Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review of "Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus," by Peter Sis

Review of

Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus, by Peter Sis, ISBN 0679806288

Three out of five stars

 The legend of Christopher Columbus is a topic well covered in elementary school, all learn the phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” However, there is a great deal of nonsense associated with the facts of the legends. At the time Columbus was lobbying for his voyage west to go east, few learned people believed the world was flat. The Greeks conclusively proved that it was round using sound scientific principles and that knowledge was never lost. The misconception that people believed Columbus would sail off the edge of the Earth does not appear in this book.

 What is omitted is the real factual debate that was taking place and was critical to the concept that Columbus was stating, that it was possible to reach the east by sailing west. Columbus believed that the Earth was far smaller than it is. Therefore, if it were not for the continents of the western hemisphere, Columbus and his crew would have perished long before they reached land.

  There is a colossal error midway through the book. It is in the sentence, “Six years later, Christopher Columbus was still the only one to believe that land lay to the west, across the ocean, and that riches would be found there.” Since all learned people believed the Earth was round and there is reason to believe that the stories of Viking expeditions to New England were known to the educated classes of Europe, this sentence is nonsense. Given that the existence of Asia was known, and it was also known that the Earth was round, then many people were aware of the potential to sail west to go east. It is unfortunate that such falsehoods always seem to find their way into books about Columbus.  

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