a tall mountain near a plain or sea would have a clear impression of the curvature of the Earth. One doing so on an isolated island would conclude that the Earth was spherical rather than merely cylindrical (which Eratosthenes’ first experiment could not tell). To be sure, Eratosthenes also invented a way of measuring longitude as you say, but as I understand it, it wasn’t very accurate at all.

    As for Columbus, there were allegedly Bristol-based Grand Banks fishermen amongst his crew, though as I recall the evidence is inconclusive. (That is, such fishermen definitely existed, but it’s not clear whether they sailed with Columbus.) These people all knew America was there – Columbus was merely hoping to sail around it.

    PS. The 2008 risk crisis does give a delightful piquancy to the line about “certain fashionable theories” about the shape of the world in “The Scarlet Perpetual Assurance”.

  32. #32 Jim Thomerson
    September 22, 2011

    I think Columbus accepted Poseidonius estimate of a world of @ 18,000 miles in circumference. Poseidonius supposedly used the star Canopus, but his work is only known from secondary sources. Columbus also studied a map by Toscanelli, perhaps influenced by Poseidonius, which showed the distance across the Atlantic to be some 3000 miles. This distance calculation was rejected by various knowledgable people, which slowed Columbus down considerably. But, having sailed, Columbus expected to reach India at about where he found the New World.

    This is from reading Isaac Asimov’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology.

  33. #33 Walter Sobchak
    September 22, 2011

    #25: Copernicus (1473 – 1543) was, like his Greek predecessors a purely geometric astronomer. His system was heliocentric, but it had no account of the dynamic relationship of the Sun and the planets. Galileo(1564 – 1642), was the pioneer of telescopic observational astronomy. But, while he championed Copernicus’ system, and believed that his observations, such as the discovery of Jupiter’s moons, proved helioocentrism, he did not create dynamic astronomy.

    That story briefly, is of Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601), an old fashioned non-telescopic astronomer whose observations were of unprecedented accuracy, and Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), a mathematician who reduced Brahe’s observations and derived his three laws of planetary motion from them. On the basis of Kepler’s work, Issac Newton (1643 – 1727) was able to prove that the laws of gravity that he had derived from terrestrial observations also applied to heavenly bodies, and created a physics based astronomy.

    Note here that Copernicus died before any of the others were born, that Brahe, Galileo, and Kepler were roughly contemporaries, and that Newton was born after all of the others had died. It was a multi-generational effort.

    #25, in the immortal phrase of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) you are “not even wrong”, just prejudiced and ignorant of history.

  34. #34 Prof. Bleen
    September 22, 2011

    Since Eratosthenes was Greek, it would be better to call the unit of length a stadion, wouldn’t it?

  35. #35 Goatsonfire
    September 22, 2011

    @ Wow, actually if the sun were close enough to produce Eratosthenes’ results, the change the angle of the sun’s rays w.r.t the surface of the earth would only be greater close to the equator, then it would flatten out asymptotically approaching 90 degrees, while with a round earth and far away sun it reaches 90 degrees like a sin function. The cooling due to the changing distance to the sun would be much greater, though.

    Not that it matters, since I’m not saying the earth is flat and the sun is far away just wondering how Eratosthenes knew that, at the time :P

    I don’t think he knew about the 24 hour nights in the arctic circle, but what you said about the positions of the moon and sun and the moon phases makes perfect sense. It requires the sun’s rays to be parallel and it was known during Eratosthenes’ time, so thanks! Also, what everyone else said about the ancients knowing the earth was round and Eratosthenes just being interested in its diameter answers it too.

  36. #36 sam
    September 23, 2011

    The one who wrote the Book of Genesis..

  37. #37 David L
    September 23, 2011

    The diagram illustrating the phases of the moon seems to have put it in a polar orbit to make America the centre of the diagram!

  38. #38 Wow
    September 23, 2011

    “…while with a round earth and far away sun it reaches 90 degrees like a sin function. The cooling due to the changing distance to the sun would be much greater, though.”

    Aye, that’s what I meant, even if it was unclear.

    “just wondering how Eratosthenes knew that, at the time”

    He didn’t *know*, since you’d have to be a lot taller than a human to *know* know that, but he did know that the simplest explanation of the angular difference was a sphere and that if you went east/west you didn’t get colder like you did going north/south which would be the case for a cylindrical or flat earth.

    As said before, the actual shape of the earth’s shadow in eclipse is also not correct for a disc-world and that too gives a maximum size for the earth which would be visible in the different morn/eve shadows on a sundial.

    The motion of the sun also precludes without multiplying entities a flat earth: as the sun goes down, it gets closer to the earth and so you’d get hotter going east/west.

    Terry Pratchett’s Discworld gets this bit much more correct than any flat-earth system here: the rim is hot and the hub cold.

  39. #39 csrster
    September 23, 2011

    I’ve heard the discovery of the sphericity of the Earth in the West attributed to Anaximander of Miletus but according to Wikipedia it was actually Anaximander who postulated a cylindrical form.

  40. #40 Wow
    September 23, 2011

    I believe that was more a theory, I don’t know whether a measurement of that was made by Anaximander (who, IIRC, also posited the theory that life started at the margins of the water and developed from the mud at those places: interestingly, this may be why the Christian Bible has God making humans out of Mud, especially when everything else was just “made to exist”, and also that matter was made of tiny indivisible pieces and that solidity was an illusion of our senses).

