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Author Topic: Did people really believe the earth was flat?
DerekT
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I read about a year ago about how it was proven in about 200 AD by a greek mathmatican and philosopher that the world was round (I can't remember the name, any help).

Anyway, did people really believe at some point that the earth was flat or is this just a myth.

I do know that the reason why they didn't believe Columbos wasn't so much that the earth wasn't round but that the trip would take too long and he would run out of supplies first. The hilarious thing is of course that if Colombos didn't discover America, well then that probably would of happened

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Nightfall
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Yeah, that is just a myth. Most learned people in history thought that the world is round. Just look at Eudoxus' of Cnidus or Ptolemy's models for the universe, both feature a spherical earth.

Edited to remove a statement that was already made.

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Steve
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It depends on if you're asking about people in general or the learned. Aristotle saw that the earth's shadow on the moon was round in the fifth century BC. It would seem unlikely that he would bother making such a proof if everyone already knew the earth was round.

Erastosthenes is the philospher you are refering to. He made a fairly accurate estimate of the earth's cicumference using measurements of the angles of sun's rays at different places on the earth.

So when did it become common knowledge that the earth was round? That I don't know. --Steve

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B Hamilton
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With extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.


The Columbus urban legend can be tracked down the source to an author named Washington Irving (He wrote Rip Van Winkle) who wrote a biography of Columbus with the offending story in it in 1831. Everyone took it as gospel, the book became a primary text in schools, and myth was enshrined in legend.

A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters--Leukippos and Demokritos for example--by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.

Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few (at least two and at most five) early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.

No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat. Washington Irving (1783-1859), who loved to write historical fiction under the guise of history. His misrepresentations of the history of early New York City and of the life of Washington were topped by his history of Christopher Columbus (1828). It was he who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a "simple mariner," appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate.

So why is it in many schools' history book?

Well, it’s also in some Science books if that makes you feel any better.

Prentice Hall Earth Science (a middle-school textbook) teaches students that nobody was sure about the shape of our planet until Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492 gave "final proof" that Earth "was indeed round."

The answer is that the falsehood about the spherical earth became a colorful and unforgettable part of a larger falsehood: the falsehood of the eternal war between science (good) and religion (bad) throughout Western history. This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.


From Encyclopædia Britannica:6 “The time has come to lay to rest, finally and for good, the ghost of the notion that Columbus had ever thought that the world was flat. Europeans had known that the Earth was spherical in shape ever since the spread of the popular Etymologies of St. Isidore of Seville, produced (in Spain) in the early 7th century. Columbus' miscalculations, such as they were, lay in quite other areas. First, his estimate of the sea distance to be crossed to Cathay was wildly inaccurate. A chart (now lost) supplied by the Florentine mathematician and geographer Paolo Toscanelli, together with Columbus' preference for the calculations of the ancient Greek geographer Marinus of Tyre, encouraged him to reject Ptolemy's estimate of the journey from West to East overland and to substitute a far longer one. Again, on the authority, primarily, of the 13th-14th-century Venetian Marco Polo's Travels, he conceived the idea that the lands of the East stretched out far around the back of the globe, with the island of Cipango, or Japan, located a further 1,500 miles from the mainland of Cathay and itself surrounded by islands. This cluster of islands might, then, almost touch, he seems to have argued, the islands of the Azores. Columbus' reading of the seer Salathiel-Ezra in the books of Esdras, from the Apocrypha (especially II Esdras 6:42, in which the prophet states that the Earth is six parts land to one of water) reinforced these ideas of the proportion of land- to sea-crossing, and the mistake was compounded by his idiosyncratic view of the length of a degree of geographic latitude. The degree, according to Arabic calculators, consisted of 56 2/3 Arab miles, and an Arab mile measured 1,975.5 meters. Given the fact that a nautical mile measures 1,852 meters, this degree, then, amounts to approximately 60.45 nautical miles. Columbus, however, used the Italian mile of 1,477.5 meters for his calculations and thus arrived at a calculation of approximately 45 nautical miles to a degree. This shortened the distance across the sea westward yet again. According to this reckoning, Zaiton, Marco Polo's great port of Cathay, would have lain a little to the east of present-day San Diego, Calif., U.S., and Cipango (Japan) on the meridian of the Virgin Islands. The latter were, of course, surprisingly, and confusingly, close to where Columbus actually made his landfalls.

