Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816–1884) was an English inventor and writer who wrote Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe under the pseudonym “Parallax”.
His work was based on his decade-long studies of the earth and was originally published as a 16-page pamphlet (1849), which he later expanded into a 430-page book (1881). According to Rowbotham’s method, which he called Zetetic Astronomy, the earth is an enclosed plane, centered at the North Pole and bounded along its outward edge by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, planets, and stars only a few hundred miles above the surface of the earth.
Rowbotham was an accomplished debater who reputedly steamrollered all opponents, and his followers, who included many well-educated people, were equally tenacious.
“PARALLAX” AND HIS TEACHINGS.
“TROWBRIDGE MECHANICS’ INSTITUTION.–On Monday and Tuesday evenings last two lectures were delivered by a gentleman adopting the name of ‘Parallax,’ to prove modern astronomy unreasonable and contradictory: that the earth is a plane or disc and not a globe, the sun, moon, and stars, self-luminous, &c., &c. The lectures were well attended, and were delivered with great skill, the lecturer proving himself thoroughly acquainted with the subject in all its bearings.”–Wilts Independent, January 18th, 1849.
[Although “Parallax” had been delivering lectures for several years previously, in various parts of England, the above was the first notice which ever appeared in any newspaper.]
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY [after details].–The lecturer is not a theorist, and the matter is sufficiently important to claim the attention of the scientific world.”–Liverpool Mercury, January 25th, 1850.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–‘Parallax’ repeated his lectures on this subject (by permission of the High Sheriff of the county) in the Court House here, to large and respectable auditories of our townspeople. The nature of these lectures is extraordinary, explaining that the earth is not a globe, but a fixed circular plane–that the sun moves in the firmament–and that, in fact, our present astronomical knowledge is altogether fallacious and inconsistent with natural phenomena. . . . The audience listened with the deepest attention, and appeared astonished at the revelations of the lecturer. At the close of each lecture several gentlemen entered the lists with ‘Parallax,’ and a lively and interesting discussion ensued. ‘Parallax,’ however, maintained his principles with infinite tact and ability, and answered his opponents in a masterly manner. The audiences left strongly impressed
with the startling facts to which they had been listening–the most sceptical, at least, philosophising after the manner of Hamlet:–
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.’
[paragraph continues] As to ‘Parallax’ himself, we must say that we seldom listened to a more clear, perspicuous, and convincing lecturer. He is evidently a man of gifted intellect, and deep scientific attainments. “–Athlone Sentinel, May 21st, 1851.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–‘Parallax’ has just concluded a second course of four very interesting lectures, to large and respectable audiences, in the Court House here [details follow]. At the close of each lecture a very animated discussion took place; and although some very strong arguments were brought forward, ‘Parallax’ maintained his ground. We have seldom met with a lecturer endowed with such strong argumentative powers who, in language so simple, could present so quickly and clearly to the mind the ideas he wished to impart. The simple manner in which he endeavoured to elucidate his subject, and bring it within the comprehension of his hearers, as well as the good temper and forbearance displayed during a lengthened discussion with some very able disputants, called forth a vote of thanks at the conclusion, which was acceded to without a dissentient voice.”–Westmeath Independent, May 24th, 1851.
“During the past week ‘Parallax’ has visited Preston, and lectured at the Institution to numerous and respectable audiences. The first was con-fined to a marshalling of his experiments [here lengthy details follow]. His lectures were delivered in a simple, unassuming style, and his illustrations and language were of a character to suit the comprehension of all. He appears to have studied well his subject, to have made himself master of it in all its details, and to be armed at all points against those who may enter with him into the lists of controversy.”–Preston Guardian, August 7th, 1852.
“A gentleman adopting the name of ‘Parallax’ has been delivering lectures at the Hall on Zetetic Astronomy. The principle he proceeds upon is to admit of no theories, and to take nothing for granted. He holds that the earth is not a revolving globe but a fixed plane, and that the sun moves in the firmament. The lecturer is evidently a gentleman of deep learning, and is thoroughly in earnest. We understand that the lectures are about to be re-delivered, and that then the system will be fully developed.”–Leicester Chronicle, June 3rd, 1854.
