In 1650 the Archbishop James Ussher announced that the Earth was thousands of years old.
Almost six thousand years old in fact. He had discovered that the world had been created on the 23rd of October 4004 BC. At lunchtime.
This was a pretty momentous conclusion. Not only had Ussher calculated the age of our world to a superhuman degree of precision, he was also lending credence to the idea that the Earth had a beginning (many cultures believed the Earth has always existed, and always will) and that it was pretty damn old, 6,000 years-worth of old.
Today, most people are comfortable with the idea that the Earth hasn’t existed in perpetuity, and most people are OK with the fact that the Earth is billions of years old. But this is a pretty recent mindset. Up until about one hundred years ago, no one really had any idea how old the Earth was.
Here’s what happened…