The miscalculation of distance may have been willful on Columbus' part and made with an eye to his sponsors. The first journal suggests that Columbus may have been aware of his inaccuracy, for he consistently concealed from his sailors the number of actual miles they had covered, lest they become fearful for the journey back. Such economies with the truth may be evidence rather of bravery and the need to inspire confidence than of simple dishonesty or error.”

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Silas Sparkhammer
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I'm going to have to dispute this...

People may have known, at one level of their intellect, that the world was spherical...

But, at the same time, the Church did hold the official cosmology (depicted in Dante) that the world was flat, Jerusalem was at the center, and heaven was "overhead."

Did the churchmen *really believe* in this, or was it simply something "everyone knows" without thinking much about (just as, today, heaven is always depicted as "up," even though that has no meaning in space?)

Remember that the church adamantly believed that the world was fixed and immobile. Were they truly comfortable with the notion of people in Africa living "upside down?"

I suggest, instead, that the earth's sphericity, then, was much like Darwinian evolution, today. Every educated person knows that evolution is fact -- except for the millions of educated people who don't.

Silas

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The Spider in the Ointment
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
People may have known, at one level of their intellect, that the world was spherical...

People get very smug these days about saying the world is round etc...

But it's not that obvious. Things disappear over the horizon, but they also get smaller... the ship disappearing over the horizon may be hidden by the ocean's swell...

The Earth LOOKS flat most of the time due to the deception of our senses.

"Every educated person knows that evolution is fact -- except for the millions of educated people who don't."

Evolution is a theory which appears to best fit the available evidence. The theory of evolution itself is continually evolving, something which is overlooked by many lay people.

"Most learned people in history thought that the world is round. Just look at Eudoxus' of Cnidus or Ptolemy's models for the universe, both feature a spherical earth"

This is slightly misleading wording. The ancients often believed it was spherical, but during the intervening period many learned people reverted to the old system. It is a myth in itself to think that learned people cannot be deceived or believe in myths. Probably a few still do. Most learned people would be working in other fields, where they were not required to ask this particular question.

Heliocentrism took longer to establish itself for example, and some learned people developed elaborate systems for explaining the motions of the cosmos in a geocentric universe. For example, I seem to recall that one involved the planets (which were thought of as merely stars which moved oddly) moving in circles. Quite ingenious, but quite inaccurate.

Of course, the big myth amongst many people now is the idea of some slight perfection. The Earth is not "round" or "spherical", it is in fact slightly distorted, not only by the pull of the moon, but by its rotation. Nor is its orbit really "round", the orbit is slightly irregular, and this causes long term climate changes, including arguably Ice Ages.

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B Hamilton
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
I'm going to have to dispute this...

People may have known, at one level of their intellect, that the world was spherical...

But, at the same time, the Church did hold the official cosmology (depicted in Dante) that the world was flat, Jerusalem was at the center, and heaven was "overhead."

Did the churchmen *really believe* in this, or was it simply something "everyone knows" without thinking much about ?

Most people were starving peasants who never thought about the shape of the earth one way or the other.

During the middle ages it was customary to depict Jesus as a young king, sitting on a globe;

Many late Roman coins show a "globis cruciger", a globe surmounted by a cross, representing the supreme authority of the emperor anointed by the church.

There is much debate on whether it is a myth itself that the Christian (Catholic)church ever supported a flat earth theory. Do a search on "Inventing the Flat Earth" for several debunkings of this.

From alt.folkore.urban archives:
quote:
The Church never stated that it was flat, nor did any highly-regarded theologian.

The Augustinian idea was that, even though the earth *was* spherical, there couldn't be any people living at the antipodes, because they wouldn't be descended from Adam and Eve (he thought it was impossible to cross the ocean to get there).

