Did Columbus prove the Earth was round?
Washington Irving’s ‘A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus’ popularised the idea that before Columbus everyone in Europe thought the Earth was flat. Irving’s account however was almost entirely fiction – he wanted to portray his hero, Columbus, as being a visionary who was rebelling against the authority of the Catholic Church, but it simply wasn’t true.
It’s hard to say what a typical sailor or commoner from any period genuinely believed, as for most of history only a small percentage of the population were able to write their thoughts. But we can say with certainty that few educated people in Europe, which would have included clergy, believed the Earth was flat as they all studied the Ancient Greeks who figured out over two thousand years ago that the Earth was actually round. Here is a scientist to explain:
The problem they had with Columbus was that he wasn’t as good a mathematician as
and believed the Earth was much smaller than it is. He thought Spain to Japan was about 3,000 miles when in fact it’s closer to 7,000. None of them knew there was a whole other continent to the west (even though the Vikings had visited earlier they didn’t share with anyone else). So despite being a bumbling incompetent moron, Columbus lucked out. The natives were far less lucky – don’t get me started on what a monster he was. You need only look at his own journals, or that he was actually imprisioned for his crimes (unfortunately he was pardoned by King Ferdinand shortly after).