collage of bones, insects, a volcano, a dinosaur, and a skull

Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Jules Verne

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Is Journey to the Center of the Earth scientifically accurate?

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No, Journey to the Center of the Earth is not scientifically accurate, but it was a groundbreaking work of science fiction in its efforts to be accurate to science as it was understood in the early 1860s.

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Journey to the Center of the Earth is not scientifically accurate. However, Verne did his best, while still providing an exciting story, to keep it accurate to cutting-edge science as it was understood in the early 1860s.

The rapid growth of science in the nineteenth century had developed an appetite...

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for scientific information on the part of public, and the group of novelsJourney is part of reflects an attempt to feed that hunger. Verne leaned into what at the time were cutting-edge theories in geology that asserted that the earth evolved over a long span of time rather than being made in a day, as stated in the Bible. One of the geological theories that the book draws inspiration from is called the Hollow-Earth theory, which posited, as the name implies, that the earth was hollow in the center. According to this theory, it would have been possible for the deep, inner parts of the earth to be explored, as Otto, Axel, and Hans do.

What makes this novel an early work of science fiction is its attempt to be as scientifically accurate as possible. There is no magic in this imagined world, and the professor does what he can to provide a logical scientific explanation for everything they see, from why there is light in this underground world to why their path through a cave is blocked by rocks.

However, such events as three explorers being spewed safely out of the earth's center via a volcanic eruption would be entirely impossible. In addition, much of the science of the 1860s is now known to be mistaken.

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Is Journey to the Center of the Earth real?

Journey to the Center of the Earth is not at all based on real events. In its day, the book was considered a "voyage extraordinaire," something quite close to a fantasy adventure. (It must be remembered that science fiction as modern readers know it was only just starting to develop in the nineteenth century, beginning with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1818.)

However, the novel was inspired by actual scientific interests and discoveries from Jules Verne's time. The theories of scientists such as Charles Darwin were making major waves in both the scientific world and the overall culture of the Victorian era by presenting strange new ideas that challenged the traditional Judeo-Christian view of the natural world and how human beings came to exist. Paleontology was also a major interest in the nineteenth century, hence the presence of prehistoric creatures in the subterranean world the main characters explore in Verne's novel.

Interestingly, it was originally assumed that Verne's novel would only hold interest for child readers, since the idea of a journey to the center of the earth seemed fantastical. However, Verne's commitment to the scientific knowledge of his day ensured the story would hold the attention of an adult readership as well.

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