Who really discovered that the Earth is round?

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harmonicaman

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Gleaned from the web:<br /><br />The credit is usually given to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras and his school, although several of his contemporaries also believed the Earth was round. <br /><br />Almost 2000 years before Columbus was born, these ancient Greeks argued that because the moon was a shphere and the sun was a sphere, the Earth should be a sphere. <br /><br />Some 300 years after Pythagoras wrote about Earth being round, another Greek, Eratosthenes, calculated the Earth’s radius. He used the distance between two cities and the angle of the sun’s rays made at midsummer at noon. His measurement turned out to be 15 percent too large, but still impressive, considering it was done over 2600 years ago. <br /><br />One way you can see for yourself that Earth is round is by watching a lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse is when Earth passes between the sun and the moon. Earth then blocks the light of the sun and Earth casts a shadow on the moon. If you watch as the shadow slowly passes over the moon, you will see that the shadow of Earth is as round as the Earth is. <br /><br />----------<br /><br />IMO: Notions that the Earth was a sphere predate written history - the clues are all around us! I would also argue that this was an intuitive guess and there were probably just as many counter-arguments that the Earth was flat!
 
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newtonian

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harmonicaman - It is true that Pythagoras agreed with the earlier Biblical statements that the earth is round (Isaiah 40:22, written c. 732 BCE) [which, in turn, is in harmony with Job 26:10, written c. 1513 BCE, which states that the terminator on earth is a circle])<br /><br />On the other hand, Pythagoras disagreed with Bible teachings on many other matters (notably: transmigration of human souls and immortality of the soul [e.g.: "the soul that is sinning, it itself shall die" - Ezekiel 18:4].<br /><br />Thread theme is who discovered that the Earth is round - so the earliest written statement to that effect is relevant. Of course, earth's Creator knew the shape of earth!<br /><br />On thread theme, note this gleaned from our literature:<br /><br />"The Earth—Flat or Round?<br /><br />• When did men first suspect that the earth was round, not flat? In the days of Christopher Columbus? No. Earlier than that! Irving Robbin wrote: “To believe that one could sail to the East by sailing west, one must also believe that the earth is a sphere. A Genoese sea captain named Christopher Columbus believed this, but he was not alone. He was not alone by many centuries, for as far back as 500 B.C., a Greek scholar, Pythagoras, asserted that the earth was round. A Norwegian textbook written in 1250 not only said the same thing, but also gave the reasons for the varying climates of the earth, the angle of the sun at different times of the year and the prevailing winds. Not all the ancient knowledge had been lost it— was just out of favor for a while.”—The How and Why Wonder Book of Explorations and Discoveries.<br /><br />• Pythagoras lived about 540 to 500 B.C.E. Much earlier, however, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, of the eighth century B.C.E., indicated that the earth was spherical. He wrote: “There is One [Jehovah God] who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers.” (Isa. 40:22) The Hebrew word here rendered “circle” also may be translated “spher
 
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eric2006

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"While attributed to the Biblical Enoch, who died before the Noachian flood, they are from a much later author. That is also typical of apocryphal writings, with a few exceptions."<br /><br />I thought Enoch never died. I thought "he walked with God"??? The later book of Enoch being the tale of his adventures through heaven including the "third heaven". Interestingly there is a another story from Paul being called up to the "third heaven" (I Corinthians 12:2-4). Coincidence?
 
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brellis

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I'm reading "Archives of the Universe" by M. Bartusiak, a collection of synopses and excerpts from the writings of most of the historical figures of astronomy. She alludes to that fact that ancient mariners must have thought about a spherical earth as they watched landmarks disappear over the horizon, then accredits Aristotle and Aristarchus with the first RECORDED theories that the earth is round. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font size="2" color="#ff0000"><em><strong>I'm a recovering optimist - things could be better.</strong></em></font> </p> </div>
 