  41. #41 pekay
    September 23, 2011

    Interesting post – thanks. Is this right, though?

    If you follow the Sun’s path through the daytime sky, and you live in the Northern hemisphere, you’ll find that it rises in the eastern part of the sky, rises up to its apex in the south, and then lowers and sets in the west. And it does this every day of the year.

    I mean, if you live north of the equator but south of the tropic of cancer, isn’t the sun going to appear to your north at midday for some part of the year? Or am I fundamentally misunderstanding something (entirely possible)?

  42. #42 john werneken
    September 23, 2011

    These posts are a lot of fun to read. Many knew for ages that the Earth was more or less a sphere, and roughly how big it was, and that the world had two continental groups not one, and roughly where they were and how far apart, and had even gone back and forth and even PUBLISHED all this.

    It is debatable about the Bible; all the stories in it are either from the Sumerians, Israeli history and politics, or Christian history and politics. Whether divinely inspired or quite otherwise, it’s principles work well in real life and are found to a similar degree and explained in a similar way in all large-population civilizations, which otherwise would have neither large populations nor civilization, as ours may soon lack, if those truths are not soon more observed.

    Columbus was a genius though regardless of which parts of all this he understood or was willingly to admit in public, for he permanently united the earth’s cultures and biospheres, even if neither has had enough time to adapt well to that change.

    As that change is the basis for the social and physical technology responsible for the World we live in, and all future Earths unless we complete our efforts to complete racial suicide, these topics and other related issues in the original article as well as in the comments are of astonishing importance to all, as well as of great interest to very many.

    Thank you all.

  43. #43 Saúl Roll
    September 23, 2011

    Roman numismatic iconography is abundant in examples of the Earth as a globe, usually being held by the emperor. I don’t think there was ever a doubt among them that the Earth was indeed round.

  44. #44 Saúl Roll
    September 23, 2011
  45. #45 George Subocz
    September 24, 2011

    Isaiah 40:22 “He sits enthrowned above the circle of the earth…” Isaiah lived 740-681 BC. I think the Bible’s Old Testament statement about the earth as a sphere predates everyone else.

  46. #46 Neil B.
    September 24, 2011

    George, AFAIK the “circle” reference is not just an apparent (from English translation there) a reference to a flat disk – which is what “circle” means, not a sphere – but supported by other descriptions. However, there is a reference to the Earth “hanging on nothing.”:
    Job 26:7
    New International Version (©1984)
    He spreads out the northern [skies] over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
    Sounds insightful, but doesn’t give us much insight: those with real access to the scope of an infinite mind could get a hold of plenty to prove they were privy to insights not available to the rest of humanity at the time.

    As for “pi = 3″ The actual builders of the time would have known it was around 3-1/7, so maybe the writer meant the inner molten puddle?

  47. #47 Martin OShaughnessy
    September 25, 2011

    Another myth: Magellan circumnavigated the globe. A bit tricky seeing as he was killed by angry natives in the Phillipines. His second in command, Juan Sebastian Elcano, completed the mission and so was the first to circumnavigate the globe. Yet who ever heard of Elcano, whilst Magellan is a household name…? Funny business, history.

  48. #48 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “As for “pi = 3″ The actual builders of the time would have known it was around 3-1/7, so maybe the writer meant the inner molten puddle?”

    Or that was taken from a much earlier text of a different religion.

    Like most of the Bible, in fact.

  49. #49 Dave McLaughlin
    September 26, 2011

    Didn’t Columbus name the West Indies? If so, isn’t the name itself a pretty strong indication that he didn’t think he was to the east of India?

  50. #50 Aalt
    September 28, 2011

    Columbus was sure of reaching land sailing West fromout Sevilla, Spain 3rd of August 1492. He had a map, bought from a sailor in Lisboa indicating land, islands far West. His assumption was it was the eastern part of Asia (thinking Eurasia was bigger and the globe smaller). Colon (in Spanish) was born in Genua, Italy. He convinced the Catholic Kings of Spain to support him. After completing the “Reconquista” of Spain on the Arabs (2nd of Jan. 1492), no longer spending on war they had a budget for Columbus trip. So he could organize his expedition with 3 ships. Columbus found the Bahamas on the 12th of october, and Cuba 16 days later. Colon made more trips with troops to Colonize the Americas for Spain. The Pope divided the new world in a Portugese part (roughly Brasil) and a Spanisch part west of it. Until He died (1506 at 55 years of age)Columbus believed he found another way to reach Asia.

  51. #51 Brian
    September 29, 2011

    Regarding Columbus and Magellan, you may want to consider that there existed in 1519, in the library of the rulers of Venice, a map known as the Piri Reis (Piri Reis was an Arabian sea captain) which depicts the coastlines of South America and the Caribbean Sea with fair accuracy. South American animals and birds are also accurately depicted. See Aalt’s post of 9/28/11, 8:45 pm.

    Most importantly, the map depicts a strait between South America and Patagonia- decades before Magellan sailed through it The authenticity of this map and its date are agreed upon by historians. Gavin Menzies postulates that both Columbus and Magellan had seen the Piri Reis map.

