The impact of the Heliocentric Theory Heliocentric: Relating to the sun as acenter; appearing as if seen from the sun’s center.(Webster,447) Theheliocentric theory was first introduced to the world by a Polish astronomernamed Nicolaus Copernicus.
Copernicus published his views on the heliocentrictheory in his book Commentariolus, in 1514, which sparked the time period nowknown as the Copernican Revolution. Heliocentrism was proven true by thediscoveries of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton; through their efforts to prove thevalidity of the heliocentric theory people began to find truth in sciencethrough experimentation rather than religion with no proof. Many scientists wentthrough great ordeals for their scientific beliefs, thus making the heliocentrictheory the most electrifying idea in human history.
Ancient people’s believed inGods and deities for causes to nature and the unexplained. Once the fourthcentury BC rolled around, people began to see “astronomical phenomena”as “natural compound products of simple operations repeated inperpetuity” rather than the actions of Gods. (Morphet, p.6) Greeks did notrevere celestial bodies very strongly in their religion, despite having deitiesfor the Sun and Moon.
(North, p.78) Different peoples beliefs varied greatly inancient times. Different countries progressed in thought at different speeds.During the Renaissance, many began to “toss aside medieval preoccupationswith supernatural forces and turned to secular concerns” like fame.
(Yamasaki,p.50) With the “Age of Discovery,” people began to think forthemselves and ponder truths through philosophy, science, astronomy, astrology,etc. Philosophers’ minds began to turn, the human mind was finally awake. Plato,a famous Greek philosopher, believed stars were Gods that the creator gave lifeto. This view was very influential and proved to be sort of a religion forintellectual idealists, no longer for the populace.
At the time, the thought ofheavenly bodies being divine, and stars being eternal objects in unchangingmotion were common knowledge. Thinking otherwise was considered Atheistic.(North, p.78) Fellow famous Renaissance man, and Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, wasalso a very important figure. Born in Stagira in 384, Aristotle is regarded asthe most influential ancient philosopher of the sciences. Aristotle refinedCallippus’ geometrical and spherical concepts, and developed the geocentrictheory, which was believed for two thousand years.
(North, p.80) Aristotlebelieved that the sphere is the most perfect figure because when rotated to anydiameter it occupies the same space; and that circular motions are a sign ofperfection, which is why Heaven is considered divine. The spherical nature ofthe Earth and Universe according to Aristotle, is the natural movement ofEarthly matter from all places downwards, to a center, around which a sphere ofmatter will build up. “Only circular motion is capable of endlessrepetition without a reversal of direction, and rotary motion is prior to linearbecause what is external, or at least could have always existed, is prior, or atleast potentially prior, to what is not.
” In Aristotle’s book De Caelo (Onthe Heavens), he speaks of the celestial sphere, the Earth’s center being thesame shape, and dismissing the idea of the Earth rotating at the center of theuniverse. He also dismisses the idea of an orbital motion of the Earth. (North,p.81) Contradicting Aristotle, Heracleides, an astronomer, believed in therotation of the Earth on it’s axis and is known to be the earliest astronomer tostand by it. He was thought to have taken the first step in “Copernicanism.”It is believed in the years to follow that Copernicus was said to have mentionedHeracleides’ name in this connection. (North, p.
85) Aristarchus of Samos was thefirst astronomer to clearly put forth a true sun-centered theory, learned fromArchimedes. (North, p.85) “..
.Aristarchus’ hypotheses are that the fixedstars and the Sun are stationary, that the Earth is carried in a circular orbitaround the Sun, which lies in the middle of it’s orbit, and that the spheres offixed stars, having the same center as the Sun, is so great in extent that thecircle on which the Earth is supposedly carried is in the same ratio to thedistance of the sphere has to its surface.” (North, p.85-6) If Aristarchusdid believe in heliocentrism, he still could not prove the differences in theEarth’s motion and seasons, which explains its failure to be accepted.
(North,p.86-7) Although scientists such as Eudoxus, Callippus, and Aristotle all cameup with Earth-centered systems based by providing a center for all motions,Ptolemy was triumphant for he was able to explain sphere sizes and achieved asingle system, which was not done by the others. “When Ptolemy achieved asingle system, the sizes of the shells accommodating maximum and minimumplanetary distances were settled on the principle that there must be no void, nowasted space, between them.” (North, p.285) His misconception was hebelieved that if the Earth was not fixed entirely, it would shatter, even thoughCopernicus reveals that planets’ distances from Earth and motions vary, and thatthe Earth endlessly repeats in motion. (North, p.286) Despite the CatholicChurch adopting Ptolemy’s and Aristotle’s beliefs of geocentrism, those theoriesdid not correspond to the astronomical observations of the time.