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newtonian

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brellis - Well, er, the Bible is recorded, i.e. it is in writing.<br /><br />Consider these Biblical statements:<br /><br />(Job 26:10) . . .He has described a circle upon the face of the waters, To where light ends in darkness.<br /><br />Written c. 1513 BCE by Moses. <br /><br />For the division of light and darkness, scientifically called the terminator, to be a circle on the surface of the waters the earth has to be a sphere. Earth is mostly covered with water, btw - and in earlier times earth was compltely covered with water [evidence: e.g. aqueious rock on Mt. Everest, etc.].<br /><br />And, as I already quoted, Isaiah 40:22 which was written c. 732 BCE.<br /><br />So the Bible contains the earliest recorded statements that the earth is round.<br /><br />Of course, if you, or anyone, can find an earlier recorded reference to the earth being round - feel free to post it!
 
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newtonian

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The context of Job 26:10 includes verse 7, which reads:<br /><br />7 He is stretching out the north over the empty place,<br />Hanging the earth upon nothing;<br /><br />This is also accurate scientifically and quite contrary to popular belief that the earth was held up by something - Atlas for one example.<br /><br />The Hebrew word translated "circle" in Isaiah 40:22 is hhug. It means circle in 2 dimensions and sphere in 3 dimensions.<br /><br />There is no separate word in Hebrew for sphere as you imply.<br /><br />Also, earth appears as a circle in all directions, including the direction God views earth from, which is the context of Isaiah 40:22.<br /><br />This also indicates earth is a sphere.<br /><br />And how else can the terminator stated in Job 26:10 be a circle if earth is not a sphere??? <br /><br />If there is some other interpretation, feel free to post it - I'm all ears!<br /><br />The earth's shape was not taught to be a sphere by the ancients in general - many thought it was flat.<br /><br />An examination of the ancient Jewish Psuedipegrapha implies a cube shaped earth with an edge over which one could fall into multiple layers of Hell Fire - for one of many ancient teachings.<br /><br />What ancient belief that earth was round can you dociument - again, feel free to enlighten me if you can.
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>The Hebrew word translated "circle" in Isaiah 40:22 is hhug. It means circle in 2 dimensions and sphere in 3 dimensions.<br /><br />There is no separate word in Hebrew for sphere as you imply. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />Thus rendering it impossible to make the conclusion you imply, Newtonian. You cannot tell, from the text, whether they are referring to a flat circle or a three-dimensional sphere. Obviously to a modern reader, the sphere is more pleasing. But I would caution against trying too hard to get this level of detail out of the text; you run the very real risk of finding more facts than are actually present.<br /><br />One of the fascinating things about prose is that it is not merely the static product of its writer, as we all like to think. It's actually an interaction between the writer and the reader. Your brain interprets what the text says, and it does so from your own set of life experiences and with your own peculiar* mental processes. You bring your own thoughts, your own beliefs, your own biases, your own mental constructs to the work. It can be difficult to disentangle your contributions from the author's since many of these contributions are subconscious, but it's something one must take care to do.<br /><br />*No negative implication is implied. I am using "peculiar" to mean that they are unique to yourself. Every one has their own peculiar mental processes; even identical twins are not completely identical, although sharing DNA and a great deal of life experiences, they tend to come out pretty similar. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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newtonian

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Calli - Well, if it was impossible for Hebrews to determine whether circle or sphere was meant the Jews would have used another word.<br /><br />Actually, context makes it obvious - the word hhug meant circle in two dimensions and sphere in 3 dimensions.<br /><br />No matter how you look at it (pun intended): earth is round.<br /><br />Note direction of view - God is above the earth. Does God view the earth from only one direction? <br /><br />The point is that no matter what direction earth is viewed from, it is hhug, round. An object that appears as a circle from all directions is a sphere.<br /><br />Were earth a flat circle, as you suggest, it would only appear as a circle from one direction - which would mean God was viewing earth from only one direction.<br /><br />This does not fit the context and few would think God was viewing earth from only one direction.<br /><br />Also, remember that in Job 26:10 the terminatior between light and darkness over earth's waters is a circle.<br /><br />Simply viewing from a vessel on the water would give an almost straight line.<br /><br />How did Moses know the terminator was actually a circle?<br /><br />(Job 26:10) . . .He has described a circle upon the face of the waters, To where light ends in darkness.<br /><br />As you know, earth is mostly covered by water.
 