    So Columbus may have known full well the existence of the Americas, but wanted to keep his knowledge secret in order to be able to claim large tracts of land by right of discovery.

  52. #52 Wow
    September 30, 2011

    That map had Greece covering about 1/6 of the globe, mind.

    IIR the right one C.

  53. #53 Bonnie Beckham
    January 2, 2012

    Hmmm

  54. #54 Terry
    FL
    July 3, 2012

    Either way, Columbus proved it by actually sailing and finding other lands to the west. Columbus is my many times great grandfather. There’s no need to put him down for what he did accomplish.

  55. #55 Wow
    July 3, 2012

    Nope, Columbus proved he was wrong and that the earth was, in actual fact, bigger than he thought it was.

    They already knew the world was round. And his expedition wasn’t to prove it. It was because Chris “The Doffus” Columbus thought the earth was much smaller therefore the distance to India was doable.

    He was wrong.

    If it weren’t for the fact of another large landmass existing there, he and his crew would have died ignominious deaths.

    But now I have a question for you Terry.

    Why is it so important that Columbus be a visionary?

  56. #56 Bel
    China
    August 14, 2012

    dear the ship went in the wrong direction with Colombus, he thought America was India, then he named the indigenous people Indians lol, the first to discover Earth was round, well to know him just watch this, he is a Muslim, u can be sure if you watch what Muslims invented during Golden Ages>>what was called the Dark Ages in Europe when everything was going down there, another civilization full of science was emerging and growing, even from Spain to China>>world expo in England, Los Angels, Dubai,… tells about this>> here<>>
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZDe9DCx7Wk&feature=relmfu
    and here>>>
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9t_hVAKeM8

  57. #57 Bel
    China
    August 14, 2012

    but the best video is here dear!>>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXuSNdlJOCw

  58. #58 Bel
    China
    August 14, 2012

    u can see that these are only illuminating inventions, none of them was done by wicked science or intelligence as a wish to have power or to control, it was all due to the blessed wisdom dear!

  59. #59 Bel
    China
    August 14, 2012
  60. #60 Bel
    China
    August 15, 2012

    New information, lol, the oldest graves in America have Arabic writing on them, they are the most ancient graves in America, of course Muslims like Ibn Batuta loved to travel the world, traveling and exploring and meditating are pillars of faith, so even the name America has an Arabic origin, its etymology comes from the Arabic word “AMRICA” or “AMRIKA” which means “the land which is far and uninhabited”. many countries have contentious arguments about the etymology of their names, like Britain, 1-from the brith, blue or azure with which Celts tainted their bodies, 2-from the Roman word Brittanni…..

  61. #61 Richard
    Florida
    August 19, 2012

    Interesting that no one quoted Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 where Solomon (born 1010 years BC), who was given wisdom above all men, said:
    “5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.
    6 The wind blows to the south, and turns to the north;
    round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.
    7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.
    To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

    Sounds like a round earth to me!

  62. #62 marissa
    jasksonville,fl
    September 11, 2012

    I never knew that wowwww!!!!

  63. #63 Wow
    September 12, 2012

    OK, why the hell are these old threads being necro’d?

    PS Richard, does it sound to you like the earth is at the center?

  64. #64 james
    September 24, 2012

    It was Nicholas Compernik.The Polish.

  65. #65 Tucsters
    November 1, 2012

    Didn’t, technically, Aristotle state that the earth was round first. He had some of the same proof that you did, including how eclipses happen with a rounded curve and that when you travel northward or southward, the stars will gradually become in a different position and “new” stars will be seen. This gives him fact in his theorem, that, even though it wasn’t believed, was correct

  66. #66 James Smith
    João Pessoa, Brazil
    November 14, 2012

    It’s much more simple that the explanation given here.

    First, anone living by the sea, as most people always have, can look at the horizon and see the curvature of the earth.

    Next when a ship sails away from shore, the hull disappears first and the masts and superstructure last. Approaching, it is the reverse. This can only be accounted for by ball-shaped world. Very few people believed the earth was flat.

  67. #67 netty muyso
    November 24, 2012

    oh wow<but i hope they explain it very well< actually I'm confused

  68. #68 MooMoo
    January 6, 2013

    Before Science ever visually confirmed that Earth is ROUND,
    God in the Bible had stated that Earth is ROUND Already

    Isaiah 40:22 (NIV)
    22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth

    Then pull out an Apollo 11 picture of the earth. From any point above the earth, you would see it as a circle. Any reference made is correct with the facts, as with the other scriptures cited by the other responders.

    And the Hebrew word for “circle” is also used in reference to “spheres”.

  69. #69 Cher
    USA
    January 14, 2013

    Job 27 VS 7 – 10

    “”He strethes out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing…”He binds up the water in His thik louds, Yet the clouds are broken under it.” ….”He overs the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud over it.”…..”He drew a ircular horizon on the face of the waters, At the boundary of light and darkness.”

  70. #70 Cher
    January 14, 2013

    Job 27 VS 7-10

    “He streches out the north over empty space; He hands the earth on nothing”….He binds up the water in His thick clouds, Yet the clouds are broken under it.,”…..”He covers the face of His throne and spreads His cloud over it.”…..”He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, At the boundary of light and darkness.”

