The Earth is unimaginably large - even in a modern aircraft, it takes nearly all day to circle the planet. There have been historical theories about space from ancient to modern times, trying to explain how the earth is shaped and its place in the universe. Theories on the shape of the earth vary from those who believe the earth is flat to those who believe the earth is the trunk of a massive tree. By the Middle Ages, it was generally accepted that the earth was nice and round. Yet for some reason, in the late 19th century, there was a strange rebirth of ideas about how the earth is really shaped.
Though the ancient Greeks were the first people credited with discovering that the earth is round, there is a persistent notion that it is a relatively new concept in the field of scientific history. During the Reformation and when scientific advancements in the 1800s began to threaten religion, ideas that the earth may be flat reemerged in the public imagination. Gathered below are some of the weirdest and most eccentric theories about the earth's shape that were posited even after much scientific evidence existed to support the roundness of the planet.
Without scientific evidence to go on, Christopher Columbus, the slave trader erroneously credited with discovering the American continent, came up with a creative theory about the shape of the earth. The explorer and genocidal maniac believed that the earth was pear-shaped with a nipple-like stalk. But that's not all! Columbus also believed that at the center of the earth's nipple was paradise.
An English astronomer named Samuel Birley Rowbotham developed an interesting theory in the 1800s explaining the shape of the earth. Despite global circumnavigation existing for hundreds of years at his point in time, Rowbotham was unconvinced. He traveled throughout England and told people that the earth was really made up of continents floating on water being supported by a ring of fire. He also thought that the North Pole was the center of the flat planet and that at the end of Antarctica was a massive ice cliff.
A South Dakota man named Orlando Ferguson published a map of the earth depicting a square planet. It shows a jagged edge where Antarctica ends and the planet drops off into space. He was inspired by a Biblical verse to include angles at the corners of the map and depicted the location of the moon and sun to diagram how the planet received light. Ferguson also included a diagram of two men flying off of the earth because it would be impossible to stay grounded on an object traveling as fast as the third rock from the sun does.
One explanation for the form of the earth is that it is actually part of a giant cosmic turtle. According to Hindu cosmology, the earth is part of its lower body, the atmosphere makes up its shell, and the upper shell is the heavens. The entire turtle contains the universe in all of its parts.