… the Sun Rises in the East, Too

Twenty Friedman units ago, our pundit was on a sabbatical working on The World is Flat. After an anecdote about playing golf in Bangalore, Friedman gets to his deeply flawed premise: Just as Columbus showed in 1492 that the world was round, Friedman in 2004 had discovered that … well, read the title of his book.

“When Columbus set sail, he apparently assumed the Earth was round, which was why he was convinced that he could get to India by going west. He miscalculated the distance, though. He thought the Earth was a smaller sphere than it is. He also did not anticipate running into a landmass before he reached the East Indies. Nevertheless he called the aboriginal peoples he encountered in the new world ‘Indians.’ Returning home, though, Columbus was able to tell his patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, that although he never did find India, he could confirm that the world was indeed round.”

He apparently assumed the Earth was round. Of course he did. Educated people in Europe (and elsewhere) were well aware of the Earth’s shape in the fifteenth century. The idea that they did not was a myth invented in the 19th century that has been thoroughly debunked. See for instance: http://www.livescience.com/16468-christopher-columbus-myths-flat-earth-discovered-americas.html. But why let a little research get in the way of a good story that supports your glib generalization?

Source: Thomas L. Friedman. 2005. The World Is Flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 4.


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