  71. #71 Wow
    January 14, 2013

    Spherical isn’t round.

    Many other problems with that.

    But you’re not ready to learn.

  72. #72 Sai
    Philippines
    January 18, 2013

    I am sorry but isn’t Francis Drake (1597) who first discovered that the Earth is round (spherical). I just confused. -.-

  73. #73 Chris G
    February 7, 2013

    “Interesting that no one quoted Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 where Solomon (born 1010 years BC), who was given wisdom above all men, said:
    “5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.
    6 The wind blows to the south, and turns to the north;
    round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.
    7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.
    To the place the streams come from, there they return again.

    Sounds like a round earth to me!”

    Excellent verse Richard. I was just at my desk reading Ecclesiastes and came across this verse. God has revealed all these things to us, but men will supress the truth by their unrighteousness and sin. They can not believe the bible, because they WILL NOT believe the bible. The bible will shatter their false assurance that there is no Judgement day. But there will be…..

  74. #74 Wow
    February 8, 2013

    “but men will supress the truth by their unrighteousness and sin.”

    Since science knew from pre-400AD and that it were the CLERGY who supressed the truth, you’re saying that the religious people were the unrighteous and sinful.

    “They can not believe the bible, because they WILL NOT believe the bible”

    And you can not believe The Lord Of The Rings because you WILL NOT believe The Lord Of The rings.

  75. #75 vitoria maria amador frade
    porto velho rondonia
    February 20, 2013

    o que o cosmo

  76. #76 Terrance Wilkerson
    Ocala,Fl
    February 26, 2013

    Isaiah 40:21 says,” It is He that sits above the circle of the earth”. My good people read your bibles and know that it is God who gives wisdom and knowlage.

  77. #77 Wow
    February 27, 2013

    It also says the four corners of the earth.

    My god, people, you don’t ever seem to read the bible, just find quotes someone else took out of it.

  78. #78 Terrance Wilkerson
    February 27, 2013

    My God is right and your wisdom is shallow. The phrase 4 corners means south east west north 4 corners. But you are
    wise and us people are just silly believers.

  79. #79 Wow
    February 28, 2013

    Your god is your imagination, nothing more.

  80. #80 Ryan
    New York
    March 6, 2013

    Since this is still being argued, after all this time, here is a take-down I found of the Isaiah argument, using the original Hebrew as it’s source:

    What is this “circle”? Out of the 15 bible translations given here: http://bible.cc/isaiah/40-22.htm 14 have “circle”, one has “disk” and only one (the Douay-Rheims) translates the word as “globe”. We’ll get to that later.
    Ok… let’s go back in time! The Greek version (Septuaginta) translates into:
    ὁ κατέχων τὸν γῦρον τῆς γῆς (O katekhoon ton gyron tes ges)
    The Latin version (Vulgata) translates it as:
    qui sedet super gyrum terrae
    The same word gyrum / gyros. What exactly does it mean? “a circle, circular course, round, ring” ( http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0060%3Aentry%3Dgyrus )
    Still back in time!! The original hebrew:
    הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל-חוּג הָאָרֶץ ( Hi shev al-hug ha-aretz )
    The real word is “hug”, that is, a tool used to measure, somehow like a carpenters’ compass.
    The only online dictionary for biblical hebrew I can find at the moment is here: http://books.google.it/books?id=MwstAAAAYAAJ you’ll have to go to page 46, and see that hug is translated as “circle, arch, reel”
    Do you see a sphere anywhere?
    So, of all these “bibles” the only that can be somehow be read as “sphere” is the Douay-Rheims (EDIT: who actually says “globe”).
    Let’s analyze how authoritative is it: the Douay-Rheims translation ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douay%E2%80%93Rheims_Bible ) is a 16th century catholic translation that translated from Latin, not from the original Hebrew. And as we have seen, the latin text has gyrum, which in no way can be rendered as anything spherical.
    I’m afraid that this “globe” is quite a mistake on the translators’ part (or at least, they were influenced by the contemporary mindframe when using that word)

  81. #81 Wow
    March 6, 2013

    Ryan, the globe of the earth is easily known by any, and I mean ANY, seafaring race.

    It wasn’t necessary to have a god tell us that, and finding something that, if you squint at it hard enough and bend over backwards to interpret it “correctly”, is nowhere near proof of the existence of a sky fairy.

  82. #82 Wow
    March 6, 2013

    And the Dead Sea Scrolls changed quite a few of the then-current understanding of several passages in the bible as recorded in modern (English) translations like KJV.

    If it had been a divinely inspired translation, that wouldn’t have happened.

    The bible still has problems with Bats being mammals not birds, as anything creating both critters would have known, but stone-age taxonomists may not have been aware of.

  83. #83 Sean T
    March 7, 2013

    Oh come on Wow, let’s cut God some slack. He obviously believed that a circle IS the same thing as what we call a sphere. He’s just not too good at the mathematics of circles is all, what with the whole pi=3 thing and all. :)

  84. #84 Wow
    March 7, 2013

    And maybe he *meant* to make bats out of the same bits as birds, but he was in a rush and, well, we all make mistakes… he’s only human…

  85. #85 Sean T
    March 7, 2013

    I guess the real moral of the Bible is then that we should take it easy on math and science students. This stuff is so hard that even an omnipotent deity can’t seem to grasp it!!!

