The Weirdest Things Notably Intelligent People Have Believed About Solar Eclipses

We’ve already talked about what ancient civilizations have thought about solar eclipses, but have you ever wondered what some specific historical figures thought about them? From ancient philosophers to established scientists, there have been so many instances of solar eclipses in historical writings. Take Archilochus, a Greek poet from around 647 B.C. After seeing an eclipse, he got thinking about how unpredictable the gods could be. He came up with wild ideas like land animals swapping places with dolphins! Though it sounds crazy now, back then, eclipses really got people’s imaginations going. So, let’s take a look at some of the weirdest things intelligent people believed about solar eclipses.

Christopher Columbus and the Eclipse Manipulation

Centuries later, in 1503, explorer Christopher Columbus used the solar eclipse to his advantage in a prime example of cunning manipulation. Columbus and his crew were stranded in Jamaica running low on food and other supplies. Even though the indigenous people of the island welcomed Columbus with open arms, after a while they became dissatisfied with the trade goods that the Spaniards could offer and stopped providing them with sustenance.

Columbus, desperate to secure provisions, turned to his knowledge of celestial events. Consulting an almanac authored by Abraham Zacuto, Columbus discovered the date and time of an upcoming lunar eclipse. Columbus told the locals that his God was angry with them and would make the moon turn red with fury. When the eclipse happened just as he said, the scared locals rushed to give Columbus and his crew food, thinking he had some kind of special power.

Tecumseh’s Eclipse and Political Drama

In the early 19th century, a solar eclipse played a pivotal role in the political landscape of North America. Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader, and his brother, a self-proclaimed prophet, were trying to unite their people against settlers, but a governor named William Henry Harrison stood in their way. In a calculated move to discredit Tecumseh and his brother, Harrison issued them a challenge: if they truly have supernatural powers, they should prove it by making the sun disappear. Undeterred by Harrison’s skepticism, Tecumseh’s brother confidently announced that the sun would indeed darken on a specified date. When an eclipse happened just as predicted, people were amazed, and it made Tecumseh look even more powerful. This was, indeed, one of the weirdest things intelligent people believed about solar eclipses.


Einstein’s Big Break: The 1919 Eclipse

Eclipses aren’t just about ancient beliefs or political tricks; they’ve also helped us understand the universe better. In 1919, scientists wanted to test Albert Einstein’s idea about how gravity works. According to Einstein’s theory, gravity could bend the path of light, a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. To test this prediction, scientists observed a total solar eclipse, during which the sun’s gravity would bend the light from distant stars, changing their positions in the sky.

If Einstein’s theory was indeed correct, the stars near the sun would appear slightly displaced during the eclipse. And that was indeed the fact once the eclipse was going on. This not only confirmed Einstein’s groundbreaking theory but also helped us understand the fundamental nature of gravity and spacetime.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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