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aorton27

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"btw - and in earlier times earth was compltely covered with water [evidence: e.g. aqueious rock on Mt. Everest, etc.]. "<br /><br />Mt Everest wasn't always a mountain. A long long long time ago Mt Everest could of been a nice beach or even a flat land located underwater until continental drift occured and had a little collision.
 
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brellis

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i'm trying to get my brain around your line of thought here... are you positing the bible as a scientific treatise? My own peculiar (thanks Calli!) view has been that the bible is in the 'believe it or not' world of religion, whereas scientific theories can be proved or disproved. <br /><br />To that end, I'm intrigued by your annotated references to biblical passages that support your position that (if I get this correctly) over a period of time thousands of years ago, the one true all-powerful God imparted upon a handful of Hebrews a heliocentric, spherical-earth explanation of the ways of the world.<br /><br />If (the one true all-powerful) God were really all that, couldn't he just sit everybody down and lay it out for us? If his explanation were so complete, why, when the Romans destroyed the records of Aristarchus along with so many other written records at Alexandria, were we plunged into the dark ages of flat-earth thinking?<br /><br />(Exhaling) --ahhh, that felt good. Anyway, in my opinion, you're reaching, albeit in a very impressive way, when you cite the bible as a record of scientific theory. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font size="2" color="#ff0000"><em><strong>I'm a recovering optimist - things could be better.</strong></em></font> </p> </div>
 
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serak_the_preparer

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Every so often, I come across this thread, read a little, consider a response, but instead just move on. Today, though...<br /><br /><i>The credit is usually given to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras and his school, although several of his contemporaries also believed the Earth was round...<br /><br />IMO: Notions that the Earth was a sphere predate written history - the clues are all around us! I would also argue that this was an intuitive guess and there were probably just as many counter-arguments that the Earth was flat!</i><br /><br />Well said!<br /><br />It would not be surprising to learn that some of the Egyptians, or some of the Phoenicians, or even some among prehistoric peoples had deduced the world was a ball. It was not uncommon for aboriginal people to observe that the sun and moon were circular bodies, and that the stars in the sky turned in a circle above our world. This often led to the observation that the ultimate recourse of the divine or natural order was the circle - complete, unitary, perfect. It comes as no shock, therefore, to find references to the circularity of the world even in the Bible.<br /><br />But I agree with Leo that a distinction must be made between a sphere and a circle. Understanding that the circle of the wheeling stars above meant the celestial realm, at least, was a sphere goes back very far, even in cultures steadfastly adhering to a flat Earth. The circle of the heavens around our world told a number of ancient peoples that the limits of the world were defined by a circle. But not necessarily a 3D circle.<br /><br />HarmonicaMan, you, however, have hit on the real truth of the matter. While doubtless some sailors from the earliest times had determined the world was a ball, there were just as certainly others who would greet their tales of a bent horizon and the vast spherical world it signified with skepticism and ridicule. Some knew, but others could not accept the notion.<br /><br />The Egyptians believed the boat of the
 
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qso1

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Bottom line, I doubt anyone will ever know for sure. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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serak_the_preparer

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Perhaps not. HarmonicaMan's post on this thread continues to stand out, however:<br /><br /><i>The credit is usually given to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras and his school...</i><br /><br />For anyone looking for an authoritative, or official, answer - an answer acceptable to scientists and historians - that is it.<br /><br />'<i>Pythagoras (540-510 BC) proposed that the Earth was a sphere. This was probably based on his recognition that the Moon was spherical. Like most other scholars of the day, Pythagoras considered the Earth to be the center of the Universe. Another Greek scholar, Anaxagoras (500?-428 BC), used his observations of the Earth's curved shadow on the Moon during lunar eclipses to help establish the idea that the Earth was spherical.</i>'<br /><br />- Pre-Telescope Models - High School Earth Science Project (University of South Carolina)<br /><br /><br />'<i>Pythagoras of Samos (c. 560 – 480 BCE) first speculated about the notion of a spherical earth with a central fire at its core.</i>'<br /><br />- Cartography (QuickSeek Encyclopedia)<br /><br /><br />'<i>The Greek philosopher Pythagoras concluded in 500 B.C., that the Earth must be round because the Sun and Moon are round.</i>'<br /><br />- The Shape of the Earth - Project NOVA (Fayetteville State University)<br /><br /><br />'<i>Pythagoras noted that the shadow of the Earth falling on the Moon during a lunar eclipse was always curved and the amount of the curvature was always the same. The only object that always casts a circular shadow regardless of its orientation is a sphere. This Pythagorean argument is passed on to us through the writings of Aristotle.</i>'<br /><br />- http://www.astronomynotes.com/nakedeye/s2.ht
 