“We invite the attention of all who feel an interest in subjects of this kind to these lectures, as, if the statements made by the lecturer in reference to the heights of distant objects be incontrovertible, they would seem
very seriously to invalidate some of the most important conclusions of modern astronomy.”–Leicester Advertiser, June 3rd, 1854.
“In another part of to-day’s Herald we publish a synopsis of the lecture on ‘Zetetic Astronomy.’ We have taken some pains to give the lecturer’s definitions of his philosophy, and mode of illustrating it. But, inasmuch as the system of the lecturer differs in every point of view from our own study of astronomy, and from all previous teachings on the subject, there must be a great error on one side or the other. ‘Parallax,’ as a lecturer, as a sound logician, clear, lucid reasoner, calm and self-possessed, we have never seen surpassed.”–Norfolk Herald, November 1st, 1856.
PARALLAX.’–The closing lectures of the series were delivered on Monday and Wednesday last, and we do not know when we have heard such striking lessons on the art of reasoning as were afforded by these lectures. As a reasoner we much question if ‘Parallax’ can be surpassed; and the gentlemanly manner in which the discussions were conducted brought out that power to a very high degree.”–Yarmouth Free Press, November 22nd, 1856.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY—THE EARTH NOT A GLOBE–‘Parallax’ has lectured to respectable and critical audiences in the new room, Corn Exchange. No one could fail to admire his power as a disputant. After the lectures he met the questions put to him by the most enlightened and scientific citizens with a readiness of reply which astonished his hearers; and he challenged to meet any of them on the points raised, and would stand or fall. by the issue depending on facts; but no one accepted his challenge. Report states that he will visit Ely again, when no doubt there will be a full room. Lecturers on the Newtonian system, with their apparatus, orreries, &c., completely fail to interest the people here. ‘Parallax’ has the ability to do this; he met even the ‘sledge-hammer’ of Mr. Burns with only a gentlemanly retort.”–Cambridge Chronicle, December 27th, 1856.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–Three lectures were delivered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings last, at the Lecture Hall in this town, by a gentleman adopting the name of ‘Parallax,’ to prove modern astronomy unreasonable and contradictory–that the earth is a plane, or a disc, and not a globe–the sun, moon, and stars, self-luminous, &c., &c. The lectures were delivered in a manner which could not fail to be comprehended, and which left no doubt that the lecturer was thoroughly acquainted with the subject he was discussing. We have seldom heard a man with stronger argumentative powers, sounder logic, or more convincive reasoning. The revelations of the lecturer appeared to completely astound his audiences, who, for the greater part, left with a strong impression that the previous teachers of astronomy must have been greatly in error. ‘Parallax’ is undoubtedly
a gentleman of no mean intellect, and must have studied deeply to have reached such scientific attainments.”–Croydon Chronicle, January 24th, 1857.
[After report.] “The unquestionable ability with which ‘Parallax’ has met his opponents has drawn forth much applause.”–Leicestershire Mercury, August 14th, 1858.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–No doubt many of our readers have been mystified and surprised within the last week by the announcement that, in three lectures, at the Northampton Mechanics’ Institute, a gentleman who calls himself ‘Parallax,’ would undertake to prove the earth not a globe, &c., &c. . . . We were highly gratified by the manner in which this important subject was handled by ‘Parallax’–a pseudonym which the lecturer informed his audience he had adopted in order to avert the effect of an insinuation that his startling announcement is but the morbid desire of an individual to be known as the propounder of a philosophy boldly at variance with that of the great astronomers of the past and present. His subject was handled in a plain and easy manner, his language and allusions proving him a man of education and thought, and certainly not a pedant. The experiments mentioned, divested of technicality in their recital, and understandable by all, were of such a nature as to cause a start of surprise at their simplicity and truthfulness. . . . It is not for us to pronounce a verdict upon so important an issue; ‘Parallax’ may be in error, but as far as his reasonings from fact and experiment go, there is much to set scientific men thinking. His arguments consist of facts, and such as are patent to all degrees of mental capacity. . . . In the discussions which followed, ‘Parallax’ certainly lost no ground, either in answer to questions or to some broad assertions quoted from learned authorities.”–South Mid-land Free Press, August 14th, 1858.
