Chapter 4: The Universal Zetetic Society

At the beginning of 1892, the flat-earth movement was in a paradoxical state.  The death of John Hampden in the previous year left it without a visible leader.  It had never had a viable organization.  Rowbotham had been more interested in peddling his patent medicine than in leading the flat-earthers.  The Zetetic Society, founded only a year before he died, soon faded into oblivion.  Hampden was a one-man army, and he marched to a one-man band.  Most of the numerous flat-earth organizations he founded only had one member, and they were all buried with him.  Yet the flat-earth movement was stronger in numbers than ever before, and many of the stalwarts from previous chapters—Bathgate, Carpenter, Naylor, Evans—were still alive and vigorously kicking. 

The climate in England was generally favorable.  The British economy was now relatively strong, the long period of relative economic depression having ended about 1888.  On May 5, 1892, Queen Victoria turned 73, having already reigned nearly 55 years.  By autumn, the pages of the London Times were dominated by the world cholera epidemic, then centered in Russia and Germany (between August 20 and September 17, the city of Hamburg recorded 15,663 cases, 6,764 of them fatal [ref. 4.1] ).  Stringent sanitary measures protected London from cholera, but its air was polluted by coal smoke.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first volume of short stories about the great detective, was published the previous year.  Gilbert and Sullivan had not released an operetta in nearly three years, their last (The Gondoliers) having produced a temporary rift between them.

The British Empire was near its zenith.  India, jewel of the British crown, was becoming more familiar to readers through the writing of Rudyard Kipling, whose Barrack Room Ballads, including the immortal “Gunga Din,” was published that year.  The Irish still seethed under English rule, but their champion William Gladstone had just become Prime Minister for an unprecedented fourth time.  In the South African republic of Transvaal, Afrikaner President Paul Kruger was easing tension by softening the franchise laws that virtually excluded the English-speaking minority from the polls.  (We will hear more of President Kruger in another chapter, for he was an unrepentant flat-earther.)

The Universal Zetetic Society (UZS), founded late in 1892, was dominated by flat-earthers having little connection to the previous organizations.  The founding Secretary of the UZS was an Adventist named John Williams.  The Honourable Secretary (as he referred to himself) lived in the London borough of Southwark, just off London Bridge on the south shore of the river Thames.  In medieval days, all roads coming into London from the south converged here to cross London Bridge, and Southwark was known for its inns.  (The Tabard Inn immortalized in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales stood just south of the bridge.) Southwark later became London’s entertainment district, and in Shakespearean times it was the site of the Globe, Swan, Rose, and Hope theaters and the Paris Gardens, a famous bull-baiting arena.  As time passed, this playground of the wealthy became a spawning-ground for the poor, a seedy semi-slum.  Now it became headquarters for a movement to reform the world.

The founding meeting of the Universal Zetetic Society was apparently held on Wednesday, September 21, 1892, at John Williams’s Southwark home. [ref. 4.2]  It’s not clear who besides Williams attended, though probably most of those selected to the UZS Committee were there.  The founders decided on a name, a motto, an object, and a set of rules as follows:


For God and His truth, as found in Nature and taught in His Word.


The propagation of knowledge relating to Natural Cosmogony in confirmation of the Holy Scriptures, based upon practical investigation.


1.  Everything extraneous to “Our Object” to be avoided. 

2.  The so-called “sciences,” and especially Modern Astronomy, to be dealt with from practical data in connection with the Divine system of Cosmogony revealed by the Creator. 

3.  Every honest opponent to be treated with respect and consideration. 

4.  Members to subscribe not less than six shillings a year, which entitles them to two copies of The EARTH (not-a-globe) REVIEW each issue, and a copy of every paper issued by the Society.  Such will be also eligible to be voted to serve on Committees, to vote on motions, to write articles (subject to editorial approval) for the Earth Review, and to propose (subject to Rule 8.) any alteration thought to be beneficial to the Society. 

5.  Associates to subscribe not less than two shillings and sixpence per year, which entitles them to a copy of every publication issued by the Society. 

6.  All subscriptions to the Society to be paid in advance (quarterly if desired) and to the Secretary. 

7.  The financial year to commence on September 21st. 

8.  Three months notice to be given in writing to the Secretary, before any alterations, or additions to the Rules can be made.  The Secretary to bring any suggested alteration or addition before the whole of the Committee, to vote on the final decision. 

9.  Every meeting of the Society to be opened with prayer and the reading of some portion of the Holy Scriptures. 

10.  The Society’s meetings to be held (pro. tem.) at 32, Bankside, Southwark, London, S.E. [ref. 4.3] 

The meeting place was Williams’s home address.  Though its religious purpose was clearly stated, the UZS was strictly nondenominational.  Its principal publication was to be the Earth—Not a Globe!—Review, edited by “Zetetes” (Albert Smith).  Generally known as the Earth Review, it was the most ambitious flat-earth periodical ever.

The UZS was governed by a Committee.  Besides Secretary–Treasurer John Williams and Earth Review editor Albert Smith, the Committee included Amos Perry of Ashton-under-Lyne, the brothers Isaac and John Smith of Halifax, Edward D’Arcy Adams of London, James Naylor of Birmingham, A. E. Skellam of London, and Lady Blount of Bath.  All Committee members except Adams apparently lectured extensively.  Little is known about Adams, and we met Williams previously.  Let us now meet the other UZS Committee members individually.

When the UZS was founded, Earth Review editor Albert Smith (“Zetetes”) lived in Leicester, then a city of about 175,000 lying 99 railway miles north-northwest of London.  Leicester has ancient roots; it stands on the site of the Roman town of Ratae, and some of its medieval buildings incorporate bricks salvaged from Roman ruins.  By the 13th century, the city was a center for brewing and the manufacture of woolen goods; these industries still thrived among the newer ones spawned by the Industrial Revolution.  Smith’s profession (if other than “gentleman”) is unknown, but we can infer that he was a man of more than modest means, for he called his Leicester headquarters Plutus House, after the Greek god of riches.

Smith first appears in flat-earth annals as author of a twopenny tract, Is the Earth a Globe and Has It Axial and Orbital Motion?, advertised in the January 15, 1887 issue of Hampden’s Earth and Its Evidences, Scripturally, Rationally, and Practically Described.  This tract reported on an 1884 debate and lecture on the shape of the earth held in Blackburn, Lancashire, where Smith then lived.  Blackburn is about 20 miles northwest of Manchester, and Rowbotham’s early concentration on that area had left it a relative hotbed of flat-earthism.  Public debate is not for neophytes, and Smith apparently was interested in flat-earthism even earlier, for he later claimed “Rowbottam” was his friend, suggesting that he had met the great “Parallax” but never learned to spell his name.  When the first issue of Earth Review appeared, Smith (as “Zetetes”) had written several more flat-earth tracts and pamphlets, including The So-Called “Mistakes of Moses”, “Cranks”, The Sundial, and Discussion on “Modern Astronomy”.

As Elder Smith of Leicester, he had been a regular contributor to The Faith, an adventist paper edited by Cyrus Brooks.  Recently, however, he had been excommunicated from the Seventh-day Adventists for “upholding the Bible-Earth.” [ref. 4.4]  He nevertheless continued to hold The Faith in high regard, and “The Faith” Press later published his book Socialism versus Christianity.

UZS Committee member Amos Perry lived in Ashton-under-Lyne, a market town 6½ miles east of Manchester on the Tame River.  A woolen center of old, Ashton-under-Lyne turned to the cotton trade soon after the invention of the spinning frame.  Nearby coal mines provided steam to power the cotton mills and coke for the iron foundries.  Manchester was Rowbotham’s birth-place and long-time headquarters, and he had blanketed this area with his lectures.  Whether Perry was converted by “Parallax” himself or by another convert, he was now an active flat-earth lecturer and an agent for Earth Review.

Perry’s profession (other than “zetetic lecturer”) is unknown.  He had a scholarly bent as evidenced by “A Pioneer Zetetic,” a piece about Cosmas Indicopleustes he contributed to an early issue of Earth Review.  Cosmas, the reader might recall, was a 6th century monk who wrote the first book explicitly intended to defend the Christian plane against the heathen spherical heresy.  Cosmas taught that the earth is rectangular, about 10,000 miles north to south and 30,000 miles east to west.  The “forgotten pioneer” is a stock genre among amateur historians, [note 4.1]  and Perry did it well.  He stressed Cosmas’s positive contributions while noting that modern zetetics would not agree with some of his ideas.  (There are indications that Ebenezer Breach, whom we will meet shortly, advocated the Cosmas model.)

Isaac and John Smith lived in Halifax, a city of about 100,000 straddling the hills where the river Hebble flows into the Calder, 20 miles northeast of Manchester and about 200 miles north-northwest of London.  A cloth trading town since the 15th century, Halifax was still a center for woolen and worsted manufacture (especially carpeting), and it also had extensive iron and steel industries.

Isaac Smith was a wool stapler, a trade that required no explanation in 19th century Halifax.  (When a sheep is sheared, the fleece is clipped off in a continuous sheet, as if the animal were skinned.  Wool quality varies with position, the best coming from the shoulders and the poorest from the hindquarters.  The wool stapler bought raw fleeces by the bale, hand-separated the wool by grade, and resold it to combers or spinners.) Brother John Smith was with the Kensington Iron Works in Siddal, a Halifax suburb.  His position there is unknown, but it must have been a responsible one, as his life style was middle class.

The Smith brothers were relatively recent converts to zetetic astronomy. [ref. 4.5]  Isaac was nevertheless the Halifax agent for Earth Review and author of a pamphlet, The Bible and Modern Science, which the UZS sold for 2½d.  John contributed an article on “Bible Astronomy” to Earth Review in which he upbraided the Jehovah’s Witness paper Zion’s Watch Tower for criticizing zetetic astronomy.

