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What is wrong with quoting Columbus?

Oct 2009 | Comments Off on What is wrong with quoting Columbus?

Readers may recall the article of Dr Muneendra Kumar published in September issue of Coordinates. Here is Dr Peter H Dana comments:

What is wrong with quoting Columbus’ strange views on the shape of the earth on the opening page of a chapter entitled, “The World is a Pear”?

Those lines are from Columbus’ “Letter on his Third Voyage.” Even Davis isn’t using that as a description of the size and shape of the earth, just a cute vision from the often mistaken Columbus.

On page 62 Davis writes:

“You may have laughed when you read the words that open this chapter about his idea that the world was shaped like a pear. Well the Joke’s on you.

One of the things we learned when the Vanguard satellite, launched in March 1958, went into orbit was that the Earth is not a sphere as we learned in grade school – a “fact” we have accepted since the days of Newton. In fact, astronomer John O’Keef determined from Vanguard’s orbit that the Earth I slightly pershaped with a bulge in the southern hemisphere – though not to the extent Columbus imagined.”

Not geodesy to be sure but certainly not “astonishing.”


Peter H Dana

Ph.D. Research Fellow and Lecturer Department of
Geography The University of Texas at Austin

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