Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/601

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583
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

4. The Size of the Earth.—But at an early period another subject in geography had stirred the minds of thinking men the earth's size. Various ancient investigators had by different methods reached measurements more or less near the truth; these methods were continued into the middle ages, supplemented by new thought, and among the more striking results were those obtained by Roger Bacon and Gerbert, afterward Pope Sylvester II. They handed down to after-time the torch of knowledge, but, as their reward among their contemporaries, they fell under the charge of sorcery.

Far more consonant with the theological spirit of the middle ages was a solution of the problem from Scripture, and this solution deserves to be given as an example of a very curious theological error, chancing to result in great good. The second book of Esdras, which among Protestants is placed in the Apocrypha, was held by many of the foremost men of the ancient Church as fully inspired: though Jerome looked with suspicion on this book, it was regarded as prophetic by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Ambrose, and the Church acquiesced in that view. In the Eastern Church it held an especially high place, and in the Western Church, before the Reformation, was generally considered by the most eminent authorities to be part of the sacred canon. In the sixth chapter of this book there is a summary of the works of creation, and in this occur the following verses:

"Upon the third day thou didst command that the waters should be gathered in the seventh part of the earth; six parts hast thou dried up and kept them to the intent that of these some, being planted of God and tilled, might serve thee."

"Upon the fifth day thou saidst unto the seventh part where the waters were gathered, that it should bring forth living creatures, fowls and fishes, and so it came to pass."

These statements were reiterated in other verses, and were naturally considered as of controlling authority.

Among the scholars who pondered on this as on all other things likely to increase knowledge was Cardinal Pierre'd' Ailly. As we have seen, this great man, while he denied the existence of


    ander VI, see E. G. Bourne in Yale Review, May, 1892. For the Margarita Philosophiea, see the editions of 1503, 1509, 1517, lib. vii, cap. 48. For the effect of Magellan's voyages, and the reluctance to yield to proof, see Henri Martin, Histoire de France, vol. xiv, p. 395; St. Martin's Histoire de la Géographie, p. 369; Peschel, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, concluding chapters; and for an admirable summary, Draper, Hist. Int. Devel. of Europe, pp. 451-153; also an interesting passage in Sir Thomas Browne's Vulgar and Common Errors, Book I, chap. vi. For general statement as to supplementary proof by measurement of degrees and by pendulum, see Somerville, Phys. Geog., chap, i, par. 6, note; also Humboldt, Cosmos, vol. ii, p. 736, and v, pp. 16, 32; also Montucla, iv, 138.