Fact Check: Earth As Globe Was NOT Concept Introduced By Hollywood -- Was Documented By Ancient Greeks

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Earth As Globe Was NOT Concept Introduced By Hollywood -- Was Documented By Ancient Greeks Globe Grasped

Did Universal Studios first introduce the concept of the world as a globe in 1927 before NASA had photographed it from space in the 1960s? No, that's not true on several counts: It did not take NASA's space program to discover that the Earth was round. Greek philosophers had already described the Earth as a sphere as early as the 5th century B.C. The oldest model of a terrestrial globe, although inaccurate, was built by the German navigator Martin Behaim in 1492. The earliest photograph of the curvature of Earth from space was taken by the U.S. Navy in 1947 from an unmanned V-2 rocket. The Universal logo has changed many times over the years, but to this day the stylized globe is depicted without the natural cloud cover that would be visible from space.

The recycled claim resurfaced in a post (archived here) on Facebook by the page Green Vibez on June 10, 2024. The post was captioned:

Can someone please explain this please

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jun 14 15:44:50 2024 UTC)

Text captions on the video read:

The globe was Created in Hollywood with cgi and the moon landing was filmed in area 51

The voice of the woman speaking in this now-deleted conspiracy video is TikTok creator @karlaelliott82, as seen in a stitch by @johnny.harris. She asks:

Anyone want to tell me how in 1927, Universal Studios came up with this picture of the world when the first picture of the world wasn't available until the 1960s through NASA almost 40 years later?

The scope of this fact check will not extend to the caption's mention of the 1969 moon landing or Area 51, a U.S. military facility. Variations of this flat-Earth trope have circulated for years. Pictured below are examples from 2018 (left) and 2020 (right). In both the logo examples below, a figure of an airplane, clearly not to scale, circles the globe. This logo with the plane and globe rotating together can be seen in motion at the zero to five-second mark in a YouTube compilation of Universal logos over the years. The video that was posted by Green Vibez (pictured above) had been cropped so the toy-like model plane doesn't show.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image with Facebook and ifunny.com screenshots taken on Fri Jun 14 21:17:49 2024 UTC)

The Earth as a sphere, or oblate spheroid

In the 5th century B.C., ancient Greek astronomers were developing theories that the Earth is a sphere based on observations such as the shape of the shadow cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse. By 240 B.C., Eratosthenes estimated the circumference of Earth during the summer solstice. It wasn't until 1543, at the time of his death, that Nicolaus Copernicus' theory that the Earth and planets revolve around the sun was published.

Martin Behaim's Erdapfel of 1492

The image below shows the oldest surviving terrestrial globe, which was constructed by the German navigator Martin Behaim. The description of the globe found in the catalog of the German National Museum in Nürnberg describes some of the inaccuracies:

Here, he became the initiator of a project to construct a globe, a commission he received from the Nuremberg City Council in 1492. This was the same year in which Columbus first stepped onto the shores of the New World, unbeknownst to Behaim. America is thus missing on the globe. The globe's cartography often relies on earlier sources, such as Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy, and Marco Polo. Behaim's contribution was a more exact depiction of the west coast of Africa provided by up-to-date Portuguese sea charts. However, as the authorities of the time had underestimated the circumference of the earth, the depiction of the known world on the globe ended up being too small.


(Source: Martin Behaim "Erdapfel" Wikimedia Creative Commons download)

Photos of Earth from space

Lead Stories published a fact check on November 3, 2022, addressing a false claim that all images of Earth from outer space are computer-generated. This article offers several examples of early photos of Earth from space; notably, the 1946 and 1947 images from the U.S. Navy's V-2 rocket launches (pictured below). A more extensive collection, "Timeline of first images of Earth from space," is cataloged on Wikipedia.


(Source: Wikimedia Commons, Earth Images from V-2 #13, launched on October 24, 1946, and V-2 #21, launched on March 7, 1947, White Sands Missile Range/Naval Research Laboratory)

The Universal Pictures animated logo did not introduce the idea of Earth as a sphere to the general public, and NASA programs of the 1960s were not the first to record images of Earth from space. Globes have graced museum collections and households long before the age of cinema.

Although not perfectly spherical, the Earth is not flat.

At the time this fact check was written, Reuters had reviewed the same claim.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims involving flat-Earth theories can be found here. Other fact checks of claims about the 1969 moon landing and area 51 are here and here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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