Measuring a degree of the meridian, 1736

Measuring a degree of the meridian, 1736

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Caption: Measuring a degree of the meridian. In 1736-7 the French mathematician Pierre Maupertuis was sent by the French Academy of Sciences to Finland to measure a degree of the meridian at the Arctic Circle. Another expedition was sent to Peru to take measurements along the meridian at the equator. The purpose was to settle the conflict between the theories of Newton and Descartes. Newton thought the Earth was shaped like an orange, because the centrifugal force leads to the earth swelling out at the equator and flattening at the poles. Descartes thought the Earth, spinning on its own axis, was shaped like a lemon. The measurements taken verified Newton's theory.

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