Both Smith brothers were tireless flat-earth lecturers.  In a letter to William Carpenter written in the summer of 1892, John Smith wrote:

I and my Brother have, D.V., to give some four or five lectures this Autumn, and we shall distribute some “Hundred Proofs” [note 4.2]  at each, either for cash value or as free distributions.  … We are trying to establish a true foundation for a study of the phenomena of nature based upon fact, upon the testimony of God’s Word which must agree with His works, and by a proper use of our faculties to demonstrate these truths to the common sense of our fellow men. [ref. 4.6] 

An 1896 issue of Earth Review reports that “recently” John Smith lectured in London, Dewsbury, and Bradford and Isaac Smith in Bradford. [ref. 4.7]  It is probably fair to guess that between them the brothers averaged one or two zetetic lectures a month for several years.  Such is the stuff of which movements are made.

James Naylor had been a regular contributor to The Zetetic 20 years earlier, and his 1872 pamphlet John Hampden Quite Right!  The Geographical Professors All Wrong!  A Critical Review of the “Bedford Level Experiments” was the first work about the Bedford Canal Experiment by a nonparticipant.  Naylor then resided in Leeds, just west of Halifax.  In 1877, he subscribed for 12 copies of Carpenter’s Delusion of the Day, but he then dropped from sight, and some of his fellow zetetics thought he was dead.  In about 1892, John Smith was seeking to have John Hampden Quite Right! reprinted when he discovered that the author was alive and kicking in Birmingham.

It was as if he had never been gone.  When UZS was organized, Naylor was elected to the Committee, and he quickly proved himself a wise choice.  He became an active lecturer in Birmingham and its environs and a regular contributor to Earth Review.  Naylor had not lost his interest in the Hampden–Wallace wager, and we will revisit the Old Bedford Canal with him later in this chapter.

UZS Committee member A. E. Skellam lived in Wandsworth, a southwestern metropolitan borough of London.  The largest of London’s metropolitan boroughs (14¼ square miles), Wandsworth extends south from the river Thames and Battersea to Upper and Lower Tooting.  Its population was something over 200,000, but parts of Wandsworth were sparsely populated, and Putney Heath was still remembered as a highwayman’s habitat and dueling ground.

Skellam wrote two short tracts, One of the Devil’s Masterpieces and The Shape of the World, and he may also have written a tract called Search Truth.  His works have perished except for a few quotations preserved in the works of other writers and, of course, his letters to Earth Review.  Skellam was an active zetetic lecturer in south London, and he served on the UZS Committee from its founding until at least 1897.

Lady Elizabeth Anne Mould Blount of Bath , whom we shall meet again in Chapter 7, was the most prominent member of the UZS.  Her husband, Baronet Walter de Sodington Blount, was wealthy but Roman Catholic.  Lady Blount was a Protestant woman of independent mind and (apparently) independent means, and she had long since left Sir Walter and his estate in Worcestershire.  She made regular contributions to Earth Review, but more important than these were her contributions of money and time.  The UZS never managed to become self-supporting, and Lady Blount was one of the activists who bankrolled the organization from their own funds.  She also proselytized tirelessly for Zetetic Astronomy, and when she talked, people listened, if they knew what was good for them.  An active lecturer, she was wont to debate the shape of the earth with any “Globite” who would face her.  She was a tireless writer of letters-to-the-editor, and her crisp style and her title were often sufficient to get them published.  Likewise, any prominent churchman foolish enough to use the word “globe” in public was likely to receive a tartly worded letter from her suggesting that his denial of the flatness of the earth amounted to a denial of the Bible.

The UZS Committee was assisted in its aims by activists old and new.  James Naylor was not the only zetetic activist who apparently dropped out during the Hampden era.  William Bathgate, M.B.C.A. [note 4.3]  also magically reappeared.  Other long-time flat-earthers active in the UZS included J. C. Akester, William Carpenter, and the mysterious “G.M.,” who had collaborated with Hampden (to the extent that Hampden collaborated with anyone).

Within a year, the UZS had members throughout the English-speaking world, and the Earth Review had agents in England, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand.  This did not just happen.  An extensive, worldwide zetetic correspondence network was already in place when the UZS was founded.  The UZS seemed especially able to attract religious conservatives from the professional classes, and many of the new flat-earthers were engineers, medical doctors, and (especially) clergymen.  The flat-earthers finally had their act together.

The best window into the soul of the Universal Zetetic Society is the Earth—Not a Globe!—Review.  For the first time since the original Zetetic some twenty years earlier, the flat-earthers had a journal that was truly a meeting place for their minds, and its pages record the thoughts, hopes, and actions of the UZS and its members.  The Earth Review published articles by numerous zetetics, old and new.  It reprinted material from earlier writers and occasionally from religious or even secular journals.  It reported on lectures and debates, responded to queries by members, printed their letters-to-the-editor, and carried on running editorial battles with critics.  In short, Earth Review was just about everything such a journal can hope to be—except a financial success!

The premier issue, dated January 1893, opens with these words from the editor, “Zetetes:”

It may be thought that there are a sufficient number of Periodicals in the market without adding one more to the extensive list.  There are plenty, no doubt, if they were all of the right kind.  But are they?  How many of them profess to stand by the Word of God as true and faithful in all its parts.  And of those who profess to uphold the sacred Scriptures as inspired of God, how many believe and advocate the literal truth of the account of Creation as recorded therein?  or the various descriptions given by them of the works of God as found in what is called Nature?  Not one!  At least, we know not of any.

“Zetetes” (Albert Smith) lamented that British universities were indoctrinating students rather than educating them.  He found the modern astronomy taught at the universities a threat to the very concept of a personal God:

[O]n the astronomical hypothesis, the world is like an uncared-for orphan, or a desolate wanderer: God is removed too far from us to be of any practical use; and the idea of heaven is so vague, that such a place, if it exist at all, may be anywhere or nowhere; “all round the globe;” or spirited away from us altogether, “beyond the bounds of time and space.” Thus the Christian’s hope is undermined, and his faith eaten away at the very core by this insidious and so-called “scientific” worm. [ref. 4.8] 

Nineteenth century flat-earthers would no more settle for a “useless” God than would modern creationists.  Indeed, “Zetetes” considered Darwinian evolution, geology, and astronomy all part of the same spherical plot, and he ridiculed them together in a poem, “The Song of the Evolutionist.” [note 4.4]  Though avowedly nonsectarian, the UZS was hardly sympathetic to conventional science or liberal religious views.

Honourable Secretary Williams likewise contributed to the first issue.  His article “Globe Tinkering, or Gas Meteorites” ridiculed the idea that meteorites could be stones from space.  He also threw down the gauntlet before Science Siftings, a small, nontechnical magazine serving the market niche now filled by Popular ScienceScience Siftings had been making antizetetic noises while systematically excluding flat-earth arguments.  Williams wrote:

I … challenge the Astronomical Editor to prove the earth to be a spinning and whirling globe, by an appeal to demonstrated facts found in Nature.  I will prove it is not, if you have the manliness and courage to open your columns for the elucidation of the truth of the subject.

Williams offered £1000 as a reward for the requested evidence.  (The editor of Science Siftings, no doubt familiar with the Hampden–Wallace wager and its aftermath, declined.)

One purpose of Earth Review was to provide ammunition for the troops battling the globe in the field.  In a section headed “Honest and Noble Confessions,” [note 4.5]  Smith provided some arguments useful for zetetic advocates.  Among these was an old quotation from Robert Woodhouse (1773–1827), who once held the Lowndean Chair of Astronomy and Geometry at the University of Cambridge:

When we consider that the advocates of the Earth’s stationary and central position can account for and explain the celestial phenomena as accurately as we can, in addition to which they have the evidence of the senses, and SCRIPTURE and FACTS in their favour, which we have not, it is not without some show of reason that they maintain the superiority of their system.  … However perfect our theory, and however simply(?) and satisfactorily the Newtonian hypothesis may seem to us to account for all the celestial phenomena, yet we are here compelled to admit the astounding truth that if our premises be disputed and our facts challenged, the whole range of astronomy does not contain the proofs of its own accuracy (emphasis in Earth Review). [ref. 4.9] 

No source was given, but the statement is basically reasonable.  (Without premises, theories, hypotheses, and facts there is not much left in science.) To the zetetics, this statement by Woodhouse was a devastating admission, and it was recycled endlessly in flat-earth literature.

The first issue of Earth Review printed letters from numerous correspondents (including two in New Zealand) and reported on various activities by UZS members.  One J. Lack had read a paper on Zetetic Astronomy at Breakley Road Chapel in London.  Member J. Atkinson had given a flat-earth lecture in Belfast, Ireland.  Taken as a whole, the January 1893 Earth Review was a harbinger of things to come.

