Initially our ancestors believed of Earth as a flat place. Then after scientific discussions and experiments over a period of time, it was established that our Earth is round. But, there exists one more theory that stats that the earth is Hollow completely or at least at the both Pole(North and South) positions.

My question is who and on what basis(scientific evidence) pitched in this theory ?

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    $\begingroup$ Popular folk/religion ideas of an underwold mixed with a need to explain sismic activity? Voltaire believed that the collapse of huge underground caves had caused the Lisbon earthquake. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 Can you provide some references ? That would be appreciable. $\endgroup$
    – Amit Tyagi
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ "Candide", de Voltaire. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ Do these "theories" really belong to the History of Science and Math"? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko I think the original Hollow Earth theory was a serious one. After all, Halley did base it off of conclusions (poor ones) he made from observations. And you clearly can test the Hollow Earth theory. But I suppose the difference is that the aether (and the other theories you mentioned) gained a bit of popularity in the scientific community, $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:37

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia notes that many ancients believed that there were hollowed-out areas underground, where places such as Hell (or the underworld in general, hence the underworld) existed. But these weren't really "Hollow Earth" theories. We didn't get that far until a few hundred years ago.

This attributes the modern Hollow-Earth hypothesis to Edmund Halley, the famed astronomer, circa 1692. He was a brilliant guy, but this was not exactly his most brilliant idea. He proposed the idea after noticing some strange properties of the Earth's magnetic field:

Halley was fascinated by the earth's magnetic field. He noticed the direction of the field varied slightly over time and the only way he could account for this was there existed not one, but several, magnetic fields. Halley came to believe that the Earth was hollow and within it was a second sphere with another field. In fact, to account for all the variations in the field, Halley finally proposed that the Earth was composed of some four spheres, each nestled inside another.

This isn't too bad, but the idea of proposing loads of different spheres to account for corrections in observations reeks of epicycles. But it gets worse:

Halley also suggested that the interior of the Earth was populated with life and lit by a luminous atmosphere. He thought the aurora borealis, or northern lights, was caused by the escape of this gas through a thin crust at the poles.

The site goes on to discuss those who came later to develop the theory: John Symmes, Sir John Leslie, and even (gasp - don't look unless you want to be really disappointed)

Leonhard Euler!

Some of the more recent proponents didn't have such good reputations. Take Cyrus Read Teed:

Teed changed his name to Koresh and founded what might today be called a cult. After buying a 300 acre tract in Florida, Koresh declared himself the messiah of a new religion. He died in 1908 without proving his ideas.

A second source gives a similar discussion on the subject. It attributes the modern-day theory to John Symmes (mentioned above):

The hollow earth theory actually seems to have been originated in the early 1800s by John Symmes, an earnest American who devoted the greater part of his later life to convincing the world that the earth was formed by a series of concentric shells.

This page gives an interesting discussion of the idea. At first, I wasn't sure if it supported the theory or not, but it appears to go against it. It, too, says that Halley was the first to develop the idea, but it does use the two pages I listed above as sources, so this could be a duplicate.


John Symmes appears to have been one of the proponents of the modern theory, but we can trace it back all the way to Edmund Halley.

  • $\begingroup$ The second reference you give does not look like a serious source, but Wikipedia article, which is better, at least explains that Euler did not seriously propose or defend this "theory". $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko How is it like Wikipedia? Also, I think you're being a bit hard on the theory. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:34

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