John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (expounded "Hollow Earth theory")

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John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (expounded "Hollow Earth theory")'s Geni Profile

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John Cleves Symmes

Also Known As: "John Cleves Symmes", "Jr."
Birthplace: Sussex County, New Jersey, United States
Death: May 28, 1829 (48)
Immediate Family:

Son of Timothy Symmes, Jr. and Anna Mercy Symmes
Husband of Susan Symmes and Mary Ann Symmes
Father of Americus Symmes
Brother of Mary E. Moore; Juliana Reeder; Timothy Iii Symmes and Peyton Short Symmes
Half brother of Celadon Symmes; Daniel Symmes and William Symmes

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About John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (expounded "Hollow Earth theory"),_Jr.

John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1779 – May 1829) was an American army officer whose 1818 Hollow Earth theory, expounded on the lecture circuit, gained him considerable notoriety.


Symmes was born in New Jersey to Timothy Symmes. In some local dealings he used the name Junior to distinguish himself from his prominent uncle John Cleves Symmes. His cousin, Anna Harrison briefly served as First Lady of the United States. He died in May 1829 and is buried in Symmes Park at Hamilton, Ohio. His son, Americus Symmes, erected a Hollow Earth monument above his grave.

He joined the United States Army in 1802 and rose to the rank of Captain during the War of 1812. He was stationed along the Canadian frontier, at both Fort Niagara and Fort Erie.

His 1818 theory of a Hollow Earth, envisioning a shell about 1250 km (800 mi) thick, with openings at both poles about 2200 km (1400 mi) across with four inner shells also open at the poles, made his name famous/notorious.

Some have claimed he was the real author of: Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, ISBN 0-405-06312-1, which was attributed to "Captain Adam Seaborn". A recent reprint gives him as the author. Other researchers argue against this idea. Some think it was written as a satire of Symmes' ideas, and believe they identified the author as an early American writer named Nathaniel Ames who wrote other works, including one that might have served as the inspiration of Moby Dick. (see Lang, Hans-Joachim and Benjamin Lease. "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathanial Ames" New England Quarterly, June 1975, pg 241-252.)

Symmes himself never wrote a book of his ideas, as he was too busy expounding them on the lecture circuit, but others did. His follower James McBride wrote Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres in 1826. Another follower, Jeremiah N. Reynolds apparently had an article that was published as a separate booklet in 1827: Remarks of Symmes' Theory Which Appeared in the American Quarterly Review. In 1868 a professor W.F. Lyons published The Hollow Globe which put forth a Symmes-like Hollow Earth theory, but did not mention Symmes. Symmes's son Americus then published The Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres to set the record straight.


Compare a fictional echo of Symmes in Ian Wedde's Symmes Hole (1987); and a focus on both Symmes and Reynolds in James Chapman's Our Plague: A Film From New York (1993).

John Cleves Symmes also makes an appearance in Rudy Rucker's steampunk novel, The Hollow Earth.

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John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (expounded "Hollow Earth theory")'s Timeline

November 5, 1780
Sussex County, New Jersey, United States
November 2, 1811
May 28, 1829
Age 48