Report: How Greeks knew the Earth was round 25 centuries ago

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Report: How Greeks knew the Earth was round 25 centuries agoAncient Greek Mathematician, Eratosthenes 2200 years ago calculated precisely the circumference of our entire globe with just a stick and his brain

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that humans managed to launch satellites into space and determine the exact kilometers of the circumference of the Earth: 40,030 kilometers.

But how could an Ancient Greek Mathematician, Eratosthenes, manage to find almost the exact same number, without having any pictures of Earth from the space or even proper measuring tools? Eratosthenes didn’t have much more than…a stick and his brain.

More than two thousand years ago, Eratosthenes heard that in Syene, a city south of Egypt’s Alexandria, no vertical shadows were cast at noon on the summer solstice as the sun was directly overhead. So, the Greek Mathematician wondered if this was the case in Alexandria too, a few hundreds of miles to the North of Syene.

So, he decided to carry out an experiment. On June 21, he went to Alexandria and he put a stick directly in the ground and waited to see if a shadow would be cast at noon. It turns out there was one and he tried to measure it. The shadow casted was about 7 degrees.

Eratosthenes’ calculations

Now, Eratosthenes drew a very logical conclusion: If the sun’s rays are coming in at the same angle at the same time of day, and a stick in Alexandria is casting a shadow of 7 degrees while the stick in Syene is not casting a shadow at all, it means that the Earth’s surface is curved.

The notion of a spherical Earth was already known by Pythagoras around 500 BC and validated by Aristotle a few centuries later. So if the Ancient Greeks before him were right and the Earth was a sphere, Eratosthenes could use his observations to calculate the circumference of our planet.

After hiring a man to pace the distance between Syene and Alexandria, he discovered that the two cities were 5,000 stadia apart, which is about 800 km.

He could then use simple proportions to measure the Earth’s circumference — 7.2 degrees is 1/50 of 360 degrees, so 800 times 50 equals 40,000 kilometers.

And just like that, an Ancient Greek 2200 years ago calculated precisely the circumference of our entire globe with just a stick and his brain.

Read more at greekreporter.com

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Reto Stöckli License: CC-BY-SA 

 

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