Calculating the Size of the Earth: The Ancient Geometric Method

Brilliant Training Blog

File:Portrait_of_Eratosthenes Eratosthenes (276-195 BC). Mathematician, poet, philosopher, geographer.

One of the oldest and still most useful applications of mathematics is using geometric relationships to derive the dimensions of things without directly measuring them. About 2000 years ago, an Ancient Greek scholar, philosopher, poet, and mathematician named Eratosthenes used staggeringly simple geometry to calculate the size of the Earth; possibly with very high accuracy. The Ancient Greeks were remarkable for their ability to use geometry to describe the scale of things that they could not directly perceive. Their geometry  was always correct and clever, but their conclusions were often way off due to inaccuracies in the measurements that the calculations were based off of. The scale of the Earth is one measurement that they might have nailed pretty close.

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