See _The City of God_ bk. 16 ch. 9, available on the web at http://ccel.wheaton.edu

"Classic theories of the Antipodes described an impassable fiery zone surrounding the equator which separated us from an inhabited region on the other side of the globe.

The legend of the impassable torrid zone, boiling seas at the equator, etc. goes back to the Greeks. After the Portuguese started sailing south around Africa, it was discarded.

Many scholars make the mistake of believing Boorstin (_The Discoverers_). Look at Boorstin's notes: he doesn't cite *any* primary sources in support of this claim. Now find Russell's _Inventing the Flat Earth_ where he rips Boorstin to shreds with tons of medieval sources describing the earth as a globe, ball, apple, etc. Old Cosmas with his rectangular earth was not mentioned in any medieval source, not even translated into Latin until 1706! He wasn't widely believed, he was totally unknown. As for Isidore, he was ambiguous; Russell quotes passages from him describing the earth as "globus".

But many of us have heard that the Christian church (read Rome) made plain it felt views of a spherical earth were heretical.

Another baseless claim for which Boorstin didn't give any sources.

Adn Cartographers made maps consistent with Christian belief, with Jerusalem as center of the earth.

Sure, the "mappaemundi" are flat, but so are maps today -- they're just projections. They didn't bother showing the whole globe because they thought beyond Europe-Africa-Asia it was all water.

Dante The Divine Comedy (ca. 1300) puts hell inside the earth with the devil at the center, and then Dante climbs out at the antipodes; this is symbolic, of course, but it presupposes an audience familiar with the concept of the spherical earth, surrounded by heavenly spheres (which Dante borrowed from Aristotle).

http://www.id.ucsb.edu/fscf/library/RUSSELL/FlatEarth.html

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Frankd6
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quote:
Prentice Hall Earth Science (a middle-school textbook) teaches students that nobody was sure about the shape of our planet until Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492 gave "final proof" that Earth "was indeed round."

Why would Columbus's voyage prove the earth's roundness (rounditude? rounditidy?) Seems to me the only positive proof that the world is round would be to get back to where you left from. Columbus could have discovered America on a flat planet. Disovering a new continent would just tend to show that the flat earth was bigger than you thought before.
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Brad from Georgia
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
I'm going to have to dispute this...

People may have known, at one level of their intellect, that the world was spherical...

But, at the same time, the Church did hold the official cosmology (depicted in Dante) that the world was flat, Jerusalem was at the center, and heaven was "overhead."....

Silas, you know I hold you in the highest regard. However, please consider revising your statement. In the Inferno, Dante and Virgil approach Satan, stuck in the ice of Cocytus in Caina, the lowest level of hell. Satan's three heads project above the ice. Dante and Virgil creep down into the space between Satan's torso and the ice:

Quando noi fummo la dove la coscia
si volge, a punto in sul grosso de l'anche,
lo duca, con fatica e con angoscia,
volse la testa ov' elli avea le zanche,
e aggrapposi al pel com' om che sale,
se che 'n inferno i'creda tonor anche.

(When we had reached the place where [Satan's] thigh turns [i.e. his hip joint], my guide, working hard and straining, turned so his head was where his legs had been and grasped the hair [of Satan], as one who climbs upward, and I thought we were returning to hell.)

However, when they emerge, Dante sees not Satan's chest, but his legs protruding above the ice. They have passed through the center of the earth and are climbing up toward the other side.

The earth seems to be spherical in the Divine Comedy, but Dante places Mount Purgatory in the center of the Great Ocean. The mountain rises directly opposite from Golgotha, and the implication is that the Great Ocean is impassible by living people. Only souls get to Purgatory, unless a living human takes Dante's unpleasant route through hell.

Has I done been pedantic enough for one day?

ETA: The curse of long-windedness! Barbara anticipated my point. Oh--and instead of "rounditude," how about that great old mouth-fillin' word "rotundity"? I love to say that. I think I'll say it again. Rotundity.