Zetetic interest in the British Isles was not confined to England; Glasgow, Scotland was home to a tireless zetetic.  Glasgow had by this time experienced all that was good and bad about the Industrial Revolution.  Its population exploded during the 19th century, growing from 77,385 in 1801 to 761,709 in 1901.  With extensive iron and steel works, it was a world center for locomotive manufacture and ship-building (at the turn of the century, half of the new tonnage launched in the United Kingdom slid down the ways into the River Clyde).  Glasgow University, founded in 1450, had a powerful academic tradition.  In 1870, the university moved to new and expanded quarters, and by the end of the 19th century enrollment was about 2,000.  The university was governed by a council, one of whose members was flat-earther Alexander McInnes. [ref. 4.10] 

McInnes first appeared in the pages of Earth Review in May 1894, with a letter criticizing an antizetetic pamphlet, and he continued to make sporadic appearances thereafter.  (The editor finally had to remind this stereotypical Scotsman that if he supported their goals, he really should support them financially by paying dues!) McInnes was apparently an adventist of sorts, and a strong opponent of spiritualism.  In 1892, our old friend, flat-earther and spiritualist William Carpenter, described McInnes as follows:

[W]e have for a few years been in correspondence with a truly good man—Mr. A. McInnes, of Glasgow, the editor of “The Coming Man”—but it would be a difficult matter to show him that on certain points, his belief is too strongHe has revelations, and works miracles, he informs us, of which we may learn more by and by; but so full of the spirit of Jesus Christ is this man that he has sent us his papers by the hundreds and prays that we may give ourselves wholly to the Saviour, as he does, and renounce—or denounce, for it is hard to say which—all we know about “spiritual gifts,” which he, also, says are of the devil.  It is the old story the world over: my “doxy” only is orthodoxy.  Our sincere regard for McInnes is, however, unsullied. [ref. 4.11] 

The Coming Man sounds like a quasi-adventist periodical, [note 4.6]  and McInnes sounds like a pentecostal.  In any case, McInnes was an uncompromising flat-earther and creationist.  His article on “Imaginary Astronomy” from the January 1895 issue of Earth Review illustrates his style.  McInnes opened by comparing modern astronomy to “Arabian Nights” and Munchausen’s “Voyage to the Moon,” claiming it can only deceive simpletons.  He then commented on Sir John Herschel’s astronomy textbook:

Next, we are to imagine ourselves little flies, or midgets, crawling on the globe, off which we cannot fall, though it whirls faster than lightning.  But the children’s toy needs an axis to whirl round, so that day and night may be accounted for, and so we are accordingly told that there is an imaginary one, that is, there is an axis, but it is inside our brains.  Then the imaginary axis has two ends, called “North and South Poles,” also imaginary.  Now the word axis means axle, or axletree, and therefore, the imaginary axis must itself be a pole.  Thus, Herschel’s axis with two ends are three poles, and yet no poles at all, being only imaginary.  Whoever heard of a wheel turning on an imaginary axis, even though the axis were imagined by the coachman to be three poles?  Again, the globe must be imagined to turn round with great exactness in 24 hours, and so we must imagine it to stand on an imaginary plane, viz: no plane at all!

The shouting about imagine and imagination and imaginary is characteristic of antiscientific obscurantism.  McInnes made numerous other contributions to Earth Review, including articles entitled “How Old Is the Earth?” [ref. 4.12]  and “The Wonderful Stone,” [ref. 4.13]  a sarcastic commentary on Lord Kelvin’s suggestion that a meteorite brought the seeds of life to earth. [note 4.7]  He also wrote at least two zetetic pamphlets, Pagan Astronomy and The Opposition of Science to Religion, but these have not survived.

Earth Review occasionally published humor, although zetetic humor tended to be a bit heavy-handed.  An occasional contributor, one H. H. Scroggins, gave an excellent illustration with “A Coming Genius on the Globe.” The opening lines give the flavor of the piece:

The globe on wich the sientifik foolosifers sa we liv, iz lik a noringe thay sa, ownly not the same culler, an thare iz worter an mud in sum plazes owtsid ware thare ort to be rine; an erth, stonz, an all sortz ov uthur things inside ware thare ort to be juse an pips; the globe iz ski-rockitin awa throo spase thay sa, at abowt 19 miles evere sekond … [ref. 4.14] 

A little of this goes a long way, but Scroggins managed to carry on for more than two pages.  One can only wonder whether anyone ever actually read it.

Equally satirical but lighter in touch was an unnamed zetetic poet’s speculation about how Sir Isaac happened to come up with an odd idea like universal gravitation:


Old Isaac sat under his apple tree,
Quaffing his good old wine.
He eyed his decanter right merrily;
And lauded the fruit of the vine.

“Ho!  bring me another full bottle,” he cried,
“And carry the ‘empties’ away;
“For wine aids reflection when fitly applied,
“And I would be pensive to-day.

He drank and he studied, he studied and drank,
Until he could study no more!
Then into a slumber he quietly sank,
And varied his thoughts with a snore;

But a breeze shook the tree under which he reclined,
And, alas!  broke the good man’s repose,
For an apple dislodged by the troublesome wind—
Struck him full on the bridge of the nose,

Then up started Isaac, his face all aglow,
At the insult he thought he’d received,
And quickly looked round for his impudent foe,
But in vain, as may well be believed.

He searched in the garden, he searched in the house,
He searched in the neighbouring lanes;
And he swore if he found him he’d certainly douse
The rogue in the pond for his pains.

But useless his search, he returned and sat down;
Another full bottle was brought;
But still on his face sat a terrible frown
As the key to the myst’ry he sought.

The wind blew more fierce, and the ripe apples fell
In multitudes thickly around;
Till another one lodged on his organ of smell,
Rebounded and rolled to the ground.

“Eureka,” he cried, I’ve discovered the cause,
“And value the pain not a straw,
“Since ’tis so, ’twill teach me in future to pause,
“Ere hasty conclusions I draw.”

He ponder’d long time, and he drank deep and oft,
And looked most remarkably wise;
As he peered on the ground, then gazed up aloft,
With wisdom and wine in his eyes.

“What causes the apples to fall to the ground,
“And why do they first strike my nose,
“And why does the garden appear to go round,
“Can any the reasons disclose?”

Triumphant he paused, but as no one was by
To answer his several questions,
Why no one, of course, could affirm or deny
The truth of his laboured suggestions.

“I’ve hit it,” said he, as he brought down his hand,
On his thigh with astonishing force;
“The mystery’s solved, I the whole understand,
“'Tis plain as the daylight, of course.

“The earth’s moving round—I can see it myself—
“(It’s motion is making me queer.)
“Ho!  fetch me more wine from the lowermost shelf;
“Quick!  sirrah, and bring it me here.

“Yes, the earth’s going round, I am certain of that
“(I wish for a while ’twould be still)
“Therefore, as it goes round, it cannot be flat;
“Therefore must be round as a pill.

“And what causes the apples to fall on my nose
“And from thence to the surface of earth,
“Where, their motion suspended, they lay in repose,
“To what do these forces give birth?”

He thought on it deeply, he pondered it long,
Ideas in his brain tried to enter,
One entered at last.  “Yes I cannot be wrong,
“Attraction draws all to the (s)center.

“I’ll write me a book, my scheme I’ll evolve,
“—A book to astonish the nation—
“And with two learned words every question I’ll solve
Attraction, and—ah!—Gravitation.

Round went the orchard as old Isaac mused;
Till giddy he fell to the ground,
And there as he lay, with his senses confused
Our sage even felt it go round.

His faithful man-servant at last sought him out,
And carried him quickly to bed.
“Yes, ’tis certainly rolling, of that there’s no doubt;”
Was all the philosopher said. [ref. 4.15] 

Earth Review contributors included several old friends from previous chapters.  William Bathgate, author of the pamphlet Answers to Objections Advanced Against the Planar System, contributed an article entitled “‘Refraction’ Extraordinary.” Bathgate described how, in searching for a northeast passage to China, the Dutch explorer Willem Barents and his crew got stuck in the ice and spent the winter of 1596–97 on the island of Novaya Zemlya, north of Russia.  On January 24, 1597, three sailors reported seeing the upper edge of the sun above the horizon.  According to Bathgate’s calculations, the sun’s upper edge should have been 4° 26′ below the horizon—if conventional theory is correct.  Barents wouldn’t believe it, either, claiming the sun shouldn’t be visible for another two weeks.  On January 27, however, “we all saw the sun in his full roundness above the horizon.”

However that may be, Barents and Bathgate missed a bigger mystery.  As Bathgate reports, Barents and his crew had last seen the sun on November 3, 1596.  In those days, the calendar was so far out of whack that the winter solstice fell on December 11 (it should have been December 21).  The sun’s declination is roughly symmetrical with respect to the solstice.  If it was remarkable to see the sun above the horizon on January 24, 44 days after the solstice, it was even more remarkable to have seen it on November 3, only 39 days before the solstice.  (The sun’s declination should have been about a degree further south on November 3.) Thus, we can agree with Bathgate that either extraordinary refraction occurs in the Arctic (refraction normally does not exceed 34′), or there is something wrong with the conventional theory.

J. C. Akester first appeared in Hampden’s Truth Seeker’s Oracle and Scriptural Science Review in 1876.  Now he was the Earth Review's agent in Hull, a port city 20 miles up the Humber River from the North Sea and 181 railway miles due north of London.  Always a natural foods enthusiast, Akester had been (and probably still was) an agent for Dr. Birley’s Phosphorised Medicine.  He was now promoting homeopathic medicine and still writing and lecturing about the flat earth, too.  In 1894, he published a tract entitled The Bible vs. Science, but this has not survived.

William Carpenter had forgotten neither zeteticism nor the Old Bedford Canal, and he contributed an occasional note from America.  (We will visit him there next chapter.)

The British penchant for cute pseudonyms is nowhere more apparent than in Earth Review.  Besides editors “Zetetes,” “Leo Castle,” and “Excalibur” (the latter two pseudonyms used by John Williams after he took over as editor of Earth Review), three regular contributors styled themselves “Balaam’s Ass,” [note 4.8]  “A Hottentot,” and “Iconoclast.”

