Dava Sobel

The World’s Waistband

Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition that Reshaped our World


Basic Books 376pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

In ancient times the Earth appeared round to the observant. Some learned the world’s shape by watching ships disappear over the horizon from the bottom up, then return mast first. Others followed the globe’s curved shadow as it crept across the Moon during lunar eclipses. The notion that people deemed the world flat until Columbus proved otherwise is a clever fiction hatched by Washington Irving in the nineteenth century. As early as 240 BC, Eratosthenes had estimated the earth’s circumference with nothing more than the shadow cast by a stick and the basic theorems of geometry. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Peters was unashamed and evidently unshamable, an impostor who wholly inhabited his fabrications and who indignant… ,
    • ‘At every waking moment Barbara Hepworth was aware of herself as a woman paving the way in a man’s world’ From the… ,
    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,
    • 'Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palae… ,
    • 'Some scholars attribute Shakespeare’s pre-eminence to four centuries of propaganda and not to the fact that Hamlet… ,
    • RT : We would appreciate any retweets ,