Shape of the Earth

  • Paul Murdin

Financed by the French government as a practical measure to improve knowledge about France, the work on the Paris Meridian became married by the Academy to an intellectual rather than practical scientific investigation — a test of theories of gravity. The applied “big science” project became a pure “big science” project. The project was a test to set two teams of scientists on adventures beyond the boundaries of France, north into the icy wastes of Lapland and south to the equator in present-day Ecuador, its aim to measure the shape of the Earth.

Since antiquity, educated people knew that the Earth was approximately spherical; the controversy as to whether Christopher Columbus would fall off the edge of the world if he sailed from Spain westwards was founded in ignorance. The real doubts centered on whether he would survive the dangers (weather, sailing hazards, sea-monsters, etc.) and whether he would be able to achieve the objective, namely an alternative route to the East Indies. As...


Arctic Circle Newtonian Theory Smoke Haze Cartesian Theory Pendulum Clock 
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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

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  • Paul Murdin

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