Re: Fwd: Flat Earth?

From: gordon brown <>
Date: Wed Nov 23 2005 - 15:59:13 EST

One of the earliest proofs that the Greeks used to convince themselves
that the earth is spherical was that its shadow as seen in a lunar eclipse
was always circular. I think Plato used this, but I don't know the
reference. In the third century B.C. Eratosthenes obtained a fairly
accurate estimate for the circumference of the earth when he compared
differences in latitude (determined from the angle of the sun above the
horizon) with actual measured distance. This enabled the Greeks to use
a lunar eclipse to determine the size of and distance to the moon. They
also made a valiant attempt to find the distance to the sun, but their
result was very inaccurate because of the difficulty in precisely
determining the angle of the sun-moon-earth triangle at the earth vertex.

The geographer Strabo in the early first century A.D. began his great work
with a lengthy discussion of the evidence for a spherical earth. This
included the fact that an observer on a ship approaching land sees the top
of a building before he can see its lower part. Strabo also claimed that
the people of India, like the Greeks, believed that the earth was round.
However, his accounts tended to be much less accurate the further from his
homeland the lands he was describing were.

I recall once seeing a sign at Wendover on the Nevada-Utah border
overlooking the Bonneville Salt Flats that said that Columbus was right
because you could see with your own eyes that the earth was round.
Actually, Columbus was wrong. He thought that Japan was only 2400 miles
west of Spain because he thought the earth was smaller than it actually
is, and he overestimated the size of Asia deduced from Marco Polo's

Gordon Brown
Department of Mathematics
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0395

On Tue, 22 Nov 2005, Keith Miller wrote:

> The following was posted to the ACG listserve and I thought that I
> would bounce it here. I have some limited knowledge of this, but
> thought that it would be best to let the historians in the group give
> their response. i will forward comments to the ACG list.
> Keith
> Begin forwarded message:
> > A while back, someone recommended the book 'Inventing the Flat Earth"
> > by Jeffrey Burton Russell. Russell seeks to show that the commonly
> > held notion that the "medievals" believed in a flat Earth is a
> > historical invention of the 19th and 20th century. I found the book
> > extremely intriguing but must remain skeptical - his arguments are
> > very convincing but it is hard for me to accept that his "Flat Error"
> > (as he calls it) has been willingly propagated for so long without
> > anyone crying foul. If true, this must rank as one of the most
> > outrageous "historical hoaxes" of the last 200 years - willfully
> > permitted to persist by the academia! Can anyone recommend other
> > references on this topic?
> >
> Keith B. Miller
> Research Assistant Professor
> Dept of Geology, Kansas State University
> Manhattan, KS 66506-3201
> 785-532-2250
Received on Wed Nov 23 16:01:48 2005

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