The Dodecahedron, or the Shape of the Earth According to Plato

  • Dirk L. Couprie
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Library book series (ASSL, volume 374)


The discovery of the spherical shape of the earth is the finishing touch of the new world picture that was introduced by Anaximander. Strictly speaking, it is not right to use the word “discovery,” since the idea of a spherical earth, as we will see in this and the next chapter, was the product of metaphysical speculations, rather than a discovery based on verifiable observations. Such observations, of which we now would say that they should have led to the conception of a spherical earth, were met with disbelief. Herodotus, for instance, tells that in the far north, there are people who sleep 6 months of the year and that sailors who navigated around Africa had the sun at their right when sailing to the west (Histories IV 25 and IV 42). Herodotus rejects these stories as typical bluff of sailor men. Panchenko has made plausible that Anaxagoras, being convinced that the earth is flat, argued with those who held that it is spherical 1997:175–178, see also above, Chap. 15). How hard it must have been to evaluate empirical evidence is proven by the fact that Anaxagoras was credited with the true explanation of eclipses but nevertheless apparently did not conclude from the round shadow cast upon the moon that the earth must be spherical (DK 59A42). When and by whom the earth for the first time was considered as a sphere has got lost in the mist of times.


Celestial Body Apparent Earth Regular Polyhedron Regular Pentagon World Picture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk L. Couprie
    • 1
  1. 1.MaastrichtNetherlands

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