If a back-button isn’t available, you can use the note number as a link back to the text.

[1.1] Our sole source of information about Rowbotham’s youth comes from his own writings, and readers might take the next few paragraphs with a bit of salt.

[1.2] A mechanism which can emulate the motions of the solar system.

[1.3] Fermented pear juice.

[1.4] Literally, naked philosopher.  Hindu fakirs and holy men invaded the Hellenic civilization about the time of Alexander the Great (died 323 B.C.).  The Gymnosophists were members of a Hindu sect now called the Jains.

[1.5] Sparse diet and alcohol are a deadly combination.  Malnutrition, common among alcoholics, contributes so strongly to cirrhosis of the liver that many medical researchers once doubted that alcohol directly caused cirrhosis.

[1.6] Parturition means birth.  This work has not survived.

[1.7] When Rowbotham quoted this account in the 1873 edition of Earth Not a Globe, he substituted the words “a gentleman adopting the name of ‘Parallax’” for “Mr. S. Goulden” and made other less-substantial editorial changes.

[1.8] The English language evolves rapidly.  When De Morgan chose the title for his column, a budget was a leather purse or satchel.  The word acquired its present meaning from “the opening of the budget,” a speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave at the beginning of each term of Parliament summarizing proposed expenditures.  A paradox was a theory or doctrine contradicting general opinion.  De Morgan’s column was a bag of unorthodoxy.  The articles in “A Budget of Paradoxes” were published as a book with the same title in 1872.

[1.9] This book is sometimes referred to as Zetetic Astronomy.  In both the 1865 and 1873 editions the full title begins “Zetetic Astronomy.  Earth Not a Globe.  An experimental inquiry into the true figure of the earth …”.  Both editions have “Earth Not a Globe” on the spine and as the most prominent item on the title page.

[1.10] This philosophy was sometimes carried to the point of Know-Nothingism.  In 1857, Thomas A. Davies, an engineer from New York City, argued that “The geologist, is a man of science so long as he develops and classifies facts.” It is science to call fossils rocks, Davies argued, but it is mere hypothesis to assert that they were once living things.  After all, the creator could have made them in their present form.  This kind of thinking persists among modern creationists, and the word theory (as in theory of evolution) is still thundered contemptuously from Fundamentalist pulpits.

[1.11] If the earth were a globe of 8,000 miles diameter, the dip of the horizon in minutes of angle would roughly equal the square root of the observer’s altitude in feet.  This is about what is observed.

[1.12] John Knox (c. 1505–1572) was Scotland’s most famous Reformer.  William Law (1686–1761) was an English divine and sectarian controversialist.  Sir Henry Havelock (1795–1857) led the British forces against the Indian Mutiny and died in the field—of dysentery!

[1.13] Consider a modest hill (say 200 feet) overlooking the sea.  Conventional astronomy predicts that the horizon will dip about 15 minutes of angle; Carpenter said flatly that it would not dip at all.  A simple observation could settle the question.  If Carpenter shared Rowbotham’s skepticism about optical theodolites, a good spirit-level equipped with aperture-type rifle sights would be adequate.

[1.14] This estimate is disputed for various reasons, including the fact that Glaisher survived.

[1.15] He was also a successful lawyer, prize-winning mathematician, and accomplished chemist.  In 1839, he invented (independently of Fox Talbot) a photographic process using sensitized paper.  He also translated the Iliad into verse.

[1.16] “Major” was his given name, not a military rank.

[2.1] A pretty hefty bird.  In 1870, £500 amounted to about 133 ounces of fine gold.  Adult male British wage-earners averaged about £60 annually.

[2.2] Here “Old Bedford Bridge” means the bridge at Salter’s Lode, near Downham Market.  (The name is sometimes applied to Welney Bridge.)

[2.3] Six miles, actually.

[2.4] A blunder by Walsh, who knew very well that the experiment was performed between Welney Bridge and Old Bedford Bridge.  He confused it with an experiment by “Parallax,” which he had read about in Carpenter’s copy of Earth Not a Globe.

