How was it proven that the Earth is round and not flat?

One sure way to prove that the Earth is round is to get into a ship and go around until you get back to your starting point. That was the way in which Ferdinand Magellan and Sebastian Elcano proved nearly 450 years ago that the Earth was round. They started from Spain on September 20, 1519 and sailed toward the west. Three years later, on September 8, 1522 one of their ships reached Spain again, coming from the east. Four of their little sailing vessels had been wreaked and Magellan himself had been killed (on the coast of Philippines) during the long and dangerous journey. Since then many people have traveled by land and sea all the way around the globe, and since the dawn of the air travel a number of them have circumnavigated the Earth in airplanes.

However, there are ways of proving the roundness of the Earth without traveling all around it. For example, look at the way a ship is seen approaching land. If the world was flat, such a ship wailing toward you would appear on the horizon ‘all of a piece’, from the banner of smoke above it to the line of the hull where it rests on the water. As the ship came nearer and nearer, it would simply seem to get larger. But this is not what happens. As a ship sails into view, you see first only the plume of smoke above it, then the top of the hull, then more of the hull, and finally the whole ship. This proves that the ship must be traveling up a great curved surface!

More reading:
Flat Earth (Wikipedia)
Ferdinand Magellan (Wikipedia)
Juan Sebastián Elcano (Wikipedia)

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