Saturday, 2 May 2015

Planet Earth - Did Columbus prove the world was round? No, it's an Urban Myth

The idea that Columbus proved the roundness of the Earth still appears from time to time.

It's a myth.

The Round Earth concept dates back thousands of years ... it was known in the time of the Ancient Greeks.

The first person to measure the size of the Earth was Eratosthenes



So .... Columbus?

He believed in a faulty size of the Earth, smaller than Eratosthenes had found.

He thought it was not very far to India, Japan and China if he sailed across the Atlantic.

This map gives an idea of how Columbus saw the situation.



'Cippangu' is Japan.

If the 'New World' had not been there, his sailors would have starved.  

When did the 'round earth' concept start?

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about an Egyptian sea voyage, which happened around 600 BC..... around 150 years before his own time.

The fleet sailed South, down the Red Sea, and followed the coast of Africa - all the way to the southern tip (The Cape of Good Hope)

Then West and North, until they turned East, to re-enter the Mediterranean at the Straits of Gibraltar.

When they were in the southern part of their journey, the Sun was in the northern part of the sky.

Many people, including Herodotus, did not believe them.

So... at that time the roundness was not understood.

A hundred years later Aristotle was suggesting the roundness of the Earth.

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