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Sunday, 17 June 2007


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was it not Aristarchus, a Greek ,who not only believed the earth was spherical but that the earth went round the sun? However since this was contrary to all empirical contemporary evidence the idea did not catch on. Please correct me if my memory is at fault.

The roundness of the earth was the near-unanimous belief of medieval scholars, and of many mariners. The "flat earth" myth is essentially a 19th century libel against the Roman Catholic Church; a worthy target, of course, but an unworthy weapon. The origin of the scholars' belief is, as I understand it, The Greeks.

I cannot correct you, Jones, for I do not know, but thanks for the info.

'DM', are you telling me that no-one ever believed in a flat earth except for a few loonies in the Flat Earth Society? I thought it was 'the consensus' ('pace', the Human Global Warmers) until Copernicus blew it away. How woeful is my ignorance!

Of course people believed in a flat earth as It was what they could see. The evidence of their senses supported the idea just as the same evidence supported the idea that the earth was the centre of their known universe. Anything else was wildly improbable. Have a look at Arthur Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" for a mythbreaking account of the rise of modern science. Its initial assertions depended more upon faith than fact. As for Copernicus he did not account for the observed phenomena any better than did Ptolemy and his system was almost as complicated. Real proof such as the observation of a shift in the position of the stars, the parallex, was not available until telescopes were sufficiently powerful , I believe in the eighteenth century.

"Of course people believed in a flat earth as It was what they could see." Not so. Try going to sea. Observe the order in which things vanish from sight:low stuff first, high stuff last, whichever direction you sail in. Consistent with a round earth, not a flat one.

Gentlemen, let's not get at cross-purposes!

It's probably true that some sailors might have wondered, but my confusion concerns the common belief over time. I had always assumed that *everyone* believed the earth was flat, not least because of the long-held Ptolemaic idea of crystal spheres into which (presumably flat) pieces of matter were embedded and which glowed to give us what we called the stars and planets. Thus, it came as a slight shock to find out that the Romans did not believe the earth was flat. And yet, my scanty knowledge of the medieval led me to believe that the accepted view was that the earth was flat.

I have two books on the history of science and whilst both of them discuss in detail the Copernican revolution (no pun intended!), neither of them deal with the history of belief in a flat earth. I'm away next week, but on return I must try and dig a little deeper.

Any one with education knew the world was round. Aquinas in the 1200's used the the world is round as an example to illistrate a point, which would have useless if ti was not common and unchallanged information.

Hank, better not read 'Dearieme's' comment under my "Away Days" post above!

How many people read Aquinas? Indeed how many could read? How many were mariners?

Please see new post above.

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