  86. #86 Marc
    Australia
    March 7, 2013

    @Wow, I think Ryan is arguing against someone else’s comment that God is all wise and has already told us the world was a sphere in the Bible. He’s pointing out that the Bible doesn’t acknowledge the Earth as being a sphere as suggested earlier by others but, at best, a disk.

    I don’t think he support the idea of the Earth being flat.

  87. #87 mehak
    March 8, 2013

    well the quran said the earth was round many years before that
    The Quran mentions the actual shape of the earth in the following verse: “And we have made the earth egg shaped”. The Holy Quran, Chapter 79, Verse 30

  88. #88 Wow
    March 8, 2013

    Marc, I think so too.

    But I wanted to make the point much more strongly than Ryan wanted to.

    The god of the christian bible doesn’t exist. Full stop.

    Does not mean that this proves there is no god, only that the one as described in that book is a fiction.

  89. #89 NeilC
    South Africa
    March 11, 2013

    Wow, I am saddened by your view on God of the bible.
    I pray that you too shall one day experience His presence and find the true source of life and of all wisdom. After all someone had to make all of this for us to discover. And we have only discovered the minutest pieces of it to date. But yet we tend to think we know it all…….That we can see it all so clearly…. But one day we will see it all for what it really is, In all its glory. And then we will know the truth.

  90. #90 Wow
    March 11, 2013

    The dude exists the same way as Gandalf or Mr Spock does.

    That there may still be some “god” around isn’t what that means, though.

    Just that the god as written down in the bible as it proclaims it DOES NOT EXIST.

    Just like the Kim Jung Il that the state media portrayed DOES NOT EXIST.

    And for much the same reason: they are stories, not accounts.

  91. #91 Wow
    March 11, 2013

    ” After all someone had to make all of this for us to discover.”

    Really? Why?

    And if it’s because something needs a creator to exist, then what created him? If he didn’t need one, then this place didn’t need one.

    This really is godbotherer 101. Hell, it’s pre-schooler introductory godbotherer.

    Please try harder.

  92. #92 Wow
    March 11, 2013

    “well the quran said the earth was round many years before that”

    And when it comes to strange revelation of truth science is only just getting to grips with, how come nobody ever bothers to notice that the Hindu faith has something completely nailed:

    The Brahma year.

    It’s about 4.6 billion earth years.

    Which is about one brahma year that the earth existed.

    About one brahma year before that the sun started to collapse.

    Another one brahma year before that time began.

    (PS another point: if time began at the big bang, then the query “what happened before the big bang” is nonsensical for the same reason as asking “Before you started the car running, where was the car running?”)

  93. #93 Wow
    March 11, 2013

    Grr. Milky Way as it is now. Not sun.

    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2012/05/new-insights-into-ancient-clusters-orbiting-the-milky-way-1.html

    for evidence of a ~10billion year collapse timeframe.

  94. #94 Lynefridah
    TANZANIA
    April 18, 2013

    Its true that the earth is spherical and not flat.

  95. #95 phillip Thejane
    RSA
    May 1, 2013

    @Wow I find it difficult to believe that the earth is round..the reason why I say so is because NO ONE ever proven live standing on the edge of the earth to see the darkenness and brightness at the same time from the reflection of the sun. Take a torch and a ball in the dark room you will find a line on that ball (left dark and right bright). The fact here is if you can stand on the middle of that line you’ll be able to see the dark side and the bright side at the same time so in this regard NO ONE EVER stood on the middle of this earth to prove the earth being round. Can you clarify that for me please.

  96. #96 Wow
    May 2, 2013

    “@Wow I find it difficult to believe that the earth is round..”

    Not my problem, it’s yours.

    Do you live near high cliffs or a lighthouse? Can you get a trip on a boat to, say, 10 miles offshore?

    If so, you can prove yourself that the earth is round.

    Sail three miles away and the BOTTOM of the cliff will disappear and as you travel out, more and more of the BOTTOM END of the cliff will disappear.

    And since the earth is (very nearly) spherical, everywhere you stand is the “middle”. This is why out at sea and with no sight of land (again proving the earth is round) the horizon is equidistant.

  97. #97 Wow
    May 2, 2013

    That three mile distance is also why you can’t DISCERN the light from the dark side.

    Get up high and you could, just like you can see that effect on the moon, by virtue of being 1/4 million miles away from standing on the surface.

    The earth and moon are both a lot bigger than a ball you can hold…

  98. #98 Farrukh nawab
    house no 217 street no 5 hayatabad chichawatni
    May 20, 2013

    Earth is not round Why? in summer days long and in winter days short because earth in not round earth is like egg shape that is why in summar days long and in winter days short for mor information link me at my website

  99. #99 Gerry
    Australia
    June 7, 2013

    No, Farrukh, lengths of summer and winter days vary because of the tilt in the Earth’s axis.