“Balaam’s Ass” no doubt wanted to project the persona of a humble one who unexpectedly exhibits wisdom.  Unfortunately, the man behind the mask exhibited little humility and less wisdom, as shown in a three-part series entitled “Faith and Science.” In the latter, he expressed his purpose as follows:

[W]e intend to show the utter falsity and unscientific character of the theories of modern astronomy, geology, and evolution; and that they are one and all, not only anti-scriptural, but irrational and unphilosophical.  We challenge the ablest scientists of the day to defend their suppositions, and their theories built thereon, or to find a single flaw in the Divine Cosmogony of Holy Writ. [ref. 4.16] 

The context of the quote was an attack on an article appearing in the adventist periodical The Faith, which “Balaam’s Ass” suspected of being soft on evolution.  The miscreant (probably editor Cyrus E. Brooks) saw “a gradual development through natural selection, generic life being unfolded by successive acts of creation,” and he also allowed for pre-Adamic man.  “Balaam’s Ass” buried him in Scriptures and ridicule and planted the following verses on his grave:

There was an ape in the days that were earlier:
Centuries passed, and his hair became curlier;
Centuries more gave a thumb to his wrist,
Then, he was a man, an Evolutionist. [ref. 4.17] 

It’s not known why “A Hottentot” chose a pseudonym which, besides its obvious meaning, the 19th century British used pejoratively to mean uncivilized or degraded.  Perhaps it was the whim of someone who had lived in the Cape region of South Africa.  In any case, “A Hottentot” was a frequent contributor of shrill and/or sarcastic letters and articles to Earth Review.

“A Hottentot” was convinced that there was a conspiracy to suppress information favorable to the flat earth.  For example, The Future, an astrological magazine, ran some articles by one “Enquirer” criticizing zeteticism, but the editor refused to print replies by “A Hottentot.” This manifest injustice was exercised at great length in Earth Review, and “A Hottentot” also castigated the editor of The Future for having the nerve to cite Richard J. Morrison’s New Principia as superior to zetetic works. [note 4.9] 

“Iconoclast” had been a good friend of the late John Hampden, and perhaps he contributed something to the latter’s Earth and Its Evidences under his own (now unknown) name.  In a contribution to Earth Review, “Iconoclast” described how he and Hampden once went to South Kensington Museum to see the Foucault pendulum, whose slowly rotating path is supposed to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.  Hampden was unimpressed, and told the guide.  The guide suggested that he take up his objection with Professor So-and-So, but Hampden and “Iconoclast” knew better. [ref. 4.18] 

Besides printing original material, Earth Review reprinted zetetic material from the past.  Examples include portions of Walter Rowton’s Science’s Quarrel with the Bible: Two Lectures pamphlet from the 1870s and about half of Edward Middleton’s bombastic Trigonometreadidit Letters (Middleton was still flourishing and occasionally publishing, but by this time his eccentricity had given way to madness, and he apparently had little or no contact with UZS.) Numerous zetetic works that have otherwise perished are thus preserved in whole or in part in Earth Review.

Not all of the reprints were strictly flat-earth; sometimes geocentricity or Newton-bashing was close enough.  Thus, Earth Review reprinted a lecture “Our Earth Motionless,” originally delivered in Berlin by a follower of Ptolemy, one Dr. Schoepfer.  (It had previously been reprinted in Scientific American, in a translation submitted by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy.) Other examples are extracts from a geocentric pamphlet by John Dove and anti-Newtonian material by Julius Silversmith and Newton Crossland.

Besides getting the word out to potential converts, UZS used Earth Review to answer critics, sometimes to attack, sometimes to control damage, and sometimes out of sheer frustration.  The latter was a common emotion among zetetics.  Commonly, when zetetics found their views implicitly contradicted or explicitly attacked in the public press, they wrote responses, only to be denied publication.  Their only recourse was to print the response in Earth Review, and zetetic letters refused publication in The Future, The Faith, and so forth were regular features of Earth Review

While most skeptics ignored the flat-earthers, a few were amused, intrigued, or outraged enough to engage in dialogue with them.  Almost every issue of Earth Review either printed or noted receipt of one or more letters from spherical critics.  One example should suffice.

Caldwell Harpur was an enthusiastic antizetetic who frequently wrote to Earth Review.  A political liberal and a poet, Harpur worked for the New Oriental Bank in Threadneedle Street, London.  Perhaps he was a missionary of sorts, for he corresponded with numerous leading flat-earthers.  Little else is known of him, except that he was an advocate of the metric system of weights and measures, and soon after his controversy with flat-earthers, he published a pamphlet entitled Weigh by Grams, Discarding Drachms[note 4.10] 

Harpur’s bout with Earth Review began innocently enough with a letter in the April 1893 issue describing his correspondence with W. M. Runciman, a zetetic from New Plymouth, New Zealand.  Harpur noted that the apparent motion of the Southern Cross, as described to him by Runciman, was exactly that described by Proctor.  The editor shrugged this off as hearsay and invited Harpur to try to overthrow “Dr. Birley’s proofs.” Harpur apparently responded with a pamphlet, Deductions from the Theory of a Flat Earth, which has perished.

The zetetics were not pleased by Harpur’s effort, and Alexander McInnes called it a mathematical fraud. [ref. 4.19]  Harpur apparently used several different zetetic assumptions to derive hopelessly contradictory predictions from flat-earth theory.  The September 1894 brought Hampden’s old correspondent “G.M.” into the lists for the first time.  Apparently Harpur calculated the distance from the equator to the north pole by two different zetetic methods, one yielding a huge distance and the other an infinite distance.  His reasoning for the latter can be derived from G.M.’s reply: At the vernal equinox, a viewer at the North Pole would see the sun split by the horizon, or its apparent elevation would be 0°. [note 4.11]  On zetetic principles, the distance from the pole to the equator is the sun’s actual altitude times cotangent 0°.  But cotangent 0° is infinite, so the distance from the pole to the equator must be infinite.

In response, G.M. felt compelled to assert that lines of sight to the sun from various latitudes do not converge on the same point.  G.M.’s diagram is shown below.

G.M.’s diagram to show the sun’s apparent altitude at different latitudes

G.M.’s diagram to show the sun’s apparent altitude at different latitudes.

G.M. explained the diagram as follows:

If NQ be the radius of a globular earth, P. the North Pole, then the dotted arc PQ would be the 90° of North latitude; at equinox the sun vertical to the equator would be in the direction NQQ′, simultaneously it would be in the horizon of N, i.e., in the direction PSS′; therefore, the sun’s apparent position varies to the extent of one side of a square described upon the radius; or SQ is the extent of that variation, upon both sphere and plane, when the difference in the observing stations equals 90° latitude. [ref. 4.20] 

G.M.’s geometry is correct so far as it goes.  What he means by “one side of a square described upon the radius” is that the lengths of lines AA′, BB′, and CC′ all equal NQ (and also SQ).  The lines AA′, BB′, and CC′ represent the line of sight to the sun from an observer at latitudes 30°, 45°, and 67.5°, respectively.  Unfortunately, G.M. ignored the fact that simple geometry then demands that lines QA′, QB′, and QC′ represent the actual altitudes of the sun!  That is, while everyone agrees that the apparent elevation of the sun depends upon the observer’s latitude, G.M.’s diagram implies that the actual altitude of the sun also changes with the position of the observer.  This is a bit difficult to accept.

From then on, the discussion became mostly one-sided.  In the January 1895 issue, Harpur was allowed two paragraphs to point out to G.M. that the sun cannot be in more than one place at a time.  The editor allowed G.M. four pages to respond to Harpur.  In April 1895, Harpur ventured another paragraph, drawing eight paragraphs from G.M.  And so it went until the April 1896 issue, when the editor declared the controversy closed and Harpur the loser.  In all, Harpur contributed to and/or was castigated in a dozen issues of Earth Review.

It goes without saying that zetetics had not forgotten the Bedford Canal fiasco, and it was frequently rehashed in the pages of Earth Review.  In 1894, James Naylor and other zetetics revisited the canal to make new observations.

James Naylor was a long-time zetetic, an old friend of William Carpenter, and author of the first pamphlet on the Bedford Canal Experiment written by a nonparticipant (John Hampden Quite Right!  The Geographical Professors All Wrong!  A Critical Review of the “Bedford Level Experiments”).  A member of the UZS Committee, Naylor differed from many of his fellow zetetics in his moderate treatment of conventional science and his cool, analytical approach to zetetic difficulties.

Beginning with the April 1895 issue of Earth Review, Naylor published a four-part series on “Zetetic Refraction” that remains the definitive statement on the subject.  Essentially, he argued that refraction depends upon the “density” of the two media involved.  He argued that the theory of the atmosphere getting less dense with elevation is false; greater or lesser density can be found in any direction.  In general, the effect on a ray of light coming from above is to depress the apparent source, not to elevate it as the conventional view of refraction asserts.  This has important consequences:

When once it is seen that a ray of light—whether coming obliquely from the upper regions of the atmosphere to the lower or from lower to upper—always bends toward the horizontal, many plausible Newtonian explanations evidently become impossible; at the same time also some important Zetetic difficulties cease to exist. [ref. 4.21] 

Zetetic refraction depresses objects and makes light always bend toward the horizontal.  Naylor argued that this explains eclipses where both sun and moon are seen above the horizon.  He admitted that Rowbotham failed to cope with the rising and setting of celestial objects, saying “[H]ere zetetic refraction comes to render yeoman service …” He also acknowledged that the angles of celestial objects fit a globe better than they fit a plane, saying “[H]ere it may be freely conceded, that these angles far more nearly correspond with the common theory than with Zeteticism, though not so completely as some Newtonians would have us believe.” But zetetic refraction shows that observed angles can not be interpreted dependably.

In Naylor’s analysis, refraction distorts real angles: “It was the neglect of this consideration that made C. Harpur’s argument in a recent number of the Review to appear so formidable on paper and so absurd away from it.” Refraction prevents zetetics from computing actual distances of celestial bodies above the plane, and it also wipes out conventional theory.  He argued that we simply cannot know the true angles of bodies above the horizon.

