Final Frontier Voyager Poster
In early Classical Antiquity, the Earth was generally believed to be flat. Greek philosophers from that time period were prone to form conclusions similar to those of Anaximander, who believed the Earth to be a short cylinder with a flat, circular top. It is conjectured that the first person to have advocated a spherical shape of the Earth was Pythagoras (6th century BC), but this idea is not supported by the fact that most presocratic Pythagoreans considered the world to be flat. Belief in a flat Earth is found in mankind's oldest writings. In early Mesopotamian thought, the world was portrayed as a flat disc floating in the ocean, and this forms the premise for early Greek maps like those of Anaximander and Hecataeus.
The Flat Earth Society
"The facts are simple," says Charles K. Johnson, president of the International Flat Earth Research Society. "The earth is flat." As you stand in his front yard, it is hard to argue the point. From among the Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and tumbleweeds surrounding his southern California hillside home, you have a spectacular view of the Mojave Desert. It looks as flat as a pool table. The last known group of Flat Earth proponents, the Flat Earth Society, kept the concept alive and at one time claimed a few thousand followers. The society declined in the 1990s following a fire at its headquarters in California and the death of its last president. William Carpenter (1830-1896) maintained that "There are rivers that flow for hundreds of miles towards the level of the sea without falling more than a few feet - notably, the Nile, which, in a thousand miles, falls but a foot. A level expanse of this extent is quite incompatible with the idea of the Earth's "convexity." Carpenter also presented aeronautic testimony that even at the great observable heights no curvature of the earth is observed, and fits with the idea of a flat-earth, since it is the nature of level surfaces to rise to a level with the human eye. English scientist Samuel Rowbotham (1816-1885), writing under the pseudonym "Parallax," published results of many experiments which tested the curvatures of water over lakes. He also produced studies which purported to show the effects of ships disappearing into the horizon can be explained by the laws of perspective in relation to the human eye.