My father-in-law sent me this link at the weekend. It’s to a book published in 1914 (that’s nineteen fourteen, not sixteen fourteen, or nine fourteen), describing how children of the day are being taught lies with regard to the shape and movement of the earth in the solar system.
Does the Earth Rotate? No. By William Edgell.
It is quite, quite hilarious. It illustrates how, once a person has got an idea in their head (in this case that the Earth is flat and motionless), they will hold to it tenaciously and will distort and misinterpret data that would tell them otherwise, if only they were prepared to look at it at face value.
Edgell makes some wonderfully fanciful interpretations of phenomena that would otherwise tell him that the earth is curved. The fact that ships disappear over the horizon, hull first, is pretty strong evidence of earth curvature. Edgell dismisses this effect as due to sea mist that is thickest closest to the sea surface and therefore obscures the hull first. Funny how he makes no mention of the fact that this phenomenon is most clearly seen on a very clear day, when there is no mist.
New Zealand gets mentioned a lot, presumably because it is at the opposite side of the globe (if you hold to that wrong interpretation) to England. Edgell notes that this fallacious understanding would imply that kiwis are upside down, and asks the reader to think whether this is reasonable.
But the most interesting thing I can see is Edgell’s comment that in New Zealand the pole star subtends an angle of 40 degrees to the horizon. Now, I have lived in NZ for six years or so, and I can say that I have never, ever, ever seen the pole star from here. For good reason. And I don’t expect ever to do so. I can only think that he has misinterpreted a comment from an astronomer about the pole star in New Zealand being 40 degrees below the horizon. (Which is why I’m never likely to see it here.) He has clearly never travelled to New Zealand, or the equator, or, from the sounds of things, very far at all, or he might have noticed just how the stars change.
But, hey, that doesn’t stop you being an expert in world geography, does it?
I wonder if Mr Edgell ever changed his mind later on?