It was from this background that Naylor once again attacked the Bedford bugbear in an article entitled “Old Bedford Canal and Some Things that Can Be Seen There.” [ref. 4.22]  He opened the article by saying, “We think that even the most ardent believer in the plane earth will admit that the results of the Wallace–Hampden experiments, superficially viewed, were unsatisfactory.” Indeed, because the distant signal was seen below the nearer one, “evidence for the latter [globular theory] appeared clearly to be established.” He continues:

It was therefore with readiness that we accepted a kind invitation in August, 1894, to take part in some experiments on the Old Bedford Canal, of Wallace–Hampden fame.  The experimental party was well provided with numerous instruments, including a surveyor’s theodolite, Dumpy level, telescopes, &c.  The results clearly established to all present that the surface of the water in the Old Bedford Canal at any rate does not decline in any part of its course from a right or horizontal line starting from the point of observation, and therefore that standing water is not convex but horizontal. [ref. 4.23] 

The weather was poor for the whole four days the zetetic party spent there, but they managed to make some observations.  Their most interesting observations were made with the theodolite from Old Bedford Bridge:

We levelled the theodolite in the direction of Welney bridge, and were at once struck with the fact that the bridge appeared considerably below the horizontal cross-hair in the field of view, showing the same peculiarity, in fact, as the instrument used by Professor Wallace. [ref. 4.24] 

Various trials, however, gave varying results.  The zetetics finally discovered that if the theodolite was leveled both along the line of sight and transversely, it was generally consistent, showing Welney Bridge a little lower than the crosshair, as it should be, because it was the lower bridge.  Eventually, the zetetics noticed a dark band above the Welney Bridge separated from it by a streak of light.  This proved to be the top girder of a railway bridge of the Great Eastern Railway, another 6 miles [note 4.12]  south of Welney Bridge!

Facts later provided by the Great Eastern Railway confirmed zetetic suspicions; the upper girder was 4′ deep and its top was 19′ above the water.  Thus, the streak of light was no more than 15′ above the water.  The curvature of the earth over 12 miles is supposed to be about 96′. Even considering a viewpoint (Old Bedford Bridge) about 17′ above the water, the railway bridge should have been completely out of sight.  Instead, its top showed above Welney Bridge.  Either there is something wrong with the conventional view or (nonzetetic) refraction was working particularly well that day.

Unfortunately, Naylor did not record the names of the rest of the zetetic party.  Presumably it included a zetetic surveyor or civil engineer to operate the instruments.

Theory and practice rarely march arm in arm down the road to progress.  A tension traditionally exists between theoreticians (such as scientists) and practitioners (such as engineers).  Some scientists see engineers as mere technicians, tinkers rather than thinkers, clever dabblers who manipulate forces they only half understand like children playing with fire.  (To them, Edison’s famous dictum that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration proves Edison was an engineer.) Similarly, some engineers see scientists as ivory tower airheads who can manipulate abstractions but can’t find their way to the bathroom without engineers to point the way.  (Indeed, they wouldn’t have bathrooms if engineers hadn’t designed the fixtures.) When this tension is augmented by ideology or feelings of personal greatness, it can drive a practitioner into the waiting arms of unorthodoxy.  Thus, scientific unorthodoxies often attract engineers and medical doctors, and the flat-earth movement is no exception.

Ever since Rowbotham, the foundation “proof” of flat-earthism has been that the surface of still water is level.  Zetetics generally refused to recognize that the word could mean a curved surface of equal gravitational potential, and they insisted that every occurrence of “level” referred to a flat surface.  Hampden had recognized that if anyone had practical experience with the earth’s alleged curvature, it would be those who laid out railroads and canals.  In the pages of The Earth; Scripturally, Rationally, and Practically Described, he had asked editorially, “Where are the engineers?” In the pages of Earth Review, the zetetic civil engineers responded, rising to reject the curvature of the earth.  One G. W. Winckler, Assoc. M.I.C.E., [note 4.13]  wrote as follows:

As an engineer of many years experience, I say that this absurd allowance is only permitted in school books.  No Engineer would dream of allowing anything of the kind.  I have projected many miles of railways, and many more of canals, and the allowance has not even been thought of, much less allowed for.  The allowance for curvature means this—that it is 8 inches for the first mile of a canal, and increasing at the ratio by the square of the distance in miles; thus a small navigable canal for boats, say 30 miles long, will have, by the above rule, an allowance for curvature of 600 feet!  Think of that, and then please credit engineers as not being quite such fools.  Nothing of the sort is allowed.  I must, however, state that college astronomers have made the student engineer to think that in his method of levelling what is known as the “backsight” cancels any curvature by his “foresight” and so on.  It is only a theory … [ref. 4.25] 

Winckler’s statement seemed, to the zetetics at least, to confirm a note contributed to the second issue of Earth Review by Isaac Smith:

Standing order 14 House of Commons, denies convexity.  There is no allowance to be made for it.  None in making the Suez Canal, 80 miles long.  None in making the Canal in China, 700 miles long.  None in making the Manchester Ship Canal; working from a level datum line no allowance is required at all. [ref. 4.26] 

Smith didn’t give a source for this statement, but it was endlessly repeated in zetetic publications to prove that engineering projects funded by the House of Commons were proceeded on zetetic principles.

Winckler’s and Smith’s ideas about leveling were supported by a zetetic surveyor, T. Westwood, in a letter regarding canals and their level water.  In fact, the datum line for canals was established by leveling, a surveying technique also used for determining heights above sea level for points far inland.  The technique depends upon establishing a continuous sequence of points, the altitude of each point being carefully compared to the previous point.  The comparisons have traditionally been made with a dumpy level using the foresight–backsight method to which Winckler refers.

A dumpy level is a small, powerful telescope equipped with an extremely sensitive spirit level and an internal crosshair. [note 4.14]  In the foresight–backsight method, the instrument is set up on a tripod exactly halfway between two points.  The surveyor focuses the telescope on a graduated rod held at the first point, adjusts the instrument to precise level, and notes where the crosshair cuts the graduated rod.  The instrument is then rotated on the tripod and the procedure repeated for the second point.  The difference between the readings is the difference in altitude, and the method automatically eliminates the accumulation of error due to an instrument that consistently reads slightly high or low.  Winckler and other zetetics refused to recognize that the curvature of the earth (if any) vanishes with the instrument error; thus, the foresight–backsight method works equally well on flat and spherical earths.

Winckler was typical of the breed of engineers contemptuous of scientists.  His Earth Review article “The Sun’s Distance,” in which he explained how an engineer would determine the distance to the sun by measuring a baseline and then triangulating, tacitly assumes that no astronomer ever heard of such a thing. [ref. 4.27]  We will meet numerous other zetetic engineers in later chapters.

The medical profession continued its representation to zeteticism, although with less activity than before.  The most distinguished medical zetetic was Dr. Edward Haughton, Senior Moderator in Natural Science, Trinity College, Dublin.  In years past, Dr. Haughton had written numerous medical short works, mostly dealing with the salubrious effects of hot baths or the theory of medicine.  These included Facts and Fallacies of the Turkish Bath Question; or, What Kind of Bath Shall We Have? (1860), The Uses and Abuses of the Turkish Bath (1861), On the Remains of Ancient Roman Baths in England (1861), Practical Biopathy, or the Laws of Life and the Art of Healing (1881), and The Laws of Vital Force in Health and Disease (1869).

Like Lady Blount and several other zetetics, Dr. Haughton was an ardent antivivisectionist.  At an Anti-Vivisection Conference in Nottingham in November 1894, he rose and made the following protest:

THE HOLY INQUISITION HAS NEVER CEASED TO EXIST.  Its staff is fully trained, and only waits its opportunity; and there are many persons now living who would gladly re-enact all its horrors when the public mind shall have been sufficiently corrupted and familiarised with cruelty by its precursor and jackal—Vivisection. [ref. 4.28] 

The antivivisectionists, forerunners of today’s “animal rights” activists, were often radical in their rejection of medical experiments with live animals.  Dr. Haughton’s view that medical researchers were sadists practicing for the day when they could torture humans was a typical fantasy.  Other antivivisectionists linked medical experimentation with sorcery, devil worship, or vaccination (another common 19th century bogeyman).

Dr. Edward W. Forster lived in Darlington, a market town of about 40,000 lying 232 miles north by west of London on the Great Eastern Railway and about 30 miles south of Newcastle as the rook flies.  Before the 19th century, Darlington was a center for linen, worsted, and flax manufactures, but now its industries were mining and manufacturing.  Darlington was famous because the first world’s first public, locomotive-powered railway service was the Darlington to Stockton line, opened on September 27, 1825.

Dr. Forster had studied “Parallax,” Isaac Smith, and other zetetic writers.  They convinced him that zeteticism was a reasonable option to conventional astronomy, for he wrote, “I am assured that the Astronomy of the Bible will eventually be proved correct.” [ref. 4.29]  He enjoyed arguing with zetetic critics, and he could usually silence them.  Dr. Forster was also concerned with correcting zetetic errors, as shown in an October 11, 1893 letter to Earth Review:

Isaac Smith’s latest work is good; but he is decidedly in error when denying that the moon is related to the tides.  … [M]y observations on the seacoast (east) for 40 years show a most regular relation between the tides and the phases of the moon. [ref. 4.30] 

One “H. V. (M.D.)” of Santa Cruz, California was a regular correspondent of Earth Review.  Notably absent from its pages was surgeon Charles Watkyns de Lacy Evans, former Secretary of the old Zetetic Society and future Vice President of the UZS (as reorganized under Lady Blount).  He was apparently in the Gold Coast, a British colony now incorporated into Ghana, and either out of contact with his fellow zetetics or too busy to participate in UZS activities.

