distance for his trip from the Canary Islands to Japan would be about 4,450 km,which is one-fifth the actual distance of 22,000 km. If not for the placement of theAmericas in between, Columbus and his crew would have surely perished, as hiscritics predicted. Columbus’ voyage—and later explorations by others—did notchange the perception of the shape of the earth, but merely added new landmasses to the Middle Age maps of the world.Besides that, it was Magellan (or rather, the remainder of his crew) who actuallycircumnavigated the world and proved empirically that the Earth was round.
Early Christian thinkers who wrote about the spherical Earth
(1225-1274) in his great systematic work
“Both an astronomer and a physical scientist may demonstrate the sameconclusion, for instance that the earth is spherical; the first, however, works in amathematical medium prescinding from material qualities, while for the second hismedium is the observation of material bodies through the senses."
The French Roman Catholic bishop
(1323-1382) proposed severalplayful paradoxes dealing with a round and rotating earth, including one thatestablished the principle behind changing time zones and the international date linefor east-west travels.
, discussed the rotation of the earth.All three of these Middle Age thinkers wrote as if the round earth was commonknowledge, not something that still needed to be established.
Observations affirming a spherical Earth
1.Shadow of the Earth during Lunar Eclipses
Thomas Aquinas: "In [lunar] eclipses the outline [of the earth] is always curved: and,since it is the interposition of the earth that makes the eclipse, the form of this linewill be caused by the form of the earth's surface, which is therefore spherical."
2.The Stars in the Sky Johannes de Sacrobosco
(1195-1256), an English monk, wrote an astronomicaltextbook that was used in universities for many centuries.
That the earth, too, is round is shown thus. The signs and stars do not riseand set the same for all men everywhere but rise and set sooner for those inthe east than for those in the west; and of this there is no other cause thanthe bulge of the earth. Moreover, celestial phenomena evidence that they rise sooner for Orientals than for westerners. For one and the same eclipse of the moon which appears to us in the first hour of the night appears toOrientals about the third hour of thenight, which proves that they had
vol. 1, trans. by Thomas Gilby (New York:McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964), q.1, a.1.
Lu Livre du Ciel et du Monde
(1370), Bk. II, ch. 31, pp. 573-581.
Exposition of Aristotle's Treatise On the Heavens
, 2 vols, trans. byLarcher, R. F., and Pierre H. Conway (Columbus, OH: College of St. Mary of the Springs,1964), Book II, lect. 28. 400-402.