“While Lord Brougham, Professor Owen, and Dr. Whewell, have been assisting at the inauguration of the statue of Sir Isaac Newton, at Grantham, ‘Parallax’ has been startling the good people of Coventry by blotting the face of fair Mother Earth, declaring her long respected rotundity a modern fable. . . . This is not the age for intolerance and bigotry with respect to science; new discoveries and new lights are treated with respect from whatever quarter they may emanate, and if ‘Parallax’ can make good his pretensions, his name will be immortalised by posterity. . . . We thank ‘Parallax’ for exciting an interest in the subject of astronomy which perhaps lecturers, according to the received hypothesis, would have failed to create.”–Coventry Herald, October 1st, 1858.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–In this glorious nineteenth century, the boasted age of progress and reform, in which the strides of intellect are so rapidly
approaching perfection, we cannot be surprised that such a beautiful system of Zetetic Astronomy as that expounded by ‘Parallax’ should entirely supersede the doctrine taught by Newton, and more especially when we are told that this Zetetic system is the only one which is consistent with common sense, and agreeable with the records contained in the Holy Scriptures. Now if this statement be true, all the readers of the ‘Free Press’ will agree in giving this philosophy a hearty welcome.”–Coventry Free Press, October 1st, 1858.
“ZETETIC PHILOSOPHY.–During the past week four lectures have been delivered at our Institution, Royal Hill, which are to be continued on four evenings next week. To say that these lectures are extraordinary in their character is but saying the least that can possibly be said concerning them. The exceedingly gifted lecturer, who apparently prefers to be known as ‘Parallax,’ demonstrates the Newtonian theory of astronomy to be in opposition to facts; and in so doing demonstrates that the Bible is literally true in its philosophical teachings. From this, the groundwork of his philosophy, spring teachings and doctrines which cause us to hold our breath in the contemplation of them, and compel us, as public journalists, to withhold our opinion on subjects so vast, so important to man, and so utterly at variance with the commonly received notions of the day. Is it for us to say that a greater than a Newton shall not arise? No! we wait the issue. If ‘Parallax’ be wrong there can be nothing easier than for our savans of Greenwich to overthrow his doctrines; but if our readers think they would have an easy task so to do, we can only say be present at his concluding lectures, and judge for yourselves. . . . It is urged that this ‘somebody or other’ who has the audacity to come right into Greenwich, above all places in the enlightened world, is very strong–strong in his facts, strong in his arguments, and appears after all to get on the right side of his audiences. This much we do know, that there are thinking men in our town who have been compelled to bend to the overpowering weight of evidence against our modern ideas. If it be true that some have tried to overthrow him and yet failed, let them go again, and still again, and nip this growth in the bud, ere a giant oak arises which will scorn their science and defy their teachings.”–Greenwich Free Press, May 11th 1861.
“‘PARALLAX’ AT THE LECTURE HALL.–This talented lecturer is again in Greenwich, rivetting the attention of his audiences, and compelling them to submit to the facts which he brings before them–we say submit, for this they do; it seems impossible for any one to battle with him, so powerful are the weapons he uses. Mathematicians argue with him at the conclusion of his lectures, but it would seem as though they held their
weapons by the blade and fought with the handle, for sure enough they put the handle straight into the lecturer’s hand, to their own utter discomfiture and chagrin. It remains yet to be seen whether any of our Royal Astronomers will have courage enough to meet him in discussion, or whether they will quietly allow him to give the death-blow to the Newtonian theory, and make converts of our townspeople to his own Zetetic philosophy. If ‘Parallax’ be wrong, for Heaven’s sake let some of our Greenwich stars twinkle at the Hall, and dazzle, confound, or eclipse altogether this wandering one, who is turning men, all over England, out of the Newtonian path. ‘Parallax’ is making his hearers disgusted with the Newtonian and every other theory, and turning them to a consideration of facts and first principles, from which they know not how to escape. Again we beg and trust that some of our Royal Observatory gentlemen will try to save us, and prevent anything like a Zetetic epidemic prevailing amongst us.”–Greenwich Free Press, May 19th, 1862.
