NICOLAS COPERNICUS


Although trained in the law and medicine, Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) was more interested in astronomy and math. By the early 1500s, he realized that Ptolemyís system for calculating the positions of the planets was much too cumbersome. He decided that the computations would be far simpler if the Sun were placed at the center of the universe instead of Earth, and he worked out the details. Although he shared his ideas with many European intellectuals, he bided his time before publishingóprobably a smart idea because he was a canon in a cathedral, where his explosive ideas would not have been popular.

       His book detailing the heliocentric modelóDE REVOLUTIONIBUS ORBIUM COELESTIUM,  or THE REVOLUTION OF THE HEAVENLY ORBSófinally appeared in print in 1543, the year he died. He dedicated it to Pope Paul III, and a preface was added (without the knowledge of Copernicus) saying that the theory was intended only for making the calculations of planetary positions easier and not meant to be a statement of reality. It must have workedóit didnít make the list of banned books until 1616. The title also helped give a new meaning to the word ìrevolution,î which previously referred only to the motion of celestial bodies but has since taken on political overtones.
 

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Keplerís Universe