Brad "mmm...rotundity" from Georgia

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B Hamilton
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quote:
Originally posted by Frankd6:
quote:
Prentice Hall Earth Science (a middle-school textbook) teaches students that nobody was sure about the shape of our planet until Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492 gave "final proof" that Earth "was indeed round."

Why would Columbus's voyage prove the earth's roundness (rounditude? rounditidy?) Seems to me the only positive proof that the world is round would be to get back to where you left from. Columbus could have discovered America on a flat planet. Disovering a new continent would just tend to show that the flat earth was bigger than you thought before.
Not really a proof that the world was round but a vectoring of the legend that Columbus was somehow the only one who knew the world was round and proved it by not falling off the edge of the earth. The proof from Columbus is that he could reach the east by sailing west.

--------------------
"This is my family. I found it all on my own. It's little & broken but still good."

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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by Brad from Georgia:
However, when they emerge, Dante sees not Satan's chest, but his legs protruding above the ice. They have passed through the center of the earth and are climbing up toward the other side.



Dante and Virgil didn't descend 4,000 miles, but only a relatively small distance, down various cliffs. Dante's world seems pretty disk-like, rather than spherical...

quote:

The earth seems to be spherical in the Divine Comedy, but Dante places Mount Purgatory in the center of the Great Ocean. The mountain rises directly opposite from Golgotha, and the implication is that the Great Ocean is impassible by living people. Only souls get to Purgatory, unless a living human takes Dante's unpleasant route through hell.



That brings up another good point; even if people believed that the world was a sphere, they had no guaranty that the lands "down under" were habitable, or even "lands" at all, as we understand the term. The idea of the whole of the earth being "earthlike" -- as we know it today -- was far from given.

quote:

Has I done been pedantic enough for one day?



Not quite... I'd like to know if you (or anyone) know how many churchmen in the late 1200's and early 1300's actually believed in the cosmology that Dante described... Was Dante going way out on a limb and inventing things wholesale (e.g. the plain of ice at the center of hell) or was he pretty much following the established view of our orderly cosmos?

quote:

Brad "mmm...rotundity" from Georgia

Well, if we're gonna get personal...
[Wink]


Silas (orotund) Sparkhammer

--------------------
When on music's mighty pinion, souls of men to heaven rise,
Then both vanish earth's dominion, man is native to the skies.

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Kilrati
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quote:
Not really a proof that the world was round but a vectoring of the legend that Columbus was somehow the only one who knew the world was round and proved it by not falling off the edge of the earth. The proof from Columbus is that he could reach the east by sailing west.
While we're into Columbus and legends, when I was a child I heard a story about a secret map, called Piri Reis, or primordial map, passed to him from the Vickings(who fisrt went to the new world) to the arabs (who knew it was there all along) all though a secret society of wise men.
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The Spider in the Ointment
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quote:
Originally posted by B Hamilton:
quote:
Originally posted by Frankd6:
[QUOTE]

Not really a proof that the world was round but a vectoring of the legend that Columbus was somehow the only one who knew the world was round and proved it by not falling off the edge of the earth. The proof from Columbus is that he could reach the east by sailing west.
Actually in a perverted way Columbus' voyage DIDN'T prove the world was spherical necessarily. Some flat earthers (still extant!) think that such a voyage would be possible if the world was round, but in the same way a plate is... i.e. no sphere, but Columbus sailed round in a circle on a fairly flat surface.

Besides which Columbus DIDN'T circumnavigate the world. He thought the West Indies were in Asia... he hadn't even got most of the way round. His estimate was way off.

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Brad from Georgia
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:

Dante and Virgil didn't descend 4,000 miles, but only a relatively small distance, down various cliffs. Dante's world seems pretty disk-like, rather than spherical....