“EARTH NOT A GLOBE.–On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, ‘Parallax’ delivered his lectures at the Chatham Lecture Hall. The science he sets forth he denominates ‘Zetetic Astronomy.’ Whatever his hearers may think of his philosophy, they must admit that his lectures show him to have read and thought much. His discourses are very pleasing and interesting, and he expounds his doctrines in a way that ought to offend none. The variety of questions which a number of gentlemen asked the lecturer were readily and courteously answered, and in a way which appeared to satisfy most of the questioners. The audiences got so interested in these discussions that it was midnight before all the arguers left. They evidently took the deepest interest in the subjects presented to them. Next week ‘Parallax’ is to give more lectures, as announced in our advertising columns.”–Chatham News, June 6th, 1863.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–It will be seen, on reference to our advertising columns, that ‘Parallax’ will repeat his course of three lectures. He has deeply interested the public, and has had full audiences. We defer giving our opinion until the whole series of lectures have been given. Certainly Parallax’ is a man of strong argumentative powers, sound logic, and convincing reasoning.”–Rochester and Chatham Journal, June 6th, 1863.
“There is a startling novelty in store for the scientific men of London. One who calls himself ‘Parallax’ wields a battle-axe against the present astronomical theories, giving lectures to the effect that the earth is not a globe but a fixed circular plane [particulars follow]. ‘Parallax’ has moved in the best provincial circles, but his orbit has hitherto been distant from London.”–Court Journal, April 9th, 1864.
“THE EARTH NOT A GLOBE.–We beg to direct attention to the second
course of lectures now being delivered by ‘Parallax’ at the Society’s Hall. Those who take an interest in this scientific subject would be much enlightened by hearing the views of the lecturer, which are given in a clear and logical manner, and carry conviction with them.”–Portsmouth Guardian, April 21st, 1864.
“THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.–We invite the attention of our readers to the remarkable lectures being delivered by a gentleman adopting the name of ‘Parallax,’ with illustrations, explaining that the earth is not a globe but a fixed circular plane, and that the sun actually moves in the firmament. These lectures contain a vast amount of deep scientific research, and proclaim ‘Parallax’ a man of varied and solid attainments. He has well and completely concatenated his subject, and appears master of his position.”–Weekly Mail, May 23rd, 1864.
“‘PARALLAX’ AND HIS TEACHINGS.–No one can doubt that ‘Parallax’ has made a hit at Gosport, and has created quite a sensation. The Zetetic philosopher is an able reasoner; concede but his first point, skilfully put, and you stand no chance against his fifteen years’ platform experience. For three nights [details follow]. During these discussions ‘Parallax’ has not always had fair play; as may well be supposed there is a degree of prejudice against his teachings, and hot words have ensued. On Wednesday the arguments lasted until after midnight.”–Gosport Free Press, May 14th, 1864.
“EARTH NOT A GLOBE.–Last evening the gentleman bearing the nom de plume of ‘Parallax’ delivered at the Athenæum the first of a series of lectures to prove the fallacy of the Newtonian principles regarding the rotundity of the earth. There was a very large attendance, every seat in the place being occupied, and many who could not obtain sitting room stood, filling up the whole of the available space in the hall. A chairman was elected, as it was expected there would be a hot discussion on so striking a subject. The lecturer commenced his discourse by [here lengthy details follow]. At the conclusion of the lecture a very animated discussion ensued between many gentlemen of the town and the lecturer, and we must say that he was a good match for his opponents.”–Western Daily Mercury, September 27th, 1864.
“The second lecture of this series was delivered last evening. The hall was crammed to excess–in fact, many were unable to obtain admission. The lecturer briefly recapitulated a portion of his previous lecture. He went through the whole of the syllabus, amidst constant interruption, with the best possible temper, making his subject extremely interesting, and handling it in such an able manner as to elicit loud and frequent applause. Before the lecture was concluded it was quite evident, judging from the
feelings exhibited by the majority of the audience, that ‘Parallax’ had impressed many of them with the truth of his ideas. It cannot be denied that he treats his subject in a very clever and ingenuous manner, and succeeds in drawing many over to agree with him. “–Western Daily Mercury, September 28th, 1864.
“The third of the above series of lectures was delivered last evening. The subject underwent a long and warm discussion, and the questions which were put to the lecturer were answered with a great degree of ingenuity. Upon the suggestion of a gentleman present, the lecturer said that, in conjunction with other gentlemen, he would be happy to make any experiments to ascertain the truth or fallacy of his teachings. This, we believe, will be acted upon, it being purposed to visit the Breakwater and the Eddystone Lighthouse, and there make the necessary observations, which no doubt will prove very interesting.”–Western Daily Mercury, September 30th, 1864.