  100. #100 MF
    Earth
    June 20, 2013

    Traveling towards or away from any high structure across any reasonable distance provides some clue that the earth is round. A image over a flat surface would grow or shrink while maintaining its basic structural outline. Instead it manifests from the peak expanding to the base and vice versa. A flat earth is the invention forged by clucks unwilling to step outside the safety of their communities. This should not be an interpitation of the beliefs of society in general for the times.

  101. #101 king
    davao city
    August 12, 2013

    you know you don’t have to debate whose the really first known that earth is circle don’t you read in isaiah 40:21-22 says ‘It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” therefore its already stated there that Isaiah is the one that revealed that earth is circle; and that’s what are you looking for Phillip thejane? before somebody would search that earth is round Isaiah already said it…and that was revealed also to him by God.

  102. #102 Wow
    August 13, 2013

    Round. Like a circle. Not spherical like a ball.

    Apparently you don’t know what the words mean.

  103. #103 Bieber
    Los Angeles
    August 13, 2013

    Great ;)

  104. #104 Bill Mullins
    Madison, WV
    September 13, 2013

    There was a man about 600 years before Eratosthenes that wrote: It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers: This was written by the prophet Isaiah in the Holy Bible written about 800 BC. Isaiah 40:22

  105. #105 Craig Arthur
    September 14, 2013

    The entire myth of Columbus “standing up to” Ferdinand and Isabella was invented by American author Washington Irving (“Rip van Winkle,” “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” etc.) in the 19th century. As US ambassador to Spain, Irving wrote a great deal about Spain, including a biography of Columbus, in which he included an entirely fictional conversation between Columbus and the two Spanish monarchs.

  106. #106 Wow
    September 15, 2013

    And your dinner plate is a circle.

    If isiah had been thought to meant sphere, then why did every other interpreter think it was a flat circle he meant? Did that asshole God not think it worthwhile correcting anyone when visiting His Hole Presence (which today is supposed not to happen at the risk of being charged for kiddie fiddling…) upon them and dictating The True And Correct Word Of The Almighty ™?

  107. #107 Dara Quinn
    September 17, 2013

    Admiral ‘Zheng He’ discovered America before Columbus. Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. These are USA-centric myths and simply untrue.

  108. #108 Apple
    December 17, 2013

    The bible indicates that the earth is a circle and flat like the ‘seal’ on an old scroll.
    Some thought that the sun was a flat disc and the moon was a flat disc, and presumably then thought that the earth was a flat disc too.

  109. #109 Apple
    December 17, 2013

    The bible has conflicting ideas about the earth.
    ‘hangs on nothing’ in Job but supported on pillars in revelation.
    It also states on several occasions that the earth is in a ‘fixed’ position.
    We now know that the earth moves through space.

  110. #110 Amir Amini
    United Kingdom
    December 20, 2013

    the 7.2 degrees difference of the shadows in egypt vs greece, at noon, only gives a hint of earth having a curve. still a long way from concluding earth being round. how quickly guess work in mathematics and measurement can deceive us! take an unbiased look at Orlando Ferguson’s flat and stationary earth. this would make a long debate, but i am interested in enlightenment. peace

  111. #111 Wow
    December 20, 2013

    “how quickly guess work in mathematics and measurement can deceive us!”

    You’re talking about your “mathematical” conclusion that it’s “still a long way from concluding earth being round”, right?

    Mayans knew that the earth was round from the shadow on the moon by the earth at a lunar eclipse. The greeks already knew that the earth was round. The 7.2 degree difference was how they measured the size of the earth, not how they proved it was spherical.

    Try some enlightenment.

  112. #112 Bob
    murica
    December 21, 2013

    “The greeks already knew that the earth was round. ” yeah like a dinner plate. Not that I completely disagree with your questioning of the biblical references just thought it was funny.

    Dara The book about zheng he you are referencing also attributes the new port town to him and also the Bahamas sea rock is supposed to be a slip way for his ships…

  113. #113 Bob
    December 21, 2013

    Tower not town

  114. #114 GOPAL
    INDIA
    January 1, 2014

    manivasagar is the correct one 1500AD.. i studied the book from tamil virtual academy, the book name is thiruvasagam… he explained the earth, the universe and universe of the universe that every things are sphere shape….

  115. #115 Josh Hartland
    USA
    January 7, 2014

    wow not the answer I was looking for, stick to the main subject!

  116. #116 Wow
    January 8, 2014

    GOPAL, only when the BIBLE says something that could be re-interpreted as being something actually true is it taken as

    a) what the bible *meant*
    and
    b) “proof” that the bible and only the bible is real

    your religion is, by those touting the “amazing scientific truths in our holy text” (i.e. xtian fundies) a myth and completely bogus, even if it makes as good, or better, “predictions” than their bible, because they will, if needs be, work out the LEAST correct interpretation of the words of YOUR holy text and then use this to “prove” your religion is a myth.

  117. #117 Wow
    January 8, 2014

    ““The greeks already knew that the earth was round. ” yeah like a dinner plate.”

    WRONG!

    If it were round like a dinner plate, then ships disappearing would get smaller, not disappear from the hull down, moron.

  118. #118 marcel
    vancouver
    February 1, 2014

    i thought nicolaus copernicus found that the earth wasn’t round..

