Ancient China, meanwhile, clung to its flat-Earth beliefs for much longer. Early writings held that the planet was flat, and the heavens spherical. This theory was left uncontested until Western missionaries arrived in the 17th century. By then, the knowledge of a spherical Earth had been accepted everywhere else for nearly a millennium.
Indeed, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the idea of a flat Earth truly arose again. Writers in England and the U.S. published and preached works of biblical cosmography, citing verses that mentioned the “four corners” of the Earth. And they found an audience – albeit a limited one.
One of the first individuals to make the claim of a flat Earth at this time was Samuel Rowbotham, who published a pamphlet titled Zetetic Astronomy in 1849. The publication claimed to combine scientific data with sensory observations – that is, the Earth looks flat, so it must be. According to Rowbotham, the empirical evidence exists to support that notion.