The History of Round Earth Theory

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11947

What do Washington's Potomac trip, Lincoln's cherry tree, and Columbus seeking to prove the earth is round have in common? All are myths! Learn to examine what you're taught or have heard carefully!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Columbus courageously set out to prove the earth was round. His crew members were terrified they would be driven over the edge of the earth into an abyss. His fellow citizens thought he was crazy, so Columbus turned to the Spaniards to sponsor his journey.

vintage frigate about to fall off the edge of the earth

The claims you just read are almost entirely false!

Getting to the truth of a matter can be a real struggle.

This is as true in life as in studying history. When you don't have direct access to information, you have to take other people's word for it, sometimes leading to belief in fanciful myths and false ideas.

One of the biggest myths in studying history is that the people of Columbus' time thought the earth was flat.

You read that correctly — the majority believed, with little doubt, that the earth was round.

What they did not suspect was that there was a gigantic mass of land in the Western Hemisphere between Europe and China.

The theory of a spherical earth started some two thousand years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue!

The Greeks were the first to notice something fishy about the flat earth theory. The world didn't quite look the way it should if it were flat.

As you read about the History of the Round Earth Theory, write down the top eight or nine key dates, events, and people in the history of the idea.

Now, create a simple timeline that shows how the idea of a round earth was developed, tested, and proven over time.

Reflect on the following questions.

  • How did the idea of a round earth change over time?
  • Which factors finally made this theory the most popular one?
  • How do you think the round earth theory changed people's lives in the real, everyday world?

Belief in a flat earth was completely reasonable when ancient people did not have the time or the equipment to see the world differently. Historians believe it was only because of the development of leisure time and the slow progress of technology that people could make such discoveries.

In the Got It? section, uncover some of the major proofs used to support that the earth is round.

Image - Button Next