“‘PARALLAX’ ON ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–Last evening the lecturer who has adopted this nom de plume gave his first lecture at the Athenæum. . . . The hall was crowded by a respectable audience. He laid before his hearers an entertaining, instructing, and very plausible collection of facts, upon which he based the deduction that the world was not an oblate spheroid, but a plane. The details were illustrated by diagrams, that were interestingly explained, in aid of his arguments; and when, in response to invitation, several gentlemen of experience, as nautical men and in the survey of land, questioned his opinions, and advanced strong antagonistic reasons, the replies were both clever and courteous. It was much regretted that very warm feeling was manifested by some of the auditors. . . . The lecturer was frequently applauded. He lectures again this evening, and there can be no doubt that the audience will be a numerous one, for in his lectures much unquestioned but valuable information is incidentally introduced, and much argument that is singularly difficult of controversion.”–Western Daily News, September 27th, 1864.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–During the current week three lectures have been delivered at the Athenæum, Plymouth, which have excited not a little commotion among the learned of our fellow-citizens. The lecturer, who has adopted ‘Parallax’ as the name by which he would be known among the scientific, commenced his course of lectures on Monday last, the building being crowded with an attentive and, we may add, a critical audience. The subject which was introduced that evening, ‘Earth not a Globe,’ was one calculated to excite attention in the minds of the philosophers or deep-thinkers of the present day, and as such the lecturer was evidently prepared to meet with opposition [details]. We are bound to admit that he
handled his subject with consummate skill; and, whether he is right or wrong, we must do him the justice to acknowledge that he possesses all the great qualities which characterise a lecturer and a debater–consistently maintaining those principles which he holds to be correct, founded, as he proves them to be, upon the great Word of Truth, as established ere time began its course among men. We cannot attempt even an outline of the lectures: we have simply to record the facts that each lecture drew a very crowded assembly; that after each lecture an animated discussion took place, in which many gentlemen bore part; and we are free to express our conviction, without committing ourselves to an absolute belief in the doctrines enunciated, that ‘Parallax’ proved himself to be equal to the contest on which he had entered. All must admit the lecturer to have shown that his studies and his researches have been deep, powerful, and enduring.”–Plymouth Herald and United Service Journal, October 6th, 1864.
“PARALLAX AT DEVONPORT.–On Wednesday evening last the gentleman adopting this cognomen, and who has been creating a great deal of interest in this locality during the last few weeks, commenced a series of lectures at the Devonport Mechanics’ Institute. The reasoning of ‘Parallax,’ which he has termed Zetetic, is so astounding and diametrically opposed to the great Newtonian theory which has obtained in the world for hundreds of years, that he has often been ridiculed as a crude experimentalist, abused as a false teacher, and even accused of mendacity. He has borne these harsh expressions and ungentlemanly imputations calmly and patiently; and it is but just to say that, in his lectures, he has always courted the fullest inquiry–stating that his only object is the elucidation of truth, no matter what it may be or what it may lead to; and that in his discussions he is courteous in hearing and candid in expression. That he is a clever man, and that he has studied his subject deeply, there can be no possible doubt; and it is certainly the case, whether he is right or wrong, that his arguments are exceedingly plausible, and that he has much the better of his opponents in discussion. Unfortunately those who have entered into discussion with him have in nine cases out of ten become excited and lost their command, while ‘Parallax,’ remaining cool and calculating, has thus, apart from his demonstrations, been enabled to gain an advantage over them in reasoning. On this occasion the discussion became very warm, and ungracious imputations were made, which ‘Parallax’ said resulted from a fear to face the consequences resulting from new and true ideas. The demeanour, respectful bearing, and candour of ‘Parallax’ bear out his assertions that his object is the elucidation of truth; and he appeals to his audience to disprove his statements, while he undertakes to prove them to
be true. He is fair in every way, and it is unjust, nay, it is something worse, to treat with disrespect a lecturer of this character.”
