"De revolutionibus orbium coelestium"

Paper published by Nicolaus Copernicus that proposed the idea of the sun at the center of the universe. This opposed the popular idea of an Earth centered universe first conceived by Aristotle and later "proven" by Ptolemy.

This book sat on my mother’s shelf collecting dust for a long time before I ever picked it up and read it. When I did, I wondered why I had not read it sooner. Oh it had been recommended but ignored, silly me.

On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres is the beginning of modern astronomy. Without this exposition you don’t have much of a big bang theory or black holes and you can pretty much forget about ever getting off of this rock. Nicolaus Copernicus is responsible for getting guys like Galileo, Kepler and Isaac Newton to put on their thinking caps.

Copernicus presents this wonderful idea, that the earth is not the center of the universe but instead revolves around a distant, fixed sun. That the earth spins on its own axis, is not fixed, and was only one of many planets that rotated around the same sun. He rocked the ideas of Aristotle and the proofs of Ptolemy right out of the window.

Back when Copernicus wrote this, his contemporaries made fun of him and outcast him from their scientific circles. The man died, alone, on the day he received the first printed edition of this book. The Catholic Church later banned it in 1616 and it wasn’t reprinted again until the later nineteenth century.

The copy my mother owns is one of the first reprints, with Copernicus’ footnotes left in. At the back of the book, a note from his journal was printed,
Dear Journal,
I have finished my work on the revolutions of the celestial spheres. Regretfully, I will not publish it because the mass of readers cannot handle my heliocentric theory which states that the Earth revolves around the sun and spins on its own axis. Many counter with the erroneous conception that if this were true, people would fly off the Earth. But they would not in reality, because the mass of air travels with them. I have taken the heliocentric view because it eliminates the need for the system of complex circles created by Ptolemy. The heliocentric theory is much simpler and harmonious with geometry than the geocentric one. In supporting the heliocentric theory, which originated in Aristarchus of Samos, I still however, believe that the universe is finite, and the planets move uniformly and circularly. I also remain loyal to the church and will dedicate my book to Pope Paul III.

The journal note pretty much sums up the whole essay.

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