Engineers and doctors gave zeteticism an aura of respectability, but that did not necessarily make converts.  For the latter purpose, the UZS sponsored a corps of about a dozen freelance lecturers who crisscrossed England and Ireland exhorting the faithful.  Zetetic speakers preached guest sermons in churches, gave public lectures, and (when a willing opponent could be found) engaged in public debate.  Anyone who has ever seen a creationist debate a scientist will not be surprised to learn that the flat-earthers often (perhaps usually) won their debates.  These public events also gave zetetics a chance to distribute tracts and sample copies of Earth Review to sympathetic audiences.

While zetetic lecturers were numerous, their coverage of England was spotty.  Rowbotham’s old stamping grounds were densely populated by flat-earth lecturers.  Amos Perry of Ashton-under-Lyne lectured regularly in the Manchester area.  A few miles to the east, in Halifax, E. J. Shackleton and the brothers Isaac and John Smith lectured regularly.  Harry De Joannis covered the northeast.  James Naylor covered Birmingham and its environs.  Lady Blount operated out of Bath, and Ebenezer Breach covered the territory in the south, on the channel.  A. E. Skellam lived and lectured in London, and several of the others ventured into the big city to proselytize.  Albert Smith lived in Leicester, but he lectured far and wide—Lincoln, London, Portsmouth, Ashton-under-Lyne—whenever and wherever he was wanted by local zetetics.  A single issue of Earth Review reported lectures delivered by John Smith in London, Dewsbury, and Bradford, by Isaac Smith in Bradford, by Ebenezer Breach at Portsmouth, and by Skellam in London.

In the very first issue of Earth Review, J. Atkinson reported on a lecture he delivered in Belfast, Ireland in December 1892:

My lecture … has been delivered.  I had an audience numbering between 70 and 80, and from enquiries made and interest displayed, together with demonstrations of approval, I have reason to believe that my efforts have been somewhat of a success.  But even should this not have been the case, I consider it a privilege to be permitted to proclaim the truth which is at such a discount nowadays. [ref. 4.31] 

Zetetic Harry De Joannis lived in South Shields, a port city of about 100,000 located where the river Tyne empties into the North Sea about 50 miles down the coast from the Scottish border.  A center for glass and chemical industries and, of course, ship building and repair, South Shields was economically overshadowed by Newcastle ten miles up the river.  What success De Joannis had as a flat-earth lecturer can be gauged from a letter he wrote to Earth Review:

Dear Sir,—“Speak unto the children of ‘Parallax’ that they go forward.”

I held three meetings in the Market Place on Sunday.  11.45 a.m., The Bible and Physiology.  3.20 p.m., The Bible and Geology.  7.30, The Bible and Astronomy.  The Truth must be spread.  May the Lord in His rich grace and mercy save the Puzzled Clerics.  We had good audiences.  There were leading atheists, school teachers, and also the Navigation School Examiner, but there was not one dissentient voice, I upheld the Word of God as the medium of all truth.  I challenged them for two weeks to come and bring anyone to rebut my charges against Theoretical Astronomy and Geology.  I have got scores of converts to the Plane Earth facts.  Send me some more pamphlets, we intend to bury the Globe in South Shields this winter.  Yours, &c.

Harry De Joannis [ref. 4.32] 

De Joannis and colleagues failed to bury the globe, but their optimism was felt by other zetetics.  There were, however, clouds on the zetetic horizon.  Not all flat-earth lecturers were as successful as De Joannis.  In some areas, flat-earth lectures were considered a local sport.

Portsmouth lies on the English Channel, south and a bit west of London.  Strictly speaking, it is an island city, but Portsea Island is every bit as isolated as Manhattan.  A fine harbor and strategic location encouraged the Royal Navy to make Portsmouth a major naval station and arsenal.  By the turn of the century its population approached 200,000, including an unconventional astronomer, Ebenezer Breach.

A poet “twice patronized by Her Majesty” and having “letters to show,” Ebenezer Breach was Portsmouth agent for Earth Review as well as a regular contributor.  His poetical works included a historical poem on the defeat of the Spanish Armada, [ref. 4.33]  but this has not survived.  Fortunately, J. Dyer, whom we met in earlier chapters, was still harassing the zetetics at the end of the 19th century, and Breach struck back with the following verses dedicated to Dyer’s A.B.C. Railway Guide:

It gives you the time by steamer or boat
To Jersey or Guernsey, or Ryde.
If this Guide is examined for train or afloat,
You’ve nothing beside to decide.

You can ride all around on a firm fixed earth,
Iron rails that are laid by the level,
And never roll off, or be jerked in strange mirth
On a globe that’s Galilea’s fable! [ref. 4.34] 

These verses are the only extant examples of Breach’s poetry, and one suspects they were not among those that won Breach royal patronage.  He also wrote at least three flat-earth pamphlets, Dauntless Astronomy: 100 Scripture Proofs of a Fixed Earth and Travelling Sun, Fifty Scientific Facts, and Twenty Reasons Against Newtonianism, and Twenty Geographical Proofs that the Earth Is an Extended Plane.  Regrettably, none of these pamphlets has survived, either.

Breach had once been a staunch defender of conventional astronomy.  Then, as he explained in an 1892 letter to William Carpenter, something happened:

Analogy convinced me of something radically wrong.  This was near 20 years ago.  Then I had had 20 years of study of the other side, lectured with magic lantern, etc., principally to schools, but was obliged to throw the system entirely overboard, and so lightened ship of confusing wares.  It was also forced upon my mind as another conviction that the all-wise Creator would not give the wrong impression of His own works; it could answer no purpose.  Therefore, let God be true and every man a liar.  I found he had staked the salvation of man upon the challenge, “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I cast off all the seed of Israel.” The more I have gone into the subject on the other side the more convincing have been the arguments of truth. [ref. 4.35] 

In the 1890s, Breach delivered occasional zetetic lectures in Portsmouth, which the public received with interest if not kindness.  In fact, one of Breach’s flat-earth lectures had ended in a near riot.  It appears that the UZS and/or the Portsmouth zetetics decided to bring in a hired gun to quell the spherical opposition.  In March of 1894, Earth Review editor Albert Smith journeyed to Portsmouth to lecture there and, if possible, debate a spherical opponent.  Lady Blount was a sponsor of this lecture, and perhaps titles attract titles, for other sponsors included Count Antonie Amerina, Justice of the Peace T. Shaw Phillips, and Colonel St. Vincent. [ref. 4.36]  Smith subsequently reported on the lecture in Earth Review, beginning as follows:

On Monday evening March 19th, the editor gave a lecture at Portsmouth entitled, “Is the Earth a Whirling Globe”?  Large handbills and larger posters had well advertised the lecture all over the town, and the hall which is reckoned to hold six hundred people, was nearly full.  Great interest was manifested in the lecture by high and low; and on the part of some of the lower orders great excitement and a spirit of opposition.  This, to some extent, was said to be due to previous lectures given in the town by a zealous but not over prudent advocate of the Plane truth; but nothing could justify the boorish behaviour of a few in the cheap seats who had come, as one confessed, for “amusement” and not for instruction.  The lecture was listened to with marked attention, but when the questions began, had it not been for a restraining Power, general respect for the Chairman, the firmness and self-possession of the Lecturer, and the presence of the officers of the law, the boorish element present would have got the upper hand, as on a former occasion. [ref. 4.37] 

After Smith spoke for about an hour, the chairman asked for a volunteer to debate him, with each speaker to hold forth for ten minutes and then answer questions by his opponent.  No one volunteered immediately, so Smith took some questions.  The audience eventually prevailed upon a Mr. Sweeney to enter the lists, and Smith summarized his presentation as follows:

This champion of the globular theory spoke for about ten minutes in a loud, excited and desultory manner, avowing his belief in the nebular hypothesis as accounting for the origin of the “globe,” and in the evolutionary theories of Darwin as applied to the origin of man and species.  This proves our contention that “Scientific” Infidelity is ranged on one side of this question, and Zeteticism and Biblical Christianity on the other.  Only let these forces grapple under fair and orderly conditions, and Truth must prevail. [ref. 4.38] 

Speaking for Truth, Smith replied for ten minutes, arguing that Mr. Sweeney had offered absolutely no proof for globularity.  Indeed, he had not even attempted any, all his statements being mere assertions.  Smith then gave some zetetic arguments Sweeney had surely never heard and demanded a response.  Poor Sweeney had had enough, however, and he presumably left Speedwell Hall a sadder but wiser man.

Smith was clearly upset by the lack of respect received from the audience, and he concluded his description of the lecture as follows:

We court the most learned opposition of reasonable men, but when a stupid and ignorant spirit of opposition manifests itself, we should advise our Portsmouth friends to go to work privately and quietly.  Why not start a class for mutual instruction and discussion, and then form a branch of the U.Z.S.? [ref. 4.39] 

Perhaps this was good advice, but the Portsmouth zetetics did no such thing.  Two years later, Ebenezer Breach again mounted the lecture platform in Portsmouth.  The Hampshire Telegraph of March 28, 1896 reported on the lecture as follows:



Mr. Ebenezer Breach will be remembered, no doubt, as having delivered some flat earth lectures in Portsmouth some time ago.  The riot which followed the last one rather put a damper upon Mr. Breach, but that gentleman, feeling that the truth must prevail, on Thursday evening mounted the platform again and delivered his fourth lecture at the Albert Hall to a demonstrative audience.  Mr. Breach, who appeared on the bills as “E.B., writer, poet, and author, with Royal patronage, God Save the Queen,” dealt with several subjects, among them being the earth, sun, moon, eclipses, Dr. Nansen at the North Pole, and the measurement of the sun.  When the audience arrived at the hall they found it already decorated with the apparatus for the lecture.