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qso1

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Serak_the_Preparer:<br />The credit is usually given to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras and his school...<br /><br />Me:<br />"The credit is usually given" is the correct way to present the answer to the question. And credit is given to Pythagoras for good reason, many of which have been mentioned here. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><strong>My borrowed quote for the time being:</strong></p><p><em>There are three kinds of people in life. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen...and those who do not know what happened.</em></p> </div>
 
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serak_the_preparer

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Right. When you write, 'I doubt anyone will ever know for sure,' I don't truly disagree. So then it becomes a matter of what the question really means, which interpretation of it is really being asked, and which version of the question can actually be answered.<br /><br />Someone_else asked for 'evidence to support that claim' about the Egyptians, something he can validate, and mentions understanding that 'Pythagoras is credited with making it a popular notion.' Though it's my belief that some Egyptian astronomers and priests probably knew and/or believed our world was round, I can't supply the evidence Someone_else is seeking. Someone_else is stuck with the answer he already had when he first posted his query: The name 'Pythagoras' is still the earliest name history provides.<br /><br />Ironic sidebar:<br /><br />Because Pythagoras ran a cult, it is often difficult or impossible to separate words and ideas originating with him from those of his followers. Which means you remain correct when you write, 'I doubt anyone will ever know for sure.' While we have the name 'Pythagoras,' it is just a name.
 
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serak_the_preparer

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You know what is also interesting about the evolution of this idea is how it really does 'evolve.' I've found a few sites which discuss this, so here is one:<br /><br />A Brief History of Astronomy by Gene Smith (UCal, San Diego)<br /><br />Thales may have stood on the shoulders of the Egyptians, but Pythagoras in turn owes much to this sage. Plato later is influenced by the Pythagorean school; he is able, however, to promote his ideas far better than Pythagoras' unpopular group. And Aristotle begins as a disciple of Plato.<br /><br />As bequeathed by Pythagoras, there was the idea of a spherical Earth in motion at the center of the universe. Plato, in one of his dialogues, records the concept of our world as a multicolored ball. Aristotle later seeks to provide evidence for the conclusion of a spherical Earth:<br /><br /><i>1. Only a sphere could result from the tendency of matter to fall together toward a common center.<br />2. Only a sphere could throw the circular shadow which we always see during a lunar eclipse.<br />3. Only on the surface of a sphere would a traveler going from North to South see new constellations rising above the horizon as (s)he moved.</i><br /><br />- from Ancients | Europe through the Scientific Revolution | Greeks by Prof. Chris Mihos (Case Western Reserve University)<br /><br />Or was it these three reasons?<br /><br /><i>1. Ships disappearing over the horizon appear hull-down in the water. <br />2. Travelers going south see southern constellations rise higher above the horizon. <br />3. Shadow of the earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse is round.</i><br /><br />- from An Introduction to Solar System Astronomy: Measuring the Earth by Prof. Richard Pogge (Ohio State Uni
 
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temporalmechanic

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It was the ancient Greeks; they were sea-faring and developed geometry. By digging wells and watching the suns shadow, they even figured out it's diameter.<br /><br />The Egyptians carried on their commerce along the Nile River. They developed trigonometry as a result of marking off land after the annual flood. They kept written records of their religion and even their day to day transactions. Everything indicates that they, and everyone else in the middle east at that time, believed that the earth was flat.
 
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