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Flat Earth (Public Domain Image)
Flat Earth (Public Domain Image)

Zetetic Astronomy

Earth Not a Globe

by Parallax (Samuel Birley Rowbotham)


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Samuel Birley Rowbotham, under the pseudonym 'Parallax', lectured for two decades up and down Britain promoting his unique flat earth theory. This book, in which he lays out his world system, went through three editions, starting with a 16 page pamphlet published in 1849 and a second edition of 221 pages published in 1865. The third edition of 1881 (which had inflated to 430 pages) was used as the basis of this etext.

Rowbotham was an accomplished debater who reputedly steamrollered all opponents, and his followers, who included many well-educated people, were equally tenacious. One of them, John Hampden, got involved in a bet with the famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace about the flat earth. An experiment which Hampden proposed didn't resolve the issue, and the two ended up in court in 1876. The judge ruled against Hampton, who started a long campaign of legal harassment of Wallace. Rowbotham hints at the incident in this book.

Rowbotham believed that the earth is flat. The contients float on an infinite ocean which somehow has a layer of fire underneath it. The lands we know are surrounded by an infinite wilderness of ice and snow, beyond the Antarctic ocean, bordered by an immense circular ice-cliff. What we call the North Pole is in the center of the earth.

The polar projection of the flat earth creates obvious discrepancies with known geography, particularly the farther south you go. Figure 54 inadvertantly illustrates this problem. The Zetetic map has a severly squashed South America and Africa, and Australia and New Zealand in the middle of the Pacific. I think that by the 19th century people would have noticed if Australia and Africa were thousands of miles further apart than expected, let alone if Africa was wider than it was long!

The Zetetic Sun, moon, planets and stars are all only a few hundred miles above the surface of the earth. The sun orbits the north pole once a day at a constant altitude. The moon is both self-illuminated and semi-transparent. Eclipses can be explained by some unknown object occulting the sun or moon. Zetetic cosmology is 'faith-based', based, that is, on a literal interpretation of selected Biblical quotes. Hell is exactly as advertised, directly below us. Heaven is not a state of mind, it is a real place, somewhere above us. He uses Ussherian Biblical chronology to mock the concept that stars could be millions of light years away. He attacks the concept of a plurality of worlds because no other world than this one is mentioned in the Bible.

Rowbotham never adequately explains his alternative astronomy. If the Copernican theory so adequately explains planetary motions, why discard it, and what would he use in its place? What is the sun orbiting around once a day and how does it work like a spotlight, not a 'point source'? If the moon is self-luminous, what creates its phases? If gravity appears to work here on earth, why doesn't it apply to the celestial objects just a few hundred miles up?

To make his system work he had to throw out a great deal of science, including the scientific method itself, using instead what he calls a 'Zetetic' method. As far as I can see this is simply a license to employ circular reasoning (e.g., the earth is flat, hence we can see distant lighthouses, hence the earth is flat).

Zetetic Astronomy is a key work of flat-earth thought, just as Donnelly's Atlantis, the Antediluvian World is still considered required reading on the subject of Atlantis. If you ever have to debate the flat earth pro or con, this book is a complete agenda of each point that you'll have to argue.

--John Bruno Hare, June 16th, 2005.

Title Page
Preface to the Second Edition
List of Diagrams
Chapter I. Zetetic and Theoretic Defined and Compared

Chapter II. Experiments Demonstrating the True Form of Standing Water, and Proving the Earth to be a Plane

Experiment 1
Experiment 2
Experiment 3
Experiment 4
Experiment 5
Experiment 6
Experiment 7
Experiment 8
Experiment 9
Experiment 10
Experiment 11
Experiment 12
Experiment 13
Experiment 14
Experiment 15


Chapter III. The Earth No Axial or Orbital Motion
Chapter IV. The True Form and Magnitude of the Earth
Chapter V. The True Distance of the Sun
Chapter VI. The Sun's Motion, Concentric With the Polar Centre
Chapter VII. The Sun's Path Expands and Contracts Daily for Six Months Alternately
Chapter VIII. Cause of Day and Night, Winter and Summer; and the Long Alternations of Light and Darkness at the Northern Centre
Chapter IX. Cause Of Sunrise And Sunset.
Chapter X. Cause of Sun Appearing Larger When Rising and Setting Than at Noonday
Chapter XI. Cause of Solar and Lunar Eclipses
Chapter XII. The Cause of Tides
Chapter XIII. The Earth's True Position in the Universe; Comparatively Recent Formation; Present Chemical Condition; and Approaching Destruction by Fire

Chapter XIV. Examination of the So-Called ''Proofs'' of the Earth's Rotundity

Why a Ship's Hull Disappears Before the Mast-Head
Perspective on the Sea
On the Dimensions of Ocean Waves
How The Earth Is Circumnavigated
Loss of Time on Sailing Westward
Declination of the Pole Star
The ''Dip Sector.''
Variability of Pendulum Vibrations
Arcs of the Meridian
Sphericity Inevitable From Semi-Fluidity
Degrees of Longitude
''Spherical Excess''
Theodolite Tangent
Tangential Horizon
Stations and Distances
Great Circle Sailing
Motion of Stars North and South
Continued Daylight in the Extreme South
Analogy in Favour of Rotundity
Lunar Eclipse a Proof of Rotundity
The Supposed Manifestation of the Rotation of the Earth
Railways, and ''Earth's Centrifugal Force''
Deflection of Falling Bodies
Goose Roasting by Revolving Fire
Difference in Solar and Sidereal Times
Stations and Retrogradation of Planets
Transmission of Light
Precession of the Equinoxes
The Planet Neptune
Moon's Phases
Moon's Appearance
Moon Transparent
Shadows on the Moon


Chapter XV. General Summary--Application--Cui Bono
''Parallax'' and his Teachings: Opinions of the Press
General Index
List of Works, Newspapers, Periodicals, Published Correspondence, and Scripture Texts Referred to or Quoted From