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Eratosthenes and the Mystery of the Stades - The Earth is a Sphere

Author(s): 
Newlyn Walkup

5.  That the Earth is a sphere.

At a time when not everyone believed so, Eratosthenes clearly had no doubt that the Earth is a sphere [3, p.116].  Many early Greek philosophers held that the Earth was a disc or a cylinder.  The idea of a spherical Earth was first suggested by Pythagoras of Samos (580-500 BCE), about 300 years before Eratosthenes [20, p.1].  The spherical Earth model did not begin to gain widespread acceptance among scholars until the well reasoned arguments of Aristotle (384-322 BCE), only about 100 years before Eratosthenes [4, p.59].  Around the time of Eratosthenes, the globe was becoming a popular model of the Earth as many Greek scholars came to accept the idea of a spherical Earth [20, pp.2 ].  As it was the prevailing belief in the scientific community at the time, Eratosthenes is justified in making the implicit assumption that the Earth is a sphere. 

 

Newlyn Walkup, "Eratosthenes and the Mystery of the Stades - The Earth is a Sphere," Loci (August 2010)

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