Mr. Breach’s handiwork was prominent.  On one side was spread a piece of calico, on which was painted in large letters the words, “Know thyself.  I am wonderfully and fearfully made.” Two maps of the world that looked like bicycle wheels after a collision were there.  It afterwards transpired that a shepherd had drawn them.  At the back were three portraits of noted astronomers.  Over these was a long strip of canvas covered with scraps, which represented the heavens, with halfpenny and penny stars, blood-orange planets, and two circular-saw-like pictures for the sun.  But the most wonderful of all were the models.  The chief of these was the North Pole, which Mr. Breach had rescued at the last lecture—“the only one saved from the wreck.” It had a new knob on the top, and the Arctic ice (soda) was replaced by wadding, which represented the eternal snows.  Round this was a sea of brown paper.  A model of the “ecliptic upharsin,” made of wooden hoops, was, also displayed, while the Union Jack waved over all.


At half-past seven there was loud applause, and Mr. Breach put his head out of the back-door to see what sort of “house” there was.  While the applause grew louder, a man, who said he was “Bolt, [note 4.15]  of Southsea,” went round and sold “flat earth” tracts and argued.  At last Mr. Breach emerged with Mr. Turle, the Chairman.  He was greeted with tremendous applause.  By this time the audience, which included several Town Councillors and a policeman, was pretty numerous.  Mr. Breach started by reading Scripture and an astronomer’s prayer.  This over, he went on to speak of the untrue and the true in astronomy.  At first the applause was so persistent and deafening that he could not be heard, and the next thing that happened was the advent of a frightful smell.


Suddenly, while half the audience were convulsed with laughter, a most offensive odour arose from some chemical substance scattered about the floor in the centre of the hall.  This caused a remarkably quick migration, and, as it spread, the audience scattered, until the disorder was very great indeed.  Meanwhile, Mr. Breach had been speaking.  He said that some people said the earth was a wandering star and a burning planet.  It was not.  It wasn’t a heavenly body.  (Loud applause.) He directed their attention to one of the planets, which immediately fell off the screen, at which the audience roared.  The fearful smell continued, and some of the people went out.  Mr. Breach appealed for order, saying that they had no idea of the pains required to get up the lecture.  (Hear, hear.)


Then he said the earth didn’t go on the sun’s orbit, and some one cried “Rats!” and blew a develene, [note 4.16]  at which Mr. Breach called on the constable to “Come here!” (Loud applause.) No orbit, said Mr. Breach, could be necessary for a fixed earth, and there was a tremendous burst of applause.  This was repeated when he said there was no necessity for gravitation, and anything unnecessary did not exist.  As to the ecliptic, the earth never was there and never would be.  It had no right to be there.  (Cheers.) A solid earth rested on a solid foundation.  (Laughter and applause.) The likenesses were those of Galileo, Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe.  (Cries of “Shame.”) Modern astronomy was so simple that it could really be understood.  (Tremendous applause and laughter.)


Mr. Breach next gave a sermonette, and then told a funny story.  The disorder got worse, and the policeman looked uncomfortable.  Mr. Breach explained his diagrams.  He said that one of the gilt-half-penny stars was the North Star, and pointed it out, whereupon a wag remarked, “Homocea touches the spot.” [note 4.17]  Dr. Nansen was then dealt with, and a black-board was shown with his route marked thereon. [note 4.18] 

THE GREAT LOB-TAW [note 4.19]  FEAT.

But the treat of the evening was the repetition of the “lob-taw” feat.  This Mr. Breach performed amid loud cheering.  Placing the lob-taw on the wire universe which ran round the North Pole, he guided it round with his hand.  The audience demanded an encore, and Mr. Breach performed again, saying that “one sun did the whole work for the lot.”


Then he went into figures.  In the beginning the stars were served out to all nations.  (Great laughter.) The earth was 30,000 miles long and 10,000 miles broad, and the heavens the same.  (Laughter.) He proposed to measure the sun on the ecliptic—which had never been done before.  It was 5,000 miles across.  (Cheering and deafening laughter.) Mr. Breach next repeated the lob-taw experiment with a gilt ball and a cricket ball on the wooden hoop arrangement.  This also brought down the house.  Once the best ball fell off the universe, but one of the audience recovered it.


Then the fiendish smell came on again.  Someone suggested that bad eggs had been smashed.  Mr. H. Palin looked under a chair and found a capsule, which he handed to Mr. Breach.  Mr. Breach gave his views with regard to eclipses, and said that 200 years ago “Nature shuddered at one and birds dropped dead.” (A VOICE: “Author?”) (Laughter and applause.) At the last eclipse he saw streaks of sunlight on the moon.  (Cheers.) All the heavenly bodies eclipsed each other more or less.


Then Mr. Breach described the creation again, and said that the ocean was a standing monument to the flood.  (Shouts and applause.) He prophesied that the earth would not last more than about ten years more—(cheers)—and that the audience would come to judgment for their actions that evening.  (More cheers.) The audience sang “Up in a Balloon,” cheered again, and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Mr. Breach protested against the uproar, and said that retribution would fall on the offenders.  He would sooner be in his shoes than theirs.  (Applause.)


This concluded the lecture, and Mr. Breach sat down, at which there was great cheering and cries of “Encore.” Tremendous cheers greeted Mr. Palin when he got on the platform and asked some questions.  The reply was drowned in “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and “Kentish Fire.”—Mr. Breach wanted the audience to sing “God Save the Queen” and go, but Mr. Palin proposed a vote of thanks to him for his lucid—(cheers)—and elaborate exposition.  (Cheers.) He hoped there would be another flat earth lecture.—Mr. J. Bishop seconded.—Mr. Breach replied, and said it would take another two years before he gave another lecture.  (“Shame.”) Most of the audience then went out.  Some stayed behind, however, and Mr. Breach threatened to give them in charge of the police if they touched his models.  The policeman pulled up the North Pole and Mr. Breach grabbing it, hurriedly made his exit by the back way, leaving the policeman to protect the diagrams.

Breach’s prediction of the End of the World within ten years was in line with the expectations of other zetetics.  It’s not known whether or not Breach gave any further zetetic lectures.

Besides lectures and debates, pamphlets and tracts were the primary means of spreading the plane truth (Earth Review spoke mainly to the converted).  During the five years it remained in print, Earth Review advertised a variety of publications.  The UZS (or perhaps John Williams personally) sold a long list of Hampden’s works—A Compendium of Practical Instruction on the Laws of Nature; The Popularity of Error and the Unpopularity of Truth; The Earth in Its Creation, a Series of Letters to the Christian Journal; The Pillory; An Inquiry as to Whether the Earth Is a Globe; and A Manual of Biblical Cosmography.  Prices varied according to size and production quality: 1s. 7d. for the Compendium (a collection of pamphlets totaling about 170 pages), 7d. for the 51-page Earth in Its Creation, down to 2½d. for the Inquiry, which was probably an 8-page tract.  Albert Smith published and sold through the pages of Earth Review a long list of pamphlets and tracts under the nom de plume “Zetetes”—Bible Astronomy, Bible Cosmology, “Cranks”, Is the Earth a Globe and Has It Axial and Orbital Motion?, Kepler’s Laws of Motion, The Midnight Sun, The Plane Truth Unmovable, Religion and Science, The So-Called “Mistakes of Moses”, The Sun Standing Still, and several others.  The UZS also sold pamphlets by Ebenezer Breach, “Iconoclast,” William Bathgate, James Naylor, “Vox,” William Carpenter, and others.

Shorter, cheaper tracts were offered for sale by the dozen or even by the hundred, and these were intended to be handed out free at lectures and debates.  Zetetics with a philanthropic bent were urged to donate money to pay for free literature to be sent to lecturers in the provinces.  While zetetics seem to have been tight-fisted on the whole, Earth Review occasionally acknowledged receipt of a donation for this purpose and printed a note of thanks from the recipient of the literature.

The UZS literature rack had two gaping deficiencies.  The first was the lack of a comprehensive book describing zetetic astronomy.  The second was the lack of a decent flat-earth map.  The UZS made plans to remedy both inadequacies.

One of the first issues of Earth Review announced the formation of “The Parallax Company” (shares at a reasonable rate), established expressly to purchase the plates of Rowbotham’s monumental second edition of Earth Not a Globe and republish it.  No flat-earth book before or since approached it in completeness or readability.  Originally published in 1873, it had already been reprinted once from the original plates, [ref. 4.40]  but both printings (sizes unknown) were long exhausted.  Whether for lack of money or lack of interest, this plan failed, and Earth Not a Globe was never reissued.

It should have been easier to republish J. Steer Christopher’s map of the world.  Joseph Steer Christopher was born at Dartmouth in 1805, and in 1850, he published a book on South Africa entitled Natal, Cape of Good Hope [ref. 4.41] .  Christopher was a skillful cartographer, and his book contains several maps drawn by own his hand.  In later years, he also drew a flat-earth map which is still the zetetic standard.  As zetetic Thomas Whittle of Croydon put it, “The map of the world designed by Mr. J. Steer Christopher, of Morden College, Blackheath, near Greenwich, seems to me scientifically correct, and well worthy to be studied by Navigators, Captains, and others.” [ref. 4.42] 

Christopher’s map, showing the north pole at the center and the distance from the center to the equator as 90 degrees, is technically an azimuthal equidistant polar projection.  Published as early as 1880, it was the basis of several flat-earth maps that followed, including the Gleason Map later produced in America and flat-earth maps published in several zetetic books.  (Indeed, a version of it is still being sold by the Flat Earth Society.)

