“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” so the rhyme goes, but why did he do it? If you said “To prove the Earth was round” then in the words of Dara O’Briain “Get in the f*cking sack”. What Columbus was actually doing was finding a way to get to India without having to go around Africa and the vicious ‘Cape of good hope.’
So where did this “Flat earth” story come from?
As with most of our modern concepts the idea that Columbus was sailing to the edge of the earth is a relatively new one, infact the blame can be attributed to American author Washington Irving in his book “A history of the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus” in it he mentions that Columbus faced a tough time in getting support for his voyage in particular at the council of Salamanca. In the book Irving remarks that according to scripture the earth was not round since the heavens resembled the hide of a tent over a flat base. In fact religious scholars had already addressed the issues over a flat earth centuries earlier. The venerable Bede (672 – 735) wrote that “The earth is not merely circular like a shield, spread out like a wheel, but resembling more a ball” The origin of the belief that the Church was responsible for this idea of a flat earth, like the Columbus bit, dates much later infact James Hannam wrote:
The myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purpose
So when did we work out it was round?
Well I could write 1000’s of words on this but Instead I can show you
So there we have it. The Earth is round and Columbus didn’t set out to prove it was. Please stop feeding people this crap.
Before I finish, yesterday I wrote about BBC’s Stargazing live, I now take back alot of what I said. Episode 2 was fantastic and finally got into “Proper Science” Although my main complaint about there being no stargazing is still valid, although when it’s cloudy what can you do.
Well one thing is to avoid saying “Nothing happening” While a shooting star flies over your head. I will have a better write up after Episode 3 tonight.