What one man can do pushing relentlessly against the entire world’s opinion

(Note: Many readers have sent informed corrections to this entry. I don’t know if it’s worth trying to salvage the entry, or at least the main point I wanted to make in the entry, in light of the mistakes. We’ll see.)

If Columbus had not done it, the discovery of America would not have happened. Columbus was unique. He wrote of everyone rejecting his ideas and said: “Only the Holy Spirit and the fire within me kept me going.” The wisest men in Europe all dismissed the idea. There were no other Columbuses in Europe at the time.

—Historian Wilcomb Washburn, New-York Historical Society, 1992. (I just saw my notes of Washburn’s lecture in an old notebook in which I have been keeping a log of the medicines I take each day.)

Of course Columbus was wrong in one of his two major ideas: he thought the earth’s circumference was about half of its true circumference. Without that mistake, he never would have reached America, because America would not have existed. Instead he would have reached east Asia, which he believed until his dying day that he had reached.

But he was right in the other of his two major ideas: the earth is round and can be circumnavigated. Almost all people at the time still believed that the earth was flat. A few had figured its true circumference. But if that correct view had been credited, America would also have not been discovered, because people would have thought that the ocean was too wide to cross.

That Columbus’ unstoppable commitment to a half-wrong idea (against most of the world’s entirely wrong idea) led to such a huge and spectacular result is one of the most awe-inspiring facts of history, and awakes in us humble thoughts of the mysterious and wonderful workings of Providence.

- end of initial entry -

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 17, 2013 06:42 PM | Send

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