have found the Magazine to be well worth time invested
in reading it because, unlike so many publications for alumni,
it assumes an intelligent audience. I have learned much from it,
all of which made even more disturbing a passing statement in
a recent number ("Investigations: The discovery of discovery,
or our debt to Copernicus," February/02).
suggestion made that Columbus showed the Earth was not flat and
so proved to Europeans that the Earth was round is, of course,
an old myth which refuses to die. Virtually everyone in the Middle
Ages knew the world was round. Astronomers and cosmographers took
that as understood. The misconception was promoted by early 19th-century
French scientists who wanted to denigrate religiosity, something
associated with the Middle Ages, and to elevate the importance
of their own work in what they saw as revolutionary times.
such an error should find its way into the Magazine is
disappointing. Leaving the impression that Howard Margolis might
subscribe to such an error undermines the reputation of a faculty
member. That I am sure was not the intention of the story.
W. Unger, AM'65
Vancouver, British Columbia
course Richard Unger is right," responds Professor Margolis.
"Whether the world was round was not in dispute. The shock
was the discovery of a continent on the back of the Earth. Columbus
himself still believed he had reached Asia when he died in 1506."
regrets passing on the myth.-Ed.