The myth of the Flat Earth is the modern misconception that the prevailing cosmological view during the Middle Ages saw the Earth as flat, instead of spherical. The idea seems to have been widespread during the first half of the 20th century, so that the Members of the Historical Association in 1945 stated that:
"The idea that educated men at the time of Columbus believed that the earth was flat, and that this belief was one of the obstacles to be overcome by Columbus before he could get his project sanctioned, remains one of the hardiest errors in teaching."
During the early Middle Ages, virtually all scholars maintained the spherical viewpoint first expressed by the Ancient Greeks. By the 14th century, belief in a flat earth among the educated was nearly nonexistent. However, the exterior of the famous triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch is a Renaissance example in which a disc-shaped earth is shown floating inside a transparent sphere.
In fact, the Kuzari – a major work of the medieval Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi which was completed around 1140 – clearly refers to the Earth being spherical. Further, it also shows a clear knowlege of the spherical Earth being divided into different time zones. Fitting with present-day knowlege, the Kuzari correctly states that Sabbath in China would start earlier than in Eretz Yisrael, and in Spain later than in Eretz Yisrael, and discussing what this implies for traveling observant Jews.
According to Stephen Jay Gould, "there never was a period of 'flat earth darkness' among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth's roundness as an established fact of cosmology." Historians of science David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers point out that "there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge sphericity and even know its approximate circumference".
Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell says the flat earth error flourished most between 1870 and 1920, and had to do with the ideological setting created by struggles over evolution. Russell claims "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", and credits histories by John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and Washington Irving for popularizing the flat-earth myth.
Other articles related to "myth of the flat earth, the flat earth, earth":
... a number of books and articles have documented the flat earth error as one of a number of widespread misconceptions in popular views of the Middle Ages ... through hell, purgatory, and heaven, the earth is spherical with gravity being towards the center of the earth ... devil is frozen in a block of ice in the center of the earth, Dante and Virgil climb down the devil's torso, but up from the devil's waist to his feet ...
Famous quotes containing the words myth of, flat earth, earth, myth and/or flat:
“Two myths must be shattered: that of the evil stepparent . . . and the myth of instant love, which places unrealistic demands on all members of the blended family. . . . Between the two opposing myths lies reality. The recognition of reality is, I believe, the most important step toward the building of a successful second family.”
—Claire Berman (20th century)
“For the Eye altering alters all;
The Senses roll themselves in fear
And the flat Earth becomes a Ball.”
—William Blake (17571827)
O Mary, marry earth, sea, air and fire;
Our sacred earth in our day is our curse.”
—Robert Lowell (19171977)
“One of the oddest features of western Christianized culture is its ready acceptance of the myth of the stable family and the happy marriage. We have been taught to accept the myth not as an heroic ideal, something good, brave, and nearly impossible to fulfil, but as the very fibre of normal life. Given most families and most marriages, the belief seems admirable but foolhardy.”
—Jonathan Raban (b. 1942)
“If the juggler is tired now, if the broom stands
In the dust again, if the table starts to drop
Through the daily dark again, and though the plate
Lies flat on the table top,
For him we batter our hands
Who has won for once over the worlds weight.”
—Richard Wilbur (b. 1921)