“The lectures will be repeated next week, and as public discussion is invited at the end of each lecture, we hope it will be conducted temperately and with proper spirit. Meanwhile we claim, in justice to ‘Parallax,’ that no unjust erroneous prejudicial notions be formed of him without a hearing.”–Devonport Independent, October 15th, 1864.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–[After details.] We can tell our readers that ‘Parallax’ is a practised lecturer, a good speaker, a clever debater, and a courteous opponent. He has a plausible manner, and is thoroughly ‘posted’ in the standard philosophy as well as the system which he teaches, and is therefore no mean antagonist. Students of science may break a lance with him, but judging from his meetings at Gloucester and Stroud, we should say that an ordinary man is no match for him.”–Stroud Journal, October 28th, 1865.
“A conclave of scientific gentlemen sat to get up a reply, and just one of the number was able to state the answer: even that answer, scientific as it was, had a fallacy in it.”–Spectator, April 12th, 1856.
“The lecturer gained great praise for his ingenuity in proving that the earth is a plane surrounded by ice. . . The evidence that the earth is round is but cumulative and circumstantial.”–Professor de Morgan, Cambridge University.
“‘PARALLAX’ ON ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–The gentleman who has adopted this noon de plume delivered his first lecture on Monday evening last There was a large and highly respectable audience–the hall being crowded. The lecture was a clear and elaborate exposition, &c. [lengthy details follow]. If we may judge by the applause by which some of the lecturer’s arguments were confirmed, we should say that many of those present were ready to exclaim: ‘Behold, a greater than Newton is here!’ A hot discussion followed, in which the Rev. Nixon Porter and other gentlemen took part, but Parallax’ maintained his ground.”–Warrington Guardian, March 24th, 1866.
“EARTH NOT A GLOBE.–On Monday last a gentleman adopting the nom de plume of ‘Parallax’–a very appropriate name, seeing that the basis of his arguments is the relation to each other of parallel lines–commenced a series of lectures at the Public Hall on ‘Zetetic Astronomy,’ a system directly opposed to the great Newtonian theory. That he is a clever man, and has studied the matter deeply, and that he is master of his subject, and thoroughly convinced of its truth, is apparent; and his arguments are certainly very plausible. The lecture drew large audiences, and among those present we noticed [here a list is given of many of the leading men
and families of the district]. ‘Parallax’ commenced by explaining the word ‘Zetetic,’ which had been adopted, because they did not sit in their closets and endeavour to frame a theory to explain certain phenomena, but went abroad into the world, and thoroughly investigated the subject [here follows a long report of the three lectures]. Lengthy and animated discussions ensued; votes of thanks were passed to the lecturer and the chairman–the Rev. Nixon Porter, who declared that he was much struck with the simplicity and candour with which the lecturer had stated his views; and, after a promise by ‘Parallax’ that he would pay another visit to Warrington, the audience dispersed.”–Warrington Advertiser, March 24th, 1866.
“THE EARTH NOT A GLOBE.–Lectures on the above subject were de-livered this week in the Royal Assembly Room, Great George-street, Liverpool, by ‘Parallax,’ a gentleman known to the literary world by a work on ‘Zetetic Astronomy,’ and who came somewhat prominently before the Liverpool public fourteen or fifteen years ago through the columns of the Mercury. The hall was well filled by respectable and critical audiences. He commenced his first lecture by comparing the Newtonian principle of astronomy with the Zetetic (which must prove all and take nothing for granted); and endeavoured to demonstrate in a comprehensive and logical manner that the earth is not a globe but a plane; that, in fact, all theories of the earth’s rotundity are fallacious, and that the followers of Newton and other philosophers had been adopting and believing a ‘cunningly devised fable.’ The lectures were illustrated by numerous diagrams and experiments, and were listened to with the greatest attention by all present. ‘Parallax’ appears to have studied the peculiarities of his subject thoroughly, and was warmly applauded during the delivery of his lectures.”–Liverpool Mercury, October 3rd, 1866.
At the end of a detailed report of lectures at the Halifax Mechanics’ Hall it is stated:–“Whatever may be the truth or otherwise of the new system, certain it is that the lectures were well attended, and numbers of the audiences declared themselves converts.”–Halifax Guardian, April 13th, 1867.
“Coming to the facts of ‘Parallax.’ They are upon the whole admirably dealt with. . He exhibits an immense number of diagrams, and explains them with great ingenuity.”–Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, May 2nd, 1867.
