The Influence of Copernicus on Astronomy

Thanks to inventions, such as the printing press, the spread of information regarding all sorts of sciences was able to affect more and more people. In the past, books were handwritten, which meant that they were too expensive for everyone to own. Because of the printing press, the average man was able to afford a book. By this time, the majority of educated people knew that the earth was in the shape of a sphere.

Copernicus (1473-1543) was an astronomer during the Renaissance, who had a different way of thought. He wondered if there could be a different arrangement of the planets that strayed from the concentric system. After studying Aristarchus’s heliocentric ideas, Copernicus expanded upon his thoughts and constructed a new system where all the planets, including earth, orbited the sun. Each of the orbits was in the shape of a circle with the sun positioned at the center.

Copernicus studied the subject for nearly 40 years and finally published a book in 1543 titled, “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs.” The book came out during the same year that he died; therefore, he was never able to prove his ideas. However, other scholars would use his ideas couple with new finds in physics to make other advancements in astronomy.

When Copernicus’s book came out, it was surrounded by controversy. One of the first people to voice their opinions against the book was Martin Luther, who said that Copernicus was “the fool who would overthrow the whole science of astronomy.” Since the heliocentric system seemed to go against scriptural revelations, religious leaders did not embrace the theories of Copernicus. Even the publisher felt the need to cover himself by inserting an apologetic note to the readers of his book implying that the ideas were hard-to-believe.

Since the heliocentric theory went against the ideas of the church, being in agreement with Copernicus’s ideas was punishable as heresy. Because of this, most of the people belonging to the scientific community feared to agree with Copernicus’ ideas. Sadly, a philosopher named Giordano Bruno committed this “crime” and burned at the stake for his support. Unfortunately, his ideas were not without imperfections. Copernicus believed that the planets moved in perfect circles and to prove this theory, he inserted some epicycles and other mathematical structures into his theory, which made it just as inaccurate as other thinkers before him. Despite some of the imperfections in his ideas, Copernicus made huge strides in the world of astronomy.

3 Facts About Copernicus

1. Copernicus was not only a astronomer, but he also dabbled in medicine, translation, art, politics, economy, and military affairs.

2. Evidence suggests that Copernicus fluently spoke Latin, German, and Polish. Other languages that he could speak were Greek and Italian. The majority of Copernicus’ work that has survived was written in Latin , the prominent language of Europe.

3. Although it seems that he showed no interest in astrology, it is believed that Copernicus may have studied astrology since it was considered a significant part of a medical education during his time.