Took me ages, because I was looking in the wrong part of the Divine Comedy, but--

In the first cantos of the Purgatorio, Dante repeatedly refers to the two "hemispheres" of Earth (he places Purgatory in the Southern Hemisphere and Jerusalem in the Northern Hemisphere), so he didn't see the earth as a disk, after all. He also speaks of the Equator and explains that, while north of the Equator one customarily sees southern exposure as being the sunny side, when one is south of the Equator, the northern side gets the sun. He seems to have a pretty sophisticated grasp of the physics, though he does see the world as being much smaller than it actually is--for him the eastern boundary of the world of mankind is India, the western boundary the Atlantic just beyond the Pillars of Hercules. He seems to have envisioned the Earth as a sphere, but one only about half as big as it actually is.

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Elkhound
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Brad from Georgia:

Not quite... I'd like to know if you (or anyone) know how many churchmen in the late 1200's and early 1300's actually believed in the cosmology that Dante described... Was Dante going way out on a limb and inventing things wholesale (e.g. the plain of ice at the center of hell) or was he pretty much following the established view of our orderly cosmos?

Dante was not, and never pretended to be, describing the world as it is. The Commediais an allegory; he is describing the spiritual realities of sin-repentance-regeneration in physical terms.

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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by Elkhound:
Dante was not, and never pretended to be, describing the world as it is. The Commediais an allegory; he is describing the spiritual realities of sin-repentance-regeneration in physical terms.

But he was describing the church-view of the world as *he* thought it had been some hundreds of years before *his* time. Just as we might labor under misapprehensions about what people thought in his time, so he may have labored.

Brad from Georgia has some good points, and I am not competent to rebut them; your point is a good one also, and I don't disagree.

e per, non si muove... I still think that, while most well-educated people in the 1200's knew the world was round, a significant number of them doubted it, at some level of thought, and I stand by the comparison to evolution. Most well-educated people today know that species arose via change from ancestral species...but there are a few holdouts...

Silas ("the world is flat...it's also crooked") Sparkhammer

--------------------
When on music's mighty pinion, souls of men to heaven rise,
Then both vanish earth's dominion, man is native to the skies.

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Nightfall
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quote:
Originally posted by The Spider in the Ointment:
"Most learned people in history thought that the world is round. Just look at Eudoxus' of Cnidus or Ptolemy's models for the universe, both feature a spherical earth"

This is slightly misleading wording. The ancients often believed it was spherical, but during the intervening period many learned people reverted to the old system. It is a myth in itself to think that learned people cannot be deceived or believe in myths. Probably a few still do. Most learned people would be working in other fields, where they were not required to ask this particular question.

I think that you are not taking into consideration that while many educated people would not have thought about in their daily lives, they probably would have been taught a cosmology, I suspect Aristotle's, in college during their general studies.

During the time of the Renaissance, many of the Greek and Roman writings were returning back into Western hands. However, before this, the colleges of the time had copies of several of the important works, not all of them, of the ancient Greeks. So they were not completely ignorant of classic thought. In fact, Aristotle was huge in the minds of Medievial and Renaisance learned society, so much so that he was often refered to as, "The Philospher." It was because the physics of Aristotle that they were still using up until the time of Newton, that helocentrism had such a hard time being accepted. True, parts of it were becoming phased out towards the end, but Aristotelian system of physics lasted for nearly two thousand years.

quote:
Heliocentrism took longer to establish itself for example, and some learned people developed elaborate systems for explaining the motions of the cosmos in a geocentric universe. For example, I seem to recall that one involved the planets (which were thought of as merely stars which moved oddly) moving in circles. Quite ingenious, but quite inaccurate.
What model are you thinking of? Is there another feature to it than the planets moved in circles? Most models of planets, from Aristotle until Kepler, used circlar movements for the planets.

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BrianB
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quote:
Originally posted by Nightfall:
quote:
Originally posted by The Spider in the Ointment:
Heliocentrism took longer to establish itself for example, and some learned people developed elaborate systems for explaining the motions of the cosmos in a geocentric universe. For example, I seem to recall that one involved the planets (which were thought of as merely stars which moved oddly) moving in circles. Quite ingenious, but quite inaccurate.

