So you think that Christopher Columbus discovered America in the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria and also, while he was at it, proved the Earth wasn’t flat?
Wrong, wrong and wrong. Given that the European explorer has a U.S. federal holiday to his name — and is honored by holidays in other countries as well — let’s look at the disturbing truth about the fearless but brutal Columbus.
*He didn’t prove that the Earth is round.
Kids in school have long been taught that when Columbus set sail in 1492 to find a new route to the East Indies, it was feared he would fall off the edge of the Earth because people then thought the planet was flat. Nope. As early as the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras — later followed by Aristotle and Euclid — wrote about Earth as a sphere, and historians say there is no doubt that the educated in Columbus’s day knew quite well that the Earth was round. Columbus in fact owned a copy of Ptolemy’s Geography, written at the height of the Roman Empire, 1,300 years before Chris Columbus set sail. Several books published in Europe between 1200 and 1500 discussed the Earth’s shape, including “The Sphere,” written in the early 1200s, which was required reading in European universities in the 1300s and beyond. The big question for Columbus, it turns out, was not the shape of the Earth but the size of the ocean he was planning to cross.
* The famous names of the ships he took on his famous 1492 trip across the Atlantic Ocean, the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, probably weren’t really named Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria.The Santa Maria was also known at the time as La Gallega, meaning The Galician.” The Niña is now believed to be a nickname for a ship originally called the Santa Clara, and the Pinta was probably also a nickname, though the ship’s real name isn’t clear.
*Columbus didn’t “discover” America — he never set foot in North America.