…deeply educated, rich minds are apt to making ridiculous errors when scientific – especially mathematical – education is missing…

Arno Schmidt (1914 - 1979)

“Herodotus is the best example, of how even grand, deeply educated, rich minds are apt  to making ridiculous errors when scientific – especially mathematical – education is missing. He had heard something about the roundness of the earth, as taught and proved centuries ago by Pythagoras, Thales, Anaximander – and he thinks that this is related only to our own world! He maintains that what they meant is that this round disk floats on Oceanus, which of course is opposed by him, relied upon his good and wide geographical knowledge; […] He had understood nothing of all this…”

From the short story “Gadir” of the book “Leviathan” by Arno Schmidt   (1949)

 The first part of “Leviathan” is the supposed diary of Pytheas of Massalia, the ancient Greek explorer, presented as an almost hundred years old man imprisoned by the Carthaginians in Gadir (Cadiz) for having illegaly boarded Carthaginian ships and travelled thus to the extreme north and Thule. “Gadir” presents the last few pages ofPytheas’s diary, few days before his death, after more than 52 years in prison. The above excerpt comes from the entry of year 52, day 119 of the diary. Some mathematical thoughts and even calculations about the distances of the moon, sun and the stars from the earth are also described in the ingenious story. Pytheas also mentions a work of his, titled “Period”, where a connection between the moon and the tides is proposed.



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