What model are you thinking of? Is there another feature to it than the planets moved in circles? Most models of planets, from Aristotle until Kepler, used circlar movements for the planets.
I can't speak for Spider but I assume (perhaps wrong) that he's talking about Tycho Brahe's model:
quote:
Tycho developed a system that combined the best of both worlds. He kept the Earth in the center of the universe, so that he could retain Aristotelian physics (the only physics available). The Moon and Sun revolved about the Earth, and the shell of the fixed stars was centered on the Earth. But Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn revolved about the Sun. He put the (circular) path of the comet of 1577 between Venus and Mars. This Tychonic world system became popular early in the seventeenth century among those who felt forced to reject the Ptolemaic arrangement of the planets (in which the Earth was the center of all motions) but who, for various reasons, could not accept the Copernican alternative.
Brian

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"Dear Big Foot Smellers: Please don't quote me on some of this information." John F. Winston

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Ghost on Toast
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Did anyone really believe the earth was flat? They still do...

http://www.flat-earth.org/

Surprised no-one has bought up these guys yet!

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the Virgin Marrya
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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dunno about all these other guys, but I used to think the earth was flat.

Of course, now I think it's elliptical....

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Windows cannot open this file. To open this file correctly, defenestrate, then try running the file again...

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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The earth is both round and flat. It is a large disc, carried by four enormous elephants, who themselves are balancing on the back of A-Tuin, the world tortoise.

Terry Pratchett says so, so it must be true!

Four Kitties

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If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

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Mouse
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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People on both sides of the Atlantic probably knew the Earth was round. They could see the circular shadow on the moon and they could watch ships disappear over the horizon and return.

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"You see? The mysteries of the Universe are revealed when you break stuff." Coop from MegasXLR

"I distrust who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." -- Susan B. Anthony

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Mouse:
They could see the circular shadow on the moon ...

Well, only during a lunar eclipse and those don't happen often enough for the average person to make the connection - although if Aristotle worked it out, as steve said, then astronomers and other scholarly types would have been able to verify this for themselves. Hardly a day-to-day experience, though, like the ships over the horizon would be for coastal people.

I guess you can see that the moon is spherical quite directly by looking at the shadow, which might lead a thoughtful person to wonder about the Earth by analogy. Or is that what you meant?

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The Spider in the Ointment
The Red and the Green Stamps


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"they were not completely ignorant of classic thought."

The church had a good job of trying to keep them that way... a lot of the classical records came back to them via the Jews and Arabs (the Jews often acting as intermediaries living in both worlds).

"Most models of planets, from Aristotle until Kepler, used circlar movements for the planets."

It is a little hard to explain. What I was referring to was not "orbits" as we understand them, but a rationalisation of the odd movements of the planets (as opposed to the other stars) in the heavens of a geocentric universe.

Brian B -
"I can't speak for Spider but I assume (perhaps wrong) that he's talking about Tycho Brahe's model"

Yes, and explaining it badly. (OT: Tycho Brahe's biography makes for fascinating reading).

Mouse -
"People on both sides of the Atlantic probably knew the Earth was round. They could see the circular shadow on the moon and they could watch ships disappear over the horizon and return."

Why?

We talk about evidence after the fact... why should anyone immediately assume that the circular shadow comes from the Earth? They had other theories.

As for the ships. I have mentioned this above. The swell of the sea/tides would be enough to explain their disappearance to many people. There is nothing particularly special about this, since it had happened for thousands of years before (although the earliest ships tended to hug coasts).

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PatYoung
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
I'm going to have to dispute this...

People may have known, at one level of their intellect, that the world was spherical...

But, at the same time, the Church did hold the official cosmology (depicted in Dante) that the world was flat, Jerusalem was at the center, and heaven was "overhead."

Did the churchmen *really believe* in this, or was it simply something "everyone knows" without thinking much about (just as, today, heaven is always depicted as "up," even though that has no meaning in space?)

Remember that the church adamantly believed that the world was fixed and immobile. Were they truly comfortable with the notion of people in Africa living "upside down?"

