Although ambiguous, early Greek thinkers hinted to a spherical Earth. However, Pythagoras (6th century BC) was among those thought to have created the notion, which may mirror the ancient Greek tradition of attributing every discovery to one of their old wise men. The idea that the earth was a sphere had many adherents over the next two millennia, but it was not until 1609 that Galileo Galilei proved this theory by showing that the moon's orbit around the Earth was indeed circular.
The concept of a globular universe has its roots in antiquity. In about 250 AD, Ptolemy proposed a geocentric model of the universe that included a finite galaxy composed of an infinite number of stars within it. He also speculated that since the sun is part of the Earth's atmosphere, it too has a spherical shape. In 1556, Nicolaus Copernicus published his heliocentric model of the solar system, which eventually became accepted scientific fact in 1610 with Galileo's testimony. Although neither man explicitly stated so, both believed that they were completing what Ptolemy had started almost a thousand years earlier—the creation of comprehensive maps of the known world at that time.
In 1838, John Herschel published a book titled A Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, in which he discussed the work of several ancient authors who had suggested that the Earth was a globe.
Anaximander was the first Greek known to have created a map of the world. He made a map of the known globe in the sixth century BC, presuming that the earth was cylindrical. Eratosthenes was the first Greek to construct a globe map based on the notion of a spherical earth. In AD 220 he calculated the circumference of the earth to within 10 percent.
The first printed world map was produced by Martin Waldseemüller in 1507. He published his map using woodblock prints and it showed all the known continents with their assumed names: "America" was used for the western part of the new continent discovered by Christopher Columbus. Asia and Africa were known at the time as "Indies".
It took another 170 years before another world map was published. This time the artist was Gerardus Mercator who developed a now-standard way of representing the shape of the earth on a map. His work helped foster a worldwide sense of community through maps and aided European countries in claiming ownership of particular areas of the planet.
After Mercator, many other map makers contributed to broadening our understanding of the world we live in today but the first person to publish a global map was still Anaximander more than 500 years ago.
The first person to demonstrate a spherical Earth was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (left), whose voyage circumnavigated the world in 1522 but perished before reaching the conclusion. Disqus could not be loaded. Please visit our troubleshooting guide if you are a moderator. That's a load of nonsense! The Earth is indeed round, and has been for millions of years.
As early as 300 BC, Aristotle claimed that earth lies at the center of the universe and is surrounded by air, which is suspended by gods above the atmosphere. He also believed that earth was flat, but accepted its rotation on its axis. After his death in 322 BC, his ideas were passed on through teachers and students until they reached Greece's great mathematician and astronomer Pythagoras (c. 572-496 BC). He too believed the Earth was flat, but with a surface covered in trees where humans could live.
Pythagoras proposed a mathematical theory about the relationship between musical notes and the existence of harmony in nature. He also practiced self-imposed exile when he felt pain from an illness he called "the fever," probably malaria. He died at the age of 50 after arguing with some of his followers who wanted him to lead a more religious life. They did not agree with his belief that the Earth was flat, so they stabbed him with arrows to prove their point.