[3.1] Rowbotham was obviously miffed at Hampden for stealing some of his thunder, for he subsequently published a mean-spirited pamphlet, Experimental Proofs that the Surface of Standing Water Is Not Convex, but Horizontal, affirming the flatness of Old Bedford Canal and backhanding Hampden for his part in the wager.  He also treated Hampden unkindly in the 1873 edition of Earth Not a Globe.

[3.2] Not in England, anyway.  In 1873, the New York Zetetic Society (NYZS) was formed, its “Council” including two M.D.s, the Superintendent of the Baltimore Public Schools, and the U.S. Consul for China.  The NYZS is discussed in Chapter 5.

[3.3] Apparently Brough found no competent Newtonians in Liverpool to hold him over for Saturday evening.

[3.4] The title was actually The Spherical Form of the Earth, a Reply to “Parallax” in Letters to a Friend (London: 1870).

[3.5] Apparently there was some spirited discussion among the participants and spectators, however.  The August–September 1873 Zetetic reported that a “Newtonian” threatened a “Zetetic” with violence.  Given his temperament, the Newtonian may well have been Dyer.

[3.6] It was never released.

[3.7] This was the Norwich court session Coulcher had to attend in August 1873.

[3.8] Numerous commentators, myself included, have made the same error regarding leading proponents of “creation science.” But systematic deceit is often a symptom of desperate belief.  For those committed to defending the indefensible, the armaments of honest argument are unavailable.  They use what is left.

[3.9] Hampden first tried to launch a zetetic journal in 1871, but it’s not clear whether any issues were ever published.  About four years after The Truth Seeker’s Oracle folded, he apparently published one or two issues of The Pillory, but none survive.

[3.10] Somehow, his followers were convinced that he was 89 years old, and that regular use of his phosphorized medicine made him look 20 years younger.

[3.11] The so-called third edition of 1883 was in fact reprinted from the 1873 plates.

[3.12] Can We Prolong Life?  An Inquiry into the Cause of “Old Age” and “Natural Death,” Showing the Diet and Agents Best Adapted for a Lengthened Prolongation of Existence, first published in 1879, ultimately went through four editions, the last in 1910.

[3.13] If the earth were a perfect sphere, its diameter at the equator would be 21,600/pi = 6875.49354… nautical miles.

[3.14] The Thomas G. Barnes Institute of Physics, named for creationism’s leading theoretical physicist, seeks to prove precisely that.

[3.15] See The Seven Follies of Science by John Phin (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1906).

[3.16] This seems a bit strong coming from a man who had repeatedly and publicly confessed that everything he wrote about Wallace was a lie!

[3.17] I fell for this myself and credited Hampden with writing it in “He Knew Earth Is Round, but His Proof Fell Flat,” published in Smithsonian, April 1978.

[4.1] My first published article, “A Forgotten Pioneer,” attempted to rescue aviation pioneer Alfred William Lawson from the dustbin of history.

[4.2] Carpenter’s One Hundred Proofs that the Earth Is Not a Globe (Baltimore: 1885).  This pamphlet is discussed in the next chapter.

[4.3] Unknown abbreviation, presumably Member of British Canoeing Association or some such.

[4.4] The flat-earthers were hardly alone in their reaction against science.  Prime Minister Gladstone himself had recently published The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, defending Genesis against the heresies of Darwin.

[4.5] Sectarian controversialists often manufacture triumphs over their opponents by citing statements they agree with as “admissions” or “confessions.” A notorious modern example is the Bible-Science Newsletter, whose adversaries are forever admitting things in its pages.

[4.6] Unfortunately, The Coming Man is gone from the face of the earth.  Extracts from it survive in the writings of other flat-earthers, such as “The Flood and Geology” reprinted by Winship in Zetetic Cosmogony.

[4.7] The essence of Lord Kelvin’s idea has been revived in recent years by astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe in two books, Evolution from Space (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1981) and Space Travellers: The Bringers of Life (Cardiff, Wales: University College of Cardiff Press, 1981).  Few scientists take the idea seriously.

[4.8] In Numbers 22, Balaam beat his ass for saving his life.

[4.9] Richard J. Morrison was editor of astrological reference (Zadkiel’s Almanac), an anti-Newtonian, and an otherwise multifaceted unorthodox thinker.