UZS estimated that a lithographic block of the size required to reproduce the map would cost £15.  A fund was established to pay for it, and several zetetics pledged money.  Unfortunately, before enough money was pledged, Christopher himself checked out.  Earth Review carried his obituary:

We regret to announce the death of our esteemed friend J. Steer Christopher, who, on account of his Map of the World as a Plane, was made a “Fellow of the Society of Science, Art and Literature.” Born at Dartmouth, April 15th, 1805, fell asleep in Jesus at Morden College, Blackheath, December 31st, 1894, and was interred at Charlton Cemetery, January 3rd, 1895.  A stone to his memory will shortly be erected … [ref. 4.43] 

To a modern American, the words conjure up the image of an aged professor nodding off amidst dusty notes and half-finished treatises.  In fact, Morden’s College was founded late in the 17th century by Sir John Morden as a home for merchants retired from the Turkish trade.  By the turn of the present century it was an ordinary almshouse.

The UZS had numerous other projects and goals, some achieved and some not.  A primary concern among zetetics was the school system, which was (at least nominally) controlled by the Church of England.

From the beginning, the zetetics had been concerned with the teaching of astronomy in the schools.  Rowbotham denounced it.  Carpenter dedicated The Delusion of the Day to the schoolmasters of England and Proctor’s “Planet Earth” to the London School Board.  Hampden issued circular letters to students urging them to reject the globe and read their Bibles, and he raged against spherical schoolmasters in his characteristic style.  Perhaps “Iconoclast” best expressed zetetic feelings on the matter with a globe-bashing ditty published in Earth Review:


We do not foist a paste-board Globe on every British school,
Nor vote for children’s brains to rack with Theory’s tangled rule
Nor teach foul Falsehood’s right to reign though donned in wig and robe,
Nor quench astonishment in youth when told the earth’s a Globe! 

Raise high the Truth; knock down the lie!  and blow a mighty blast;
By showing how for so-called Science the Lie rose in the past;
Proclaim the thousands driven mad, and others nigh entranced,
Through grinding-in the Globe-man’s Lie, and Protoplasm’s dance. 

Record how “Parallax” once fought, and Hampden’s Clarion tongue;
Tell how “Zetetes,” Carpenter, have borne the standard on:
Of other heroes, young and old, in every land and clime;
And let the Truth which must be told resound along the line. 

On, onward!  Flatten all the globes in every British school,
Nor keep the Right upon the rack while Falsehoods proudly rule;
Let honest Truth, not lies, prevail through England’s fair domain
Then Right shall rule and Truth shine o’er the World’s extended Plane. [ref. 4.44] 

This was not just idle posturing.  In the autumn of 1896, astronomer Sir Robert Ball went to Portsmouth to lecture on “Recent Researches on the Sun.” Ebenezer Breach, presumably recovered from his disastrous lecture that spring, prepared to welcome Ball.  Apparently, Breach’s labors against astronomy had not been in vain:

Is Sir Robert aware that it is decided in Portsmouth that the teachers shall not teach such falsehoods in this enlightened age to their scholars in the Board schools, and push 95,000,000 cartload of falsehoods down the children’s throats to please “red tape” in the Government?  Whitehall is beginning to see the evils of such a system.  … Therefore the 3,000,000 children of England shall not be taught falsehoods to please Sir R. Ball, General Drayson, or all the star army put together.  Portsmouth teems with intelligent young people, and such intelligence shall not be misled and trampled upon by the absurdities of the universities that should at once receive a national and universal cleansing. [ref. 4.45] 

Outside of Zion, Illinois (discussed in a later chapter), this is the only known modern instance where flat-earthers successfully had conventional astronomy banned from schools.

Despite the nondenominational character of UZS, and the claim of Earth Review to be steadfastly nonsectarian, it is clear that, at least when UZS was at its peak, there was a characteristic zetetic theology.  Perhaps it was best articulated by former Seventh-day Adventist Elder Albert Smith.  On Sunday morning, May 14, 1893 Smith preached a sermon on “Spoiled Christians” at Monk’s Hill Chapel in Lincoln, about fifty miles northeast of his home in Leicester.

In his sermon, Smith spoke fervently about neglected subjects in the Bible, such as Creation, and he quoted 1 Timothy 6:20 regarding “Science, falsely so-called.” Smith denounced “false views of Creation and false theories of the Universe, [with which] our great spiritual enemy is subverting the faith once delivered to the saints.” He linked salvation to the shape of the earth, saying those deluded by science into losing faith in the Bible would be damned for their apostasy.  Indeed, Smith found the spherical cosmogony underlying almost every heresy and unbelief:

[I]f the first chapters of Genesis are wrong, and the earth is a whirling Globe, evolved out of a hot cinder thrown from the sun; and if, as a part of this evolutionary scheme, we have sprung from “Bathybius”—a jelly-fish kind of slimy mud—ascideans, mammals, and monkeys, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is a useless superfluity.  If all around us on this so-called “planet” is unlimited “space,” and if there be no heaven near and above us, then the resurrection and the ascension of Christ are myths, or allegories, to be explained away, as they are being explained away, by clever “Christian” sophists in harmony with the new astronomical philosophy.

Thus did editor Smith express the angst of a flat-earth spirit lost in a dissonant and immeasurable universe.  The cozy and compact zetetic cosmogony was consistent with the Old Testament God who walked in Eden (Genesis 3:8), spoke face-to-face with Moses (Exodus 33:11), and was the friend of Abraham (2 Chronicles 20:7).  Zetetics insisted on a highly personal God.

Some other elements of zetetic theology were:

1.  Premillennialism.  Protestants who believe in the millennium (the thousand year earthly Kingdom of God) are divided as to when and how it will occur.  During the 19th century, the postmillennial viewpoint dominated in the United States.  Calvinist Christians would establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.  After a thousand years, Jesus would return and haul them off to Heaven.  (Postmillennial Christians therefore do not wait on hilltops for the End of the World.) A minority of 19th century Christians held that Jesus would return first, mop up the universe with their enemies, and then establish the Kingdom of God.  This premillennial view, dominant among modern fundamentalists, was and is the Adventist view.

2.  Imminent End of the World.  Premillennial Protestants typically expect the Second Advent (the return of Jesus) momentarily.  Rowbotham, Hampden, Albert Smith, and several other zetetics we have met in this chapter shared this expectation.

3.  Soul sleeping and conditional immortality.  Traditional Protestants, including most modern fundamentalists, hold that the saved are translated at death to the endless orgasm of heaven, and the unsaved are eternally damned to fiendish torments.  Seventh-day Adventists (and some other sects) deny this, claiming the soul dies with the body.  Eventually, all will be resurrected for the Last Judgment.  Those found wanting will return to oblivion, while the Saints become immortal.  This doctrine, called “soul sleeping,” was common among UZS leaders.

4.  Seventh Day (Saturday) Sabbath.  On this point, most fundamentalists part theological company with the Adventists.  Zetetics, however, were strongly biased toward the seventh day Sabbath.

5.  Dispensationalism.  Dispensationalism holds that God periodically changes the rules; that is, Christians don’t build temples and sacrifice animals as prescribed in the Old Testament because those rules applied to a different Dispensation.  Flat-earther Ethelbert William Bullinger was a leading Dispensationalist theoretician, though his views are perhaps more influential among modern fundamentalists than they were among his fellow zetetics.

6.  Biblical literalism.  This, the soul of Adventism and modern fundamentalism, was likewise the soul of zeteticism.

One should not, of course, conclude that 19th century adventism was dominated by flat-earthers.  Quite the contrary.  Cyrus E. Brooks, editor of the British adventist periodical The Faith, rejected zetetic astronomy and eventually refused to print zetetic letters.  His periodical remained a favorite of “Zetetes” and other zetetics, however, and he retained the respect and friendship of many of them.

Nineteenth century adventism and zetetic theology anticipated modern fundamentalism in their crude Bibliolatry.  Like modern fundamentalists, the zetetics were broadly anti-intellectual, and they attacked not just astronomy, geology, and biology, but also fields of scholarship including textual criticism of the Bible.  It was a Seventh-day Adventist, George McCready Price, who founded modern creationism.  While most fundamentalists reject the Seventh Day Sabbath and soul sleeping, they insist upon its creationism.

With its strong religious basis and bias, it is hardly surprising that, outside of its own efforts, the UZS got most of its publicity and sympathy from religious publications.  For example, the editor of The Torch, a small, conservative Christian journal, was converted to flat-earthism, and he published an enthusiastic endorsement of Earth Review in the May 1895 issue:

THE EARTH—Not a Globe—REVIEW is deserving of especial notice by Scientists and Astronomers.  Its contents are both convincing in evidence and logical in conclusion.  The philosophical reader of such a work is brought face to face with proof and deep investigation of all that scientists and theologians have advanced, and with a plausible argument shewing that the earth is not a globe. [ref. 4.46] 

Unfortunately, The Torch, like Alexander McInnes’s Coming Man, was somewhat less widely read than the Times.  (More influential was Ethelbert William Bullinger’s journal Things to Come, but Bullinger prudently kept his flat-earth view in the closet.)

The UZS in the late 19th century was the kind of movement zetetics had always wanted.  Under its auspices, zetetics worked together toward their common goal of overthrowing conventional astronomy.  Their activities gained them recognition (though little respect) from the public press, and they convinced some prominent and influential people to join them.

Scattered endorsements, occasional newspaper notices, and public recognition were not enough.  The UZS seemed to have a little bit of everything and not enough of anything.  For all the lectures, the agitation, the distribution of leaflets and free copies of Earth Review, the letter writing, the ear bending, and the arm twisting, the UZS had only limited success.  Most people wouldn’t dance to the “Earth Not a Globe Waltz” and, despite its international distribution, the Earth Review probably never boasted a thousand paying subscribers.  After a long struggle under three editors, it folded with the April 1897 issue.  Its heterogeneous collection of articles, poetry, letters-to-the-editor, and advertisements are still the best single source on the zetetic movement.

The British zetetic movement was down but not out.  Lady Blount would lead it to greater things.  But first we should look at what was happening in America and elsewhere across the plane.