(Yamasaki,p.50) The Copernican Revolution began during the European Renaissance and wasnamed after Nicolaus Copernicus. (Morphet, p.4) “.
..this period sawelements of a modern scientific outlook extend its boundaries into areas ofenquiry where observation and measurement had hitherto been less important thanphilosophical speculation and a priori reasoning.” (Morphet, p.4-5)”..
.although the Copernican heliocentric theory dealt directly with thestructure of the solar system, its indirect consequences embraced the wholefabric of thought, inaugurating a breakthrough in people’s outlook on the world.Copernicus liberated the human mind, which had been fettered up to his day bytraditional conventions, and he opposed the basing of science solely on sensoryexperiences. Taking a stand against the entire world of that time and againstthe supreme authority that he recognizedthe church and the Holy Scripture,against the views consolidated and sanctified by the knowledge of scholars ofmany previous centurieshe instilled into the minds of men boldness inthinking, but he also taught them humility in the quest for truth. Copernicus’science of the stars is also a science of man and his place on an Earth which isspinning through the universe.” (Adamczewski, p.
156-7) Copernicuspublished the first outline on heliocentrism in his book Commentary on theHypothesis of the Movement of Celestial Orbs, in 1514. It was the first of itskind, without all of the mathematics. (Adamczewski, p.114) The Copernican theoryexplained the Earth-Sun line and gave a more plausible reason as to why theSun’s role is important in the motions of the Moon and planets in the solarsystem when compared to Ptolemy’s.
“By introducing the Sun into the theoryof motion of every planet, Copernicus made it possible to represent all in asingle system.” (North, p.285) The heliocentric system presented theplanets positions more logically, going around or below the Sun.
It alsoexplained the relative sizes of the planet’s retrograde arcs and whyouter-stellar planets are brightest in opposition. (North, p.287) Society’sreaction to the heliocentric system was not a favorable one. Many people thought”Who would dare to place Copernicus’ authority higher than the HolyScripture?” (Adamczewski, p.148) Believing that the Earth rotates on itsaxis, planets revolve around the Sun, and planetary orbits were elliptical dueto the force of gravity was then thought of as inconceivable. (Morphet, p.4)Copernicus was passionately criticized by colleagues and peers for hisenthusiasm of the ancient philosophers, who were viewed as incorrect.
(Adamczewski,p.141) The only point that Copernicus was trying to makes was that”…
there does not exist any common center for all the celestial orbs orspheres; the center of the Earth is not the center of the universe; but only thecenter of gravity and the center of the Moon’s path; all the planets revolvearound the Sun, which is the center.” (Adamczewski, p.115) As a result ofthe bad reaction towards Copernicus’ views, he hesitated from publishing hisfamous book De Revolutionibus. Copernicus claims that “apprehension of thederision which I had to fear because of the hard-to- understand novelty of mytheory.” (Adamczewski, p.
144) Prior to the March 21, 1543 publication of DeRevolutionibus, a falsifier of Copernicus’ work, Andreas Osiander, added his ownforeword to the book saying that it was ” a fictitious scheme forcalculations,” just an hypothesis. Osiander also had the audacity to changeCopernicus’ title to De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. (Adamczewski, p.
153-4)To free himself from heresy, Copernicus dedicated his book to Pope Paul III:”I am fully aware, Holy Father, that as soon as they hear that in thesevolumes of mine about the revolutions of the spheres of the universe I attributesome sort of motion to the Earth, some persons will immediately raise a cry ofcondemnation against me and my theories.” (Adamczewski, p.152) Ironically,Copernicus’ forward in De Revolutionibus states that “..
.Copernicus’conveys to his contemporaries and to generations to come his new ideas whichwere to prove to be so dangerous to the order then extant.” (Adamczewski,p.137) Little did he know how true his words were. De Revolutionibus consists ofsix volumes: 1)General survey of Copernicus’ system, and plane and sphericaltriangles.
2)Spherical astronomy. 3)The precession and motion of the Earth.4)The Moon. 5)Planets in longitude.
6)Planets in latitude. (North, p.285-6)Despite Copernicus’ book being six volumes it is still similar to Ptolemy’sbook, Almagest. (North, p.286) The Church did not take any definite stand withCopernicus’ booksince it was dedicated to the Pope and thought of only as an”hypothesis” due to the false forward by Osianderuntil theReformation and scientific