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Posts Tagged ‘world was flat’

The Flat Earth Myth: Medieval Scholars Knew the Earth Was Round

Posted by Tony Listi on January 22, 2008

“[F]ew medieval scholars ever doubted the earth’s sphericity…. How could a better story for the army of science ever be concocted?”
-Stephen Jay Gould
“Dinosaur in a Haystack”
Renowned anthropologist, who I don’t even agree with on everything

“The almost universal supposition that educated medieval people believed the earth to be flat puzzled me and struck me as dissonant when I was in elementary school, but I assumed that teachers knew best and shelved my doubts. By the time my children were in elementary school, they were learning the same mistake, and by that time I knew it was a falsehood. Most undergraduates I have taught at the University of California have received the same misinformation–from schoolbooks, storybooks, cinema, and television. The Flat Error is firmly fixed in our minds….
In the first fifteen centuries of the Christian era [only] five writers seem to have denied the globe, and a few others were ambiguous or uninterested in the question. But nearly unanimous scholarly opinion pronounced the earth spherical, and by the fifteenth century all doubt had disappeared.”
-Jeffrey Burton Russell
Professor Emeritus
“Inventing the Flat Earth”

“[P]hysically considered the earth is a globe; all the authors of the Middle Ages are agreed on this… The implications of a spherical earth were fully grasped.”
-C.S. Lewis
Philosopher, Theologian, Writer, and Professor
“The Discarded Image”

The most famous of Christian writers and intellectuals believed the earth was round: St. Augustine, the Venerable Bede, St. Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Dante. The few nonentities who thought it was flat were not very influential.

“[N]one of the great eighteenth-century anticlerical rationalists–not Condillac, Condorcet, Diderot, Gibbon, Hume, or our own Ben Franklin–accused the scholastics of believing in a flat earth.”
-Gould again

Where did this myth arise then???
Washington Irving’s largely fictitious “History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus”

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