[4.10] This in itself was probably heresy to many flat-earthers.  When British scientists began urging Parliament to adopt the metric system in the 1850s, outraged fundamentalists founded a whole genre of literature intended to prove that Moses built the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and he used God’s “Sacred Inch” as his basic unit of measurement, thank you.  The whole metric system was dismissed as an atheistic outrage spawned by the French revolution.  This stock of pyramid literature was eventually adopted, adapted, and augmented by the Anglo-Israelites (who claim that Jews are impostors and the Anglo-Saxons are the true heirs of Abraham), the original Jehovah’s Witnesses, the late Herbert W. Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, and miscellaneous Californians.  For many modern pyramidologists, the antimetric origins of their ideas are lost in the mists of time.  But that’s another book …

[4.11] The sun’s apparent position would actually be elevated somewhat by refraction, but never mind that.

[4.12] According to Naylor.  The actual distance is 3.4 miles.

[4.13] Member, Institute of Civil Engineers.

[4.14] A Troughton’s level, like the one Wallace used at Bedford Canal, was functionally equivalent to a dumpy level but used a different optical design.

[4.15] This must have been S. T. Bolt.  He was probably selling issues of Earth Review, for which he was an official agent.

[4.16] An extremely loud whistle, patented in 1895.  Also (perhaps more correctly) spelt Develine whistle.

[4.17] Homocea was then a popular patent medicine, and the slogan “Homocea touches the spot” was ubiquitous in its advertising.

[4.18] Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian Arctic explorer, had returned to Norway on August 13, 1896 after having reached 86° 14′ north latitude, only 226 nautical miles short of the pole.

[4.19] A very large marble thrown (rather than shot) at other marbles.

[5.1] At $20 an ounce, 2,250,000 ounces of gold, worth nearly a billion dollars at 1989 gold prices.

[6.1] New Orleans is at 30° North.

[6.2] A Bantu spear.

[7.1] In fairness to Lady Blount, she was writing fiction, and she may not have believed that modern astronomy was literally founded by the devil.  The same cannot be said for Henry M. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, who has seriously suggested in print that Satan personally came down to the top of the Tower of Babel to reveal evolution to the Babylonian king Nimrod and his priests.  Readers who find that difficult to believe should consult page 74 of his Troubled Waters of Evolution (San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1974).

[7.2] Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  By the late 19th century, this title was available to anyone who paid the 21 shilling membership fee.

[7.3] It isn’t certain that Carpenter did this.

[7.4] In those days before folded optics, the lens tube must have been about 16½ feet long!

[8.1] John the Baptist was Elijah II.

[8.2] The late Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, was once a member of this sect, and he lifted from it most of his doctrines and the divinely inspired name!

[8.3] In the non-Euclidean geometry used in General Relativity, the shortest distance between two points is a geodesic curve, which is a straight line only where the curvature of space-time is negligible—such as here on earth.

[8.4] Thomas Jefferson Jackson See, a brilliant but eccentric American mathematician and astronomer, vehemently insisted he was immortal.  He finally refuted this claim on July 4, 1962, at age 96.

[8.5] I doubt that any library on earth contains all of the works listed in this paragraph; they are not all at the Library of Congress, the British Library, or any of the dozens of other major libraries I’ve worked in.

[8.6] Recall that the a nautical mile is (by definition) a minute of arc on the earth’s surface.  From 45° latitude to the equator is therefore 45 × 60 = 2700 nautical miles.

[8.7] But see J.C. Holden’s article “Fake Tectonics and Continental Drip,” which derives the drip-shaped continents from a spherical argument.  Journal of Irreproducible Results, v. 22, n. 2, pp. 26–27 (1976).

[9.1] The Works Progress Administration program was formed in 1935 to help alleviate unemployment during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.  The name was changed to the Work Projects Administration in 1939.  The WPA employed millions of people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.

[9.2] Big-time creationists traditionally sport doctorates, earned, honorary, or bogus.  The Creation Research Society, which Morris helped found in 1963, awards voting membership only to those who claim advanced degrees.  The Flat Earth Society has no such restrictions.

[B.1] The last figure, at least, is an error by Rowbotham.  The rhumb line distance around the 45th parallel is 15,274 nautical miles.