In the 1937 movie, “Shall We Dance,” Ira Gershwin penned a song, “They All Laughed,” ridiculing the people who ridiculed the “great men of history.”
The lyrics included — “They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound. They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother when they said that man could fly. They told Marconi that wireless was a phony. It’s the same old cry.”
Gershwin certainly knew music, but he didn’t know squat about history.
In the third century BC (more than 2,200 years ago), the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes (often referred to as the “Father of Geography”) used shadows to calculate the circumference of the Earth. Even with such crude methods, his calculations were nonetheless fairly accurate.
Depending on which version of the Greek unit of length “stadion” he used, his measurement was anywhere from 1.5 percent to 16 percent off the true circumference.
Not bad for someone born more than 1,700 years before Columbus.
Despite Eratosthenes’ achievement, I remember being taught in school that Columbus “proved that the Earth was round.”