I suggest, instead, that the earth's sphericity, then, was much like Darwinian evolution, today. Every educated person knows that evolution is fact -- except for the millions of educated people who don't.

Silas

As it was the churchmen's astronomers who offered proof that the world was round, it is likely that the churchmen themselves were quite comfortable with the notion. The schematics of the universe offered by Dante and others were more likely viewed as allegorical rather than as navigational aids.

As for the masses of people, it is difficult to know what they thought, or if the question of the earth's shape was of much concern to them at all.

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pat "Megadittoes Rush" young

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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Nightfall
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by The Spider in the Ointment:
"Most models of planets, from Aristotle until Kepler, used circlar movements for the planets."

It is a little hard to explain. What I was referring to was not "orbits" as we understand them, but a rationalisation of the odd movements of the planets (as opposed to the other stars) in the heavens of a geocentric universe.

I suspect you are thinking of Ptolemy's system, in which planets orbit on circles whose center orbits an equant point and the Earth. This websited does not go into the fact that some other astronomers would add more epicycles in order to better map the movement of the planets, in other words this was the simple version of Ptolemy's model.

I should point out that this link also explains a little bit about Aristotle's, or the Christianized version, model of the world. Unfortunatly, this model does not describe how Aristotle has the planets on other invisible spheres to describe the retrograde motion of the planets. Which is when the planets move from West to East, instead of East to West, in comparison to the "fixed stars."

For the sake of completeness, if you go here and scroll down to the bottom, you'll see Tycho's compromise model for the world.

Now can you see why by simply saying a geocentric model with a spherical earth and planets with circular orbits is not very much to go on?

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Darkness comes where Nightfall goes. -- from The Legend of Nightfall

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Zem
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Based on what I had heard in the past, I'm suprised the names Galileo and Copernicus haven't come up.

I tend to get those two confused, but as I heard it there was some thought the Earth was round, some thought the Earth was flat, and the church was very much on the flat side. Galileo proved the Earth was round and the Pope excommunicated him for it. Or house arrest. Something like that.. [Confused]

So, am I on crack? While I know there's some disagreement going on here, I would have expected to see Galileo come up.

One thing I am very curious about - When did Atlas go from holding up the heavens to holding up the Earth?

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Frankd6:
Why would Columbus's voyage prove the earth's roundness (rounditude? rounditidy?) Seems to me the only positive proof that the world is round would be to get back to where you left from. Columbus could have discovered America on a flat planet. Disovering a new continent would just tend to show that the flat earth was bigger than you thought before.

That's why a more accurate textbook would say that Magellan's or Drake's voyage demonstrated that the earth is round.

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All posts foretold by Nostradamus.

Turing test failures: 6

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Nightfall
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Zem:
Based on what I had heard in the past, I'm suprised the names Galileo and Copernicus haven't come up.

I tend to get those two confused, but as I heard it there was some thought the Earth was round, some thought the Earth was flat, and the church was very much on the flat side. Galileo proved the Earth was round and the Pope excommunicated him for it. Or house arrest. Something like that.. [Confused]

So, am I on crack? While I know there's some disagreement going on here, I would have expected to see Galileo come up.

One thing I am very curious about - When did Atlas go from holding up the heavens to holding up the Earth?

No, that isn't the reason why Galileo got into trouble with the Catholic church. Galileo got into trouble because of a book called Dialogue on the Two Great World Systems. One of the reasons why it got him to trouble was that pope claimed that he told Galileo to stop writing about heliocentrism. During the trial, Galileo said the pope only told him to leave it alone for a while. Then on top of the disagreement, Galileo made the Aristotelian in the book to be a simpleton, which the pope, being a good Aristotelian himself, took direct offense at.

Edited to add the quote so it would be easy to see to which post my response is to.

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Darkness comes where Nightfall goes. -- from The Legend of Nightfall

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Zem:
I tend to get those two confused, but as I heard it there was some thought the Earth was round, some thought the Earth was flat, and the church was very much on the flat side. Galileo proved the Earth was round and the Pope excommunicated him for it. Or house arrest. Something like that..

