Michael Johnathan McDonald.
Significance: A New Celestial World
Copernicus (born February 19, 1473 – died May 24, 1543) was a Polish astronomer
of German origin, who is remembered for providing the first modern formulation
of a heliocentric (Sun-centered) theory of the solar system in De revolutionibus
orbium coelestium. Copernicus worked as a church canon, governor, administrator,
mathematician, economist, jurist, physician and astrologer. Amid all his
responsibilities, he treated astronomy as a hobby"(Columbia ; Britannica).
Copernicus, attached geometrics to the principle of uniform circular motion
which included the earth creating a new field of thought of a natural motion of
the spheres. Copernicus, during his time was considered an avid believer and
practitioner in astrology. Only a one-hundred years later he became myth by
society's invention as the great astronomer of the middle ages. "...1543,
Nicholas Copernicus proposed to increase the accuracy and simplicity of
astronomical theory by transferring the sun's many astronomical functions
previously attributed to the earth" ( Kuhn XIII).
Original name: Mikolaj Kopernik or Nicolaus Koppernigk
Father's name : Nicolaus Koppernigk, business trading in copper in Torun, a
civic leader in Torun and a magistrate.
Married Barbara Watzenrode, a wealthy citizen.
Stats: Four children, two sons and two daughters, of whom Nicolaus
Copernicus was the youngest. (St Andrews).
young Nicolaus was ten years old his father died. His uncle Lucas Watzenrode,
who was a canon at Frauenburg Cathedral, became guardian to Nicolaus and Barbara
Koppernigk's four children(St Andrews).
A university education at Krakow
provided him in his own words the education he needed to achieve his goals (St
scientific courses of the middle ages which were mathematics courses which
introduced Aristotle and Ptolemy's view of the universe so that students could
understand the calendar, calculate the dates of holy days, and also have skills
that would enable those who would follow a more practical profession to navigate
at sea. Also taught as a major part of astronomy was what today we would call
astrology, teaching students to calculate horoscopes of people from the exact
time of their birth. He learnt his astronomy from Tractatus de Sphaera by
Johannes de Sacrobosco written in 1220…Printed in Venice in 1492, and
Regiomontanus's Tables of Directions (a work on spherical
astronomy) published in Augsburg in 1490. Remarkably Copernicus's copies of
these works, signed by him, are still preserved (St Andrews).
Around 1514 he distributed a little
book, not printed but hand written, to a few of his friends who knew that he was
the author even though no author is named on the title page. This book, usually
called the Little Commentary, set out Copernicus's theory of a universe
with the sun at its centre. The Little Commentary is a fascinating
document. It contains seven axioms which Copernicus gives, not in the sense that
they are self evident, but in the sense that he will base his conclusions on
these axioms and nothing else. What are the axioms? Let us state them:
There is no one centre in the universe.
The Earth's centre is not the centre of the universe.
centre of the universe is near the sun.
The distance from the Earth to the sun is
imperceptible compared with the distance to the stars.
The rotation of the Earth accounts for the apparent daily rotation of the
The apparent annual cycle of movements of the sun is caused by the Earth
revolving round it.
apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the motion of the Earth
from which one observes.
was famous for its medical school and while he was there Copernicus studied both
medicine and astronomy. (St Andrews).
Copernicus fame results from a moral courage to go against the doctrinal
authority of the Church, which ruled the minds of the populous and that the
Earth was the center of the Universe and therefore, the most important
factory in human legitimacy.
Copernicus got rid of the equant circles. In doing so,
Copernicus replaced it by supplementary epicycles.
Therefore: A General View, Copernicus' Universe remains more complicated
Copernicus' wealth created the leisure time required to tackle the extreme
difficulty of restructuring a Solar System. He spent decades revising and
rethinking his master work on a heliocentric universe.
to argue his case.
Inferior planets elongations
was not a mathematician in the sense of Kepler's expertise. He simply used
Ptolemy's figures but changed the foci points.
attached the rule, or principle. of uniform circular motion., and he
regarded it as the basis of his celestial mechanics (Koyré,59).
Circular motion is caused by circular objects, he thinks? Bodies revolve
because they are round. Aristotle thought so too, but Aristotle remained
convinced that one needed a physical center to achieve this result.
Aristotle believed the velocity of each planet was constant with every
planet but the distance factored in the slower revolution period around the
earth. "Aristotle stated this in De Coelo, Lib. II, cap. 10; and
Ptolemy agreed" (Koyré 150). Copernicus was in perfect agreement with this
said system (Koyré 150). Kelper, however, asked the hard questions that the
others did not want to face, or mere fact they didn't think to ask.
Therefore the concept of astronomy needed changing. "...Equal (orbital)
velocities, do not agree with the facts." "Periods of revolution are not
directly proportional to the distance" (Koyré 150).
Copernicus is, so to speak, a mid-path between pure kinematics and
dynamics, and that is why ( Ptolemy) he had no need to put anything
whatever at the center of his celestial bodies or spheres; not even the sun"
kinematics? "The branch of mechanics that studies the motion of a body or
a system of bodies without consideration given to its mass or the forces acting
on it" (The American Heritage ).
dynamics? The branch of mechanics that is concerned with the effects of
forces on the motion of a body or system of bodies, especially of forces that do
not originate within the system itself(The American Heritage ).
