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The hollow Earth theory has been around for many centuries and advocates the idea that the center of the Earth is hollow or has a hollow region inside the planet. Another version of the theory is that the Earth is hollow and that we live inside it along the edge with the Sun – and usually the other planets – suspended in the center of the Earth. This theory has been linked with many culture’s religions including the Jewish Sheol and the Greek Hades. However, it has also been seriously entertained by a number of scientists.
One of the most famous proponents of hollow Earth theory is Edmond Halley, the astronomer who calculated the path of Halley’s Comet. Halley developed a hollow Earth theory in order to explain anomalous compass readings. His version of the hollow Earth was that the Earth was a shell and there were three more spherical shells within the planet the size of Venus, Mars, and Mercury. According to Halley, each sphere is like an individual world with atmosphere separating them. The shells rotate independently of each other, are lit, and could very well support life. Other scientists also believed in the hollow Earth theory. Many attribute a hollow Earth theory to the mathematician Leonhard Euler, but there does not seem to be much documentation to back this up.
The theory has also been picked up by many laymen such as John Symmes. Symmes was an American who thought that the Earth was hollow, and that the center of the Earth could be reached through the holes at the north and south poles of the planet. He tried to raise an expedition to the North Pole, but nothing came of it before he died. When the first expedition reached the North Pole, they never found any path to the center of the Earth.
In 1869, a doctor by the name of Cyrus Teed proposed a concave hollow Earth. In his theory, our planet was a hollow shell with people living inside. The Sun was in the middle of the Earth, and people were unable to see the other side of the planet because of the thick atmosphere. Teed then founded a cult based on his ideas and declared that he was the messiah of his new religion. Even after people finally explored the poles – and found that there were not holes there – some still believed in the hollow Earth theory.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on Earth.