Around 225 B.C a Greek librarian “Eratosthenes” who lived at Alexandria measured the radius of the Earth with a small error when compared with results using modern measurements.

Measurement of radius of the Earth

Around 225 B.C a Greek librarian “Eratosthenes” who lived at Alexandria measured the radius of the Earth with a small error when compared with results using modern measurements. The technique he used involves lower school geometry and brilliant insight.

He observed that during noon time of summer solstice the Sun’s rays cast no shadow in the city Syne which was located 500 miles away from Alexandria. At the same day and same time he found that in Alexandria the Sun’s rays made 7.2 degree with local vertical as shown in the Figure 6.30. He realized that this difference of 7.2 degree was due to the curvature of the Earth.

The angle 7.2 degree is equivalent to 1/8 *radian*. So θ=1/8 *rad;*

If S is the length of the arc between the cities of Syne and Alexandria, and if R is radius of Earth, then

1 mile is equal to 1.609 km. So, he measured the radius of the Earth to be equal to R = 6436 km, which is amazingly close to the correct value of 6378 km.

The distance of the Moon from Earth was measured by a famous Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the 3rd century BC.

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11th Physics : UNIT 6 : Gravitation : Measurement of radius of the Earth |

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