Contrary to popular belief, fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the world was round. The idea of the world as a sphere had been widely accepted in scientific, philosophical and even religious circles from as early as the fourth century bc. Bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion that the world might actually be flat 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 with 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 evokes all the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual turmoil of the modern age.
Dr. Christine Garwood is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University, and former Research Fellow on the Alfred Russel Wallace Project. Flat Earth is her first book.