Symmes, John Cleves (1780–1829)
Born November 5, 1780, Symmes was a captain in the U.S.
Army in the war of 1812–14, nephew of the jurist of the same
name. He served with distinction at the battle of Niagara and
in the sortie from Fort Erie. He later devoted himself to philosophical
pursuits. In 1818, he promulgated his theory that the
Earth is a hollow sphere, habitable within, open at the poles to
admit light, and containing within it six or seven concentric
hollow spheres also open at the poles.
In May 1818, he mailed prominent people in various countries
a manifesto of his theories, asking for an expedition to be
equipped for exploration at the poles. He lectured widely and
his convert James McBride was responsible for the anonymously
published Symmes’ Theory of Concentric Spheres; Demonstrating
that the Earth is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About
the Poles, by A Citizen of the United States (1826). It was not favorably
received, but later influenced other hollow Earth theorists.
In 1820, a pseudonymous book by ‘‘Captain Seaborn’’ titled
Symzonia described a steamship voyage to the south polar opening.
The ship goes over the rim and enters the continent of
‘‘Symzonia,’’ where the inhabitants live in a socialist utopia.
This concept may have influenced Edgar Allan Poe’s story
‘‘Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.’’
Symmes died May 28, 1829, at the early age of 49, but his
theories were revived by his son Americus Vespucius, who published
The Symmes’ Theory of Concentric Spheres (1878).
Sources
A Citizen of the United States [James McBride]. Symmes’
Theory of Concentric Spheres; Demonstrating that the Earth is Hollow,
Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles. Cincinnati,
Ohio Morgan, Lodge, and Fisher, 1826.
Symmes, Americus, ed. The Symmes’ Theory of Concentric
Spheres Demonstrating that the Earth is Hollow, Habitable Within,
and Widely Open about the Poles. Louisville, Ky. Bradley and Gilbert,
1878.