  119. #119 Bob
    February 2, 2014

    @wow so I am a moron for taking your comment IN context and poking a little fun at it. I am not sure how quoting you makes me a moron. You are a very silly small man who enjoys playing keyboard commando attacking people to somehow build themselves up. Which I guess is fine if that is what you need to do to make yourself feel better. But I am sure you are a astronaut navy seal electrical engineer senator who is married to a Super model like all other keyboard commandos online.Now that I have overreacted to a simple comment online I will move on with what little dignity I have left after sinking to your level. Kisses

  120. #120 Wow
    February 3, 2014

    “@wow so I am a moron for taking your comment IN context and poking a little fun at it.”

    Ah, so where did I claim that you were a moron for poking a little fun at it, Bob (or should I call you Kate?)?

    Ah, that’s right: I didn’t.

  121. #121 John
    Missouri
    February 7, 2014

    My research on the subject confirms what other in the post have said. According to Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History in Time, Aristotle (before Eratosthenes) wrote in the book “On The Heavens”, that the Earth is a sphere according to several lines of evidence. Aristotle also provided a calculation for Earth’s circumference. Though, this doesn’t mean Aristotle was the first to make these observations.

  122. #122 Declan Gilmartin
    UK
    February 10, 2014

    Most people believed the earth was flat until the Apollo astronauts proved otherwise by extraterrestrial photography.

  123. #123 Wow
    February 11, 2014

    Maybe in your circle of people, Declan.

  124. #124 Sean T
    February 11, 2014

    Declan,

    For literally thousands of years, people have known that the earth is round. I’m not sure why you think it was the Apollo astronauts who proved otherwise. Even if it were the space program that provided the proof, why would it have to have waited for Apollo? Apollo was the program that resulted in the lunar landings. There were many launches into low earth orbit prior to Apollo. Any of those would have confirmed that the earth was round; it’s pretty tough to orbit a flat object after all.

  125. #125 Suneet
    March 28, 2014

    1) How water is stuck to a spherical surface !! Why water does not fall somewhere in space out of Earth ?
    2) If a train is built long enough so that one end does not see the other end, then it should not need engine to make it run. It should run automatically. No?

  126. #126 Sean T
    March 28, 2014

    Suneet,

    I suspect you are not serious, but if you are:

    1) Gravity. Gravity attracts everything, including the water toward the center of the earth.

    2) No, of course not. Why in the world would a long train run on its own without a source of power. More precisely, an object that is at rest stays at rest unless a force acts on it. What would the force acting on your hypothetical very long train be? Further, this force must act only on the train and not on the tracks it is moving on. For instance, the rotation of the earth would not work. This does cause the train to move, but it also causes the tracks to move with it, so the train does not really run. Mabye if the train is on a downhill grade, this would be true, but for flat track, it would not.

  127. #127 Suneet
    April 1, 2014

    Thank for replying! I am serious, but may be ignorant ! There are still more doubts.

    Is there any possibility that we can chat, so that I can show you some images and clear my doubts further?

  128. #128 Believer
    US
    April 6, 2014

    Christians knew the earth was round since around 700BC. This is illustrated in the book of Isaiah 40:22. “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers, who stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in,…”

  129. #129 Sinisa Lazarek
    April 6, 2014

    @ Beliver

    LOL.. there were no christians in 700BC… Jewes yes, christians no.

  130. #130 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    April 6, 2014

    @Sinisa #129: Don’t you know? Most biblical literalists don’t really know anything at all about the Bible, especially not who wrote it.

  131. #131 Believer Aswell
    Holland Mi
    May 6, 2014

    Beleiver is right about the book of Isaiah. Senisa why do people try so hard to discredit the bible? I mean its the only book that all people regardless of race and gender that they agree to attack. So beleiver said christians instead of Hebrews. Does that make him/her any less right? You seemed to have put your focus on the politicaly correct termenology instead of the fact about the book of Isaiah. that like you going to the doctor and him prescribing you a cure but you taken more worry in his/her accent. lol my point is in the future please follow the topic within the thread. PS. Nor were there Jews in 700bc they were actually Hebrews. lol

  132. #132 Charles Gordon
    LA , CAL
    May 21, 2014

    Could you help me answer these questions from my flat earth wacko friend:
    People that are living in the Rochester area can see the Toronto skyline, the tower and buildings on a clear day. The distance is approx.100 miles with the declination at approx.. 6,600 feet. In essence I am standing on one side of a 6,600 foot hill that is shaped like the curve of earth, can I see buildings on the other side 100 miles away? Is that possible ? What is the difference between standing on the seashore at a 6,600 declination at 100 miles and a hill that is 6,600 feet tall? In both cases I have a 6,600 hill or curve of the earth to see objects that far away. I am wrong? Is it refraction? Let me know your thoughts. I have looked into refraction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_refraction.) but that involves the sun at sunset, sunrise and atmospheric conditions. In terrestrial refraction the line of sight variance is 8% + or – , depending on conditions near the surface of the water. Let me know what you thoughts are. Also, I live in So Cal and on a clear early morning as I stand on the shore I can see the coastal lights of Catalina. And with my telescope I can see boat movements near Avalon and people playing and walking on the shoreline. It is approx. 30 miles away. The declination is approx. 600 feet. Why is it that I see the coastal lights and movements? Shouldn’t the approx 600 feet of declination prevent me from seeing the lights? Is the light and image bending / refracting? Is it an optical illusion? I don’t know the answer, could you help explain those questions.

