Ohio History Journal

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THE three stages of geographical knowledge are these:

(1.) The observation of facts; (2.) The deduction of a

theory of the earth from these facts; (3.) The adjustment

of facts discovered later to this theory. The early difficulties

in the way of establishing a true theory of the earth were:

(1.) Men's limited knowledge of the earth; (2.) Their

lack of scientific discipline and habit; (3.) The misleading

character of geographical appearances. It is true of geog-

raphy, as it is of astronomy, as Sir John Herschel has said,

that "Almost all the conclusions of astronomy stand in open

and startling contradiction to those of superficial and vulgar

observation, and with what appears to every one, until he has

understood and weighed the proofs to the contrary, the most

positive evidence of his senses."

Men first supposed that the earth is a flat disk, bounded

by the visible horizon. The second theory was that it is a

flat parallelogram, longer east and west than north and south.

When we consider the limitations of the men who formed

these theories, we see that each one of them was wholly

natural in its time. The terms "latitude" and "longitude "

were given to geography by men who accepted the second

theory. By and by the spherical theory appeared, originated,

it is supposed, by Pythagoras, and received by the best in-

formed of the Greeks. This view of the earth is stated in

passages in old writers that are well known to scholars, of

whom Aristotle, Strabo, and Seneca are the best known.

Strabo, for example, wrote: "If the extent of the Atlantic

Ocean did not prevent, it would be possible for us to sail

from Spain to India along the same parallel."


1Abstract of an address before the Ohio State Archaeological and Histori-

cal Society, December 20, 1886.