“The Philosophical Hall last night was crowded with a thoughtful audience attracted by the formidable propositions which the lecturer enunciates and defends [particulars here follow]. These and similar extraordinary statements so utterly at variance with the recognised theories of the
day, the lecturer maintains with a perspicuity and mastery of his subject which carries the audience to some extent along with him, and induces them to manifest symptoms of scientific unbelief.”–Leeds Mercury, May 8th, 1867.
“Without endorsing ‘Parallax’s’ teachings, it must be said that (at the Philosophical Hall, Leeds) he advanced them, supported them, and fought for them with a skill and intelligence, tact, and good temper which were not at all equalled by his opponents.”–Leeds Times, May 11th, 1867.
“He displays in his lectures a thorough acquaintance with the Newtonian philosophy, and presents his own peculiar views in such a way that they assume great plausibility and astonish his hearers. At the close of each lecture discussion is permitted, in the course of which ‘Parallax’ exhibits great debating tact and power; his answers to his opponents being frequently loudly applauded.”–Leeds Evening Express, May 23rd, 1867.
“ZETETIC ASTRONOMY.–His lectures furnish a clear, masterly, and very plausible exposition of his system. At the close of each lecture he invited discussion; and it must be admitted that ‘Parallax’ evinced varied knowledge, ability, and readiness in replying to objections.”–Bradford Review, July 6th, 1867.
“‘PARALLAX’ AT BRADFORD.–So long have astronomers averred the earth’s rotundity and its motion round the sun, that when ‘Parallax’ was announced to lecture we went to see the man who had ventured to controvert facts so long settled by the most recherché students in celestial science. To our surprise every position taken seemed fortified with keen logical reasoning, and an easy explanation was given of many of the tests previously considered absolute proofs of the earth’s rotundity. The lecturer contends [particulars are here given]. By many illustrations he disproved this rotundity, and astonished his audiences by showing how little there is to be relied on in what has been hitherto received as demonstration itself. ‘Parallax’ is unquestionably a very acute reasoner, a paragon of courtesy, good temper, and masterly skill in debate; and, by his frank and ingenuous manner, won largely on the convictions of his audience. Seldom have we seen an assembly so much absorbed in their subject; and the interest was maintained to the close. We feel it due to say that, if the data given are correct, there is no resisting the conclusions arrived at.”–Bradford Advertiser, July 6th and 13th, 1867.
“The lecturer invited discussion, and a warm controversy took place, but ‘Parallax’ stood his ground admirably. His delivery is free and unaffected, and the masterly style in which he handled his subject showed that he was a geometrician and mathematician of no ordinary merit.”–Dewsbury Chronicle, August 5th, 1867.
“‘PARALLAX’ AT BIRSTAL.–This gentleman delivered his course of lectures in the Public Hall here on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last [particulars here follow]. The lecturer thoroughly understands the subject which he has taken in hand. He is gifted with extraordinary debating power and acumen, and the manner in which he dealt with the subject also proved him to be well versed in all the sciences bearing upon his system of astronomy. His style of delivery, too, is one calculated to win the sympathies of an audience.”–Birstal Record, August 10th, 1867.
“THE EARTH A PLANE.–[Report of lecture at the Town Hall, Hanley, concludes as follows]:–A contemporary speaks of ‘Parallax’ as a very acute reasoner, a paragon of courtesy, good temper, and masterly skill in debate, adding that if the data given are correct there is no resisting the conclusions arrived at. Apart from these conclusions, to which he seems to lead most of his hearers in spite of themselves, the lectures are really an intellectual treat.”–Staffordshire Sentinel, February 8th, 1868.
