Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea

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Macmillan, Aug 5, 2008 - History - 448 pages

Contrary to popular belief fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the earth was round. The idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century B.C. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of a flat earth really took hold. Even more bizarrely, it persists to this day, despite Apollo missions and widely publicized pictures of the decidedly spherical Earth from space.

Based on a range of original sources, Garwood's history of flat-Earth beliefs---from the Babylonians to the present day---raises issues central to the history and philosophy of science, its relationship to religion and the making of human knowledge about the natural world. Flat Earth is the first definitive study of one of history's most notorious and persistent ideas, and it evokes all the intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual turmoil of the modern age. Ranging from ancient Greece, through Victorian England, to modern-day America, this is a story that encompasses religion, science, and pseudoscience, as well as a spectacular array of people and places. Where else could eccentric aristocrats, fundamentalist preachers, and conspiracy theorists appear alongside Copernicus, Newton, and NASA, except in an account of such a legendary misconception?

Thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating, Flat Earth is social and intellectual history at its best.

 

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User Review  - MiaCulpa - LibraryThing

I saw this book in a remainders bin and grabbed it, looking forward to a humorous review of eccentrics and their belief in a flat earth. This book didn't really live up to the self-induced hype ... Read full review

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User Review  - Darrol - LibraryThing

This is a very important book of intellectual history. It should be read along with James Barr's Fundamentalism and the works of Richard Rorty. This book clearly illustrates that the Protestant sola ... Read full review

Contents

Title Page
Chapter One SURVEYING THE EARTH
Chapter Two A PUBLIC SENSATION
Chapter Three THE INFAMOUS FLATEARTH
Chapter Four TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Chapter Five LADY BLOUNT AND THE
Chapter Six FLATEARTH UTOPIA
Chapter Seven MAN ON THE MOON?
Chapter Eight THE VIEW FROM THE EDGE
Epilogue MYTHS AND MEANINGS
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Bibliography
Index
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Christine Garwood studied history as an undergraduate and was later awarded a doctorate in history of science. She has been a Research Fellow at the Open University and is currently a freelance writer and researcher.

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