  133. #133 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    May 21, 2014

    @Charles Gordon #132: I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “declination” in this context. The quantity of importance is altitude — height above sea level. The Wikipedia article on “horizon” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon) provides the relevant mathematical expressions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon#Distance_to_the_horizon) including their derivations.

    Basically, the horizon distance scales with the square root of altitude. For your questions, in Imperial units, the relevant approximation is d ~ 1.22*sqrt(h), with h in feet and d in miles.

    You say (I think) that Rochester is at an altitude of 6,600 feet. That gives a horizon distance of 99 miles, consistent with being able to see Toronto “on a clear day.”

    Your second question sounds wrong. “Standing on the shore” is inconsistent with an altitude of “600 feet.” At sea level (that is, “on the shore”), your eyes are roughly six feet above ground, which leads to a horizon distance of three miles, far too short to see Catalina at all (which is 22 miles from L.A.). If you’re up on Palos Verdes, or maybe the Santa Monica “Mountains” above Malibu, at 600 feet, then the horizon would be 30 miles, easily enough to see the lights of Avalon.

  134. #134 raul prado
    texas
    May 25, 2014

    The Book of Job, from The Holy Bible, says the Earth is round in Job chapter 26. This book was written around the 4 century B.C.

  135. #135 Hassan
    UK
    June 5, 2014

    The quran also supports the fact that the earth is round but describes the shape of the earth by concluding that the shape is much like an ostrich egg, the earth is not perfectly round. Science has proved that the north pole and south pole are much further apart than one side of the equator to another side of the equator

  136. #136 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    June 5, 2014

    @Hassan #135: You’ve got the dimensions backwards. The Earth rotates about its axis. That rotation causes a _bulge_ at the equator, such that the equatorial diameter is larger (not smaller!) than the pole-to-pole diameter.

    Of course, for believers in geocentrism (who don’t believe the Earth rotates) explaining the measured equatorial bulge becomes much more difficult.

  137. #137 Selcuk Kibritci
    Belgium
    July 17, 2014

    Assume you are living on the equator (to make it simple) and you take a jump while the earth rotates at 463 meters per second. What is keeping me at the same location while i am not touching the ground? I mean i should be 463 meters away from where i jumped if i stayed 1 second off the ground.

  138. #138 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    July 18, 2014

    @Selcuk #137: You may wish to read a simple introduction to “conservation of momentum” (Wikipedia would be a good source). _You_ are moving at the same 463 meters per second as the Earth’s surface is, in your example. When you jump, why would you think that you would suddenly, magically, lose all of that speed?

    If you’re riding in a car and drop your phone toward the floor, does it suddenly zoom backward at 100 km/h? No. It keeps the same forward motion (of the car relative to the ground) that it had when you were holding on to it.

  139. #139 Sinisa Lazarek
    July 18, 2014

    @ Selcuk

    Newton’s 1st law. Or inertia in other words. You’re spinning same as earth. Since gravity is keeping you tied to earth, same force spinning the earth is spinning you too. The force of your jump is almost zero in comparison and thus no change.

  140. #140 Adam
    United States
    September 22, 2014

    Okay, Comment 128, as a fellow believer, I beg you to recognize that there were no Christians is 700 BC <<< (BEFORE Christ) and as people get confused about how Christianity and the Church work, I would encourage you to use less thoughtless bedlam and more exacting terms when addressing something that represents our Christ.

  141. #141 Adam
    United States
    September 22, 2014

    #ChristianAnnoyedByMostChristians

  142. #142 Cassandra
    at home
    October 5, 2014

    #agreed Adam

  143. #143 Wow
    October 6, 2014

    re 135, yes, round like a pond, or round like a hubcap.

    Spherical like the earth? Not so much.

    PS why did that bit “get it right” according to you, but the fact that there are no pillars holding the sky up as asserted elsewhere isn’t worth mentioning?

    PPS It was known 600BC that the earth was spherical. The thing to ask is why the bible, which would have known this, would not have been more consistent on this fact…

    The answer, of course, is the bible is no more a book of god than Homer’s Odyssey or the Epic of Gilgamesh are the books of the gods of those times. The OT is a book of ancient fable by a stone age tribe, “explaining” things for the stone age people by other stone age people. The NT is a book of modern fable, based on the prophesies of the OT and trying to make out that it’s all true.

    It’s as much fable as Brer Rabbit.

    NOTE: this has BUGGER ALL to do with whether a god exists. Just whether the book is truth or fable.

  144. #144 Wow
    October 6, 2014

    I mean its the only book that all people regardless of race and gender that they agree to attack.

    Nope, it’s the only book where you care about it being attacked, therefore note every instance where it is done and never where it’s not.

    You, for example,, don’t agree to attack it.

    People attack the book of the CoS liberally. With no limitation on race, creed or faith.

    People attack the book of JK Rowling. Again with no limitation on race, creed or faith.

    You just don’t care about attacks on those, so don’t bother to think of them. It’s much better to pretend you’re being gypped by everyone and persecuted for your faith (thereby proving, somehow, that your faith is true…?).

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