“‘Parallax’ has just repeated his lectures in Warrington, which were presided over by the Rev. Nixon Porter, Alderman Holmes, ex-Mayor, and P. Rylands, Esq., M.P. The lecturer was introduced by the first-named gentleman as no stranger to Warrington, having visited them on former occasions, given our scientific men some pretty hard nuts to crack, had made certain statements and drawn certain inferences which, to say the least, were plausible, and demanded fair consideration. Any man should be fairly heard when he stood upon the foundation of truth, and braved the opposition which was invariably incurred when the current modes of thought were attacked and attempted to be controverted. If the lecturer’s statements were false, by all means let them be exploded; but, if true, let us thankfully receive them and all their consequences, giving to their zealous expounder the credit to which he is entitled. Questions such as those brought before the meeting should be fully considered and discussed. On introducing the lecturer on the third evening, the chairman (P. Rylands, Esq., M.P.) concluded his address as follows: ‘Every philosophical inquiry which challenged contradiction must have a good effect in causing them to think of the various natural phenomena by which they were surrounded, thus improving their minds, increasing the strength of their understandings, and adding to the general intelligence of the people.’ The lecturer, on rising, in reply to the oft-repeated question which had been put to him as to the good or use of his particular system of astronomy, even admitting it to be the true one, would say that, at the least, it was of great importance to a large commercial and mercantile nation such as ours, in correcting, improving, and rendering more practical and safe the art of navigation, on which the prosperity of the country so much depended. It was also a
most important religious question–one scarcely second to any other religious question of the day. At present there was a great battle going on between religious and scientific men, the former upholding the truth of the Scriptures, and the latter believing in nothing but their own philosophy, which was in direct opposition to Scriptural teachings. Thousands of men at the present day declared the Scriptural astronomical expressions to be false, and regarded science and philosophy as all in all. One or the other must be false; both could not stand. If they were all simply dogs they might ‘bow-wow’ together, and think nothing more of the matter; but as they were men, endowed with sense and reason, the importance of the subject presented itself to them in all its intensity. If the earth was a globe, and the principles of modern astronomy were true, religious teaching could not be reconciled to such a state of things, and must consequently be false; but if, on the other hand, modern astronomy could be proved to be false, then would the religious philosophy stand forth as a grand reality, and show itself as the communicated expression of some great master of the universe. He had a few words to say to the so-called ‘free-thinkers’ of the day; those especially who prided themselves upon having become sceptical in matters of religion. He would have them to take care that the word ‘free-thinker’ was not misapplied. It was very possible, and not an uncommon thing, for a person to become as great a bigot in this respect as in any other. A free-thinker was not necessarily an atheist or even a sceptic; he might or might not be so, but he might also be a lover of true religion and a good Christian. He alone was a true free-thinker who was prepared to seek out and to hold fast to all the practical truths developed by human experience. He (the lecturer) had the deepest respect for those who could leave the old theoretical ‘ruts’ of thought, and dare to freely inquire for themselves into every subject, but he could not do other than pity and almost despise all those who profess to be ‘truth-seekers’ and ‘free-thinkers,’ and who yet will only use their powers for the promotion of religious scepticism. The man who refused evidence simply because it might lead him back to a recognition of Scriptural philosophy, and to seeing the necessity for a religious or devotional life, was neither wise nor good, but was indeed a bigot in the fullest sense of the term. The lecturer then proceeded to explain” [lengthy details follow].–See Warrington Guardian of September 36th and 19th, and Warrington Advertiser and Mail of September 19th, 1868.
“WESTBOURNE HALL.–By special desire, such was the interest taken in the propositions advanced, ‘Parallax’ was induced to repeat his three lectures, the first of which was delivered on Thursday evening last to a numerous and appreciative audience. . . . Although we must be
understood as not endorsing all, yet he said enough to puzzle the most inveterate Newtonian philosopher present. . . . The lecture was amply illustrated by diagrams, without which it is impossible to do justice to the able remarks of the lecturer. . . . An animated discussion, which at times was rather irregular, took place; some of the gentlemen who entered the arena betraying more animus than ability. The lecturer replied readily to the various objections of his opponents; and, judging by the clamorous approval of the audience, he seemed to have gained the attention of many who were not disposed to look favourably on the claims of what is termed ‘Zetetic Astronomy.'”–Notting Hill and Bayswater Times, November 13th, 1869.
“The flat earth floating tremulously on the sea, the sun moving always over it, giving day when near enough, and night when too far off; the self-luminous moon, with a semi-transparent invisible moon created to give her an eclipse now and then; the new law of perspective, by which the vanishing of the hull before the masts, usually thought to prove the earth globular, really proves it flat; all these and other things are well fitted to form exercises in learning the elements of astronomy. ‘Parallax,’ though confident in the extreme, neither impeaches the honesty of those whose opinions he assails, nor allots them any future inconvenience.”–Augustus De Morgan, Professor of Mathematics in Cambridge University, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, F.R.A.S., &c., &c.—Athenæum Journal for October 12, 1872.
In contrast, this is how the modern record (Wikipedia) portrays the life & works of Samuel Rowbotham
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