1543: On the Revolutions of Celestial Spheres

The Earth-centered universe was the prevailing wisdom of Medieval Europe until a Polish scholar named Nicolaus Copernicus suggested otherwise in his 1543 book, On the Revolutions of Celestial Spheres.  Copernicus was not the first person to suggest a heliocentric model of the universe, 1800 years prior Aristarkhos of Samos suggested this same idea, however that idea was never able to compete with the geocentric model championed by Ptolemy and laid out in his treatise known as the Algamest, which was to become the dominate cosmology of Europe for over a millennia.  

I therefore took this opportunity and also began to consider the possibility that the Earth moved. Although it seemed an absurd opinion, nevertheless, because I knew that others before me had been granted the liberty of imagining whatever circles they wished to represent the phenomena of the stars, I thought that I likewise would readily be allowed to test whether, by assuming some motion of the Earth’s, more dependable representations than theirs could be found for the revolutions of the heavenly spheres. – Nicolaus Copernicus

The book was published in the same year of Copernicus’ death, just before he died.  It is believed that Copernicus had refused to publish his ideas earlier due to fear of persecution from the Catholic Church, and the books dedication to Pope Paul III was in attempt to assuage the church.  Sadly, this yet another tragic example of dogmatic religion hindering the progress of truth, knowledge and the advancement of science.

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