Niclas Kopernik (or Nicolaus Copernicus) was a Polish canon of Frauenberg who practised law, medicine, and finance. In 1530, he produced a paper that expressed his heliocentric theory and revised it until it was published a few hours before his death in 1543. Although originally the book had Papal approval, it was placed on the Index (for corrections) from 1616 to 1758.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian scholar who upheld the idea of empirical evidence (over the contemporary idea of Aristotle as the final authority) and heliocentricity. When he heard about the invention of the telescope, he built his own that night and later began to observe the heavens. He discovered errors in Copernicus's book (Venus has phases instead of being transparent) and put forth evidence for heliocentricity (although several have turned out wrong -- the tides are not due to the rotation of the earth, but to the influence of the moon). His vocal support of the doctrine from about 1597 to 1611 was widely accepted by scientists, clergy, and laity, but some denounced his teachings, so in 1615, he presented himeslf to the Roman Inquisition where his ideas were declared unscientific and antiscriptural. Galilei promptly renounced his ideas and promised to stop teaching them. All books teaching heliocentricity were placed on the Index "pending correction". Galilei promptly began teaching heliocentricity again and published a book called The Dialogue exposing heliocentricity. This book was what set off the famous trial of 1633. Galileo went to Rome where he cowardly stated "But after the above-mentioned decision [trial of 1616], assured by the prudence of the authorities, all my uncertainty stopped, and I held, as I still hold, as very true and undoubted Ptolemy's opinion, namely the stability of the earth and the motion of the sun." (Galileo's Defense and Depositions). The authorities didn't believe him and sentence him to prison and to penance. He remained confined to the residences of friends until his natural death (not execution) when he was buried in the Church of the Holy Cross in Florence (in other words, he wasn't excommunicated and he wasn't refused Christian burial. He was neither tortured nor blinded by the Inquisition (his blindness was from natural causes).

Although often portrayed as a conflict between science and religion, the geo-helio controversy was actually a scientific controversy. Scientists and churchmen were on both sides of the controversy, although the geocentric theory was the majority view of scientists until Newton's theories cleared up unanswered questions in the theory.

Heliocentricity is no longer the modern view -- modern scientists now believe in an acentric universe, where there isn't really a centre to the universe. Of course, this, like all scientific theories, is subject to change pending new observations.

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All posts foretold by Nostradamus.

Turing test failures: 6

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DerekT
Jingle Bell Hock


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I just to add on Galelao is that it wasn't his thinking the earth was round that got him in trouble.

It was that the christian belief system at the time was that the earth was the center of the universe. Galelao proved that it wasn't the earth but the sun that was the center.

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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quote:
Originally posted by DerekT:
It was that the christian belief system at the time was that the earth was the center of the universe. Galelao proved that it wasn't the earth but the sun that was the center.

Um, no... The sun isn't at the center of the Universe...

I know, because (of course) *I* am at the center of the Universe...

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Johnny Slick
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Also, it wasn't Galileo who "proved" (proof at that time being an entirely different thing than now) the heliocentric solar system, it was Copernicus. Although it must be pointed out that Copernicus's system was hardly perfect either.

John Craven

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Give big space to the festive dog that makes sport in roadway. Avoid entanglement of dog with wheel spokes.

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eaglesight
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Ghost on Toast:
Did anyone really believe the earth was flat? They still do...

http://www.flat-earth.org/

Surprised no-one has bought up these guys yet!

Just so we get this clear...You do realize that site is a satire, right?
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Echinodermata Q. Taft
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Well, as Isaac Asimov pointed out in his essay "The Relativity of Wrong," the flat-earth theory isn't really *very* wrong. Over the sorts of distances most people had to deal with in everyday life before mechanized transportation, the flat-earth theory was close enough for practical purposes, just as for most of us, Newtonian physics is all we really need to know. [Smile]

The spherical world theory is "wrong" too, after all, in that the earth is somewhat oblate and of course irregular. But it is of course less wrong...

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Hope for the future! http://www.runobama.com

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