"...Copernicus places the Sun at the center of the Universe, he does not place
it at the center of the celestial motions: neither the center of the Earth's
sphere nor that of the planetary sphere is placed in the Sun, but only
near it, and the planetary motions are referred not to the Sun, but the
center of the Earth's sphere --- eccentric with respect to the Sun. The center
of the terrestrial sphere certainly revolves around the Sun; it is placed on a
small epicycle whose deferent as the Sun for center, but its motion is so slow
--- the epicycles make one revolution in 3434 years and the deferent in 53,000
years -- that for practical purposes, it does not enter into the calculations.
as a result we have paradox, that the celestial mechanics of Copernicus
the Sun plays a very unobtrusive part. It is so unobtrusive that we might say
that it plays no part whatsoever. Its purpose is quite different: It gives light
to the Universe, and that is all" (Koyré 59, 65).
Geometrization of the concept of
form places the Earth amongst the stars, and raises it, so to speak
, into the heavens. (Koyré, 59)
Copernicus didn't invent a new mathematical system for his universe. He
just basically made some adjustments, such as getting rid of the "equants
for the planets"k1, and swapping the center of the Universe with
the sun in exchange from the earth. He made roughly only about 60-70 naked
eye observations which he got many things wrong.
1514 he made his Commentariolus — a short handwritten text describing
his ideas about the heliocentric hypothesis — available to friends.
Copernicus wasn't going to publish his
finding due to uncertainty of some of his findings and the fact of society
peer pressure, especially the common people Some in the church who were
apprised to his work had no problem because of his professed hypothesis and
not stating this is a fact that the earth is not the center of the universe.
There is one man to thank.
Georg Joachim Rheticus, was a young professor of mathematics and
astronomy at the University of Wittenberg (St Andrews).
Georg Joachim Rheticus, his student, advocated for Copernicus and for a
printing of the work of De Rev. He wrote on his hypothesis and sent
letters to people. This helped to get the word out about this new finding.
He probably helped out in alerting the ones who knew like Maestlin, who
could understand its dynamics and thus be able to pass it along in academia.
Rheticus believed Copernicus was following Plato and Pythagoreans divine
1542, in Copernicus' name, Rheticus published a treatise on trigonometry
(later included in the second book of De revolutionibus). Under strong
pressure from Rheticus, and having seen that the first general reception of
his work had not been unfavorable, Copernicus finally agreed to give the
book to his close friend Tiedemann Giese, bishop of Chełmno (Kulm), to be
delivered to Rheticus for printing in Nuremberg (Nürnberg).
There is no autobiography by him, meaning that we do not know what
went through his mind when forming his works. However, "the Narratio
Prima helps us to understand the mind of Copernicus..." (Khun 32).
Prima " was nearly always included with editions of De Revolutionibus
Oribium Coelestium we find not only an excellent and very able introduction
to Copernican astronomy and some very important biographical information,
but also a very curious astrological account of historical events consequent
upon variations in the eccentricity of the Earth's circle." (Khun 30).
Copernicus Historical Astrology
says, ' when the eccentricity of the Sun reached its maximum, the Roman
government became a monarchy; and when the eccentricity had reached its limit,
the quadrant of the mean value, the Mohammedan faith was established; another
great empire was created and rapidly increased with the change in eccentricity.
A hundred years hence, when the eccentricity will be at its minimum, the empire
too will come to an end. In out time, it is at its zenith, from which , God
willing, it will fall just as rapidly [ as it rose], and it will fall with a
violent crash. We wait the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ when the center of
the eccentric reaches the other limit of the mean value, for it is in that
position at the creation of the world. This calculation gives the result which
hardly differs form saying of Elijah, who prophesied under divine inspiration
that the world will endure only for 6000 years, during which time nearly two
revolutions are completed. It appears, therefore, that the small circle is
verily the Wheel of Fortune, in virtue of whose revolutions the kingdoms of this
world have their beginnings and vicissitudes.' (Khun 33).
Narratio Prima was well received. " Once the Narratio Prima
was published there was not need to delay the publication of De Revolutionibus
Oribium Coelestium...Copernicus received the first printed copy on his
deathbed, 24, May 1543." (Khun 35).
Osiander in a preface, made it clear that Copernicus's word was purely a
hypothesis, and not fact. This, he claims was to ward off the Church's
watch-dogs, and not get condemned.
Osiander and Copernicus didn't really get along. He asked Osiander not to
put in a Preface that he Osiander wrote.
"Some are appalled at this gigantic piece of deception by Osiander, as
Rheticus was at the time, others feel that it was only because of Osiander's
Preface that Copernicus's work was read and not immediately condemned." (St
placed a motionless sun not at the centre of the universe, but close to the
centre, and also involved giving several distinct motions to the Earth. The
problem that Copernicus faced was that he assumed all motion was circular so,
like Ptolemy, was forced into using epicycles . It was consequently considered
implausible by the most of his contemporaries, and by most astronomers and
natural philosophers until the middle of the seventeenth century. In the
intended Preface of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Copernicus showed
that he was fully aware of the criticisms that his work would attract:-
Perhaps there will be
babblers who, although completely ignorant of mathematics, nevertheless take
it upon themselves to pass judgement on mathematical questions and, badly
distorting some passages of Scripture to their purpose, will dare find fault
with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent as
despising their criticism as unfounded. "(St Andrews).
Nature verses Geometry
old argument that bodies not in contact with the Earth - clouds , birds --
should 'remain behind' in case of a rotating Earth, or that a body thrown up
vertically would never fall again to the place whence it was thrown, Copernicus
replied that these bodies, being ' terrestrial' and consequently sharing the
nature of earth, share also its 'natural' motion of rotation which coexists
within them together with their own proper motion". (koyre 57)
Copernicus, attached geometrics to the principle of uniform circular motion
which included the earth creating a new field of thought of a natural motion
of the spheres. Why was this important?
Aristotle and Ptolemy, and many more people before Galileo and Descartes,
understood the distinction between the 'violent motion' verses the 'natural
motion' argument, but Copernicus assets that the same laws apply to the
heavens as well as the earth. ( Kore 57).
"1543, Nicholas Copernicus proposed to
increase the accuracy and simplicity of astronomical theory by
transferring the sun many astronomical functions previously attributed
to the earth" ( Kuhn XIII).
Copernicus was not a mathematician
according to many investigators. He used Ptolemy's figures and just
swapped the Sun's position for the earth. Therefore he is given the deed
of changing from a geostatic to heliostatic which leaves
the theory precisely unchanged (Koyré, 112).
Home Made Astrolabe
||These are the azimuth lines projected form
the bi-sect of N & K.
||This is a simple homemade astrolabe set up
for a zenith at 38°n, roughly Berkeley, Ca. United States of America.
||This template I created to distribute my declinations
for my ruler (index), and also to map-out my positions of stars on my
War & Pamphlet
The most important
book during the early renaissance till about the 1700s in Europe was the
Almanac. It was said that the two most important books to own remained, first
the Bible, which was handed down generation after generation, and an Almanac
that one needed to purchase the new edition annually.
reached a statistical summit as the wars in England dethroned for a short time
Almanacs were the
best sellers of the old-world. Even Benjamin Franklin, the American diplomat
made his fortune off of these things. Franklin wrote on astrology in the
almanacs too, especially against the demise of his competitors, partly playing
info-war games that did achieve results.
William Lilly preached a proclamation on astrology
against Almanacs. End of Judicial Astrology. Astrologers had no part in
"Rotation of the Trigon of
Great Conjunctions." (See part three and Kepler's significance)
Any one of the corners of the triangle or trigon will move through
30 degrees in about 200 years and completely around the Zodiac in
2400 years. The 20-year conjunction points are roughly one-third of
the Zodiacal Circle around from each other. If the points are
connected, they form a near equilateral triangle within the circle.
Each successive 60-year Great Conjunction occurs an average of about
nine degrees farther down the track, in the forward direction
through the Zodiac, from the previous one. Therefore, the entire
triangle can be thought of as rotating in the forward direction
through the Zodiac in increments of nine degrees every 60 years.
Wallenstein, Albrecht von,
a general in the Thirty-Years War. He was born with a Jupiter/Saturn
conjunction. During his 40th year Jupiter and Saturn rejoined in
conjunction. (( b. September 24 Greg. 1583). about 4:26 pm. Sid.
Time 16:38:21. Hermanice CZ. 15e54.30 50n22 )
Copernicus, during his time
was considered an avid believer and practitioner in astrology. Only
a one-hundred years later he became myth by society's invention as
the great astronomer of the middle ages.
Khun S. Thomas.
The Copernican Revolution 'Planetary Astronomy in the Development of
Western Thought'. by the President of Fellows of Harvard. 1957. r. 1985.
Heilbron, J. L.
Astronomy and Astrology in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Represented
in University of California Berkeley Reader. History 181A. January 2006.
( Astrolabe/23 J. L.
Alden, Terry. The
Mill of Time: 'Celestial Cycles and the Ancient Mythological
Sciences'. see fig. 2. <http://www.technosophy.com/milltime.htm> Feb.
Koyré, Alexander ,
The Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus-Kepler- Borelli 2nd ed. (
Ithaca: Dover Publications, Inc, New York),1992.
McDonald, Michael J.,
Photos of Homemade astrolabe. February 2006.
St Andrews, School
of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Nicolaus
Copernicus , Scotland, Nov. 2002, <http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Copernicus.html>
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000,
Houghton Mifflin Company, <http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=kinematics>
Encyclopedia, .6th ed. 2001-05. <http://www.bartleby.com/65/co/Copernicus.html>
inclined to agree, but it's worth bearing in mind that in medieval
astrology (where they were very keen on the concept of "casting
rays"), planets aspecting the angles were considered important.
and longitudes (azimuth-like).
March 10th, 2006
Copyright © 2006 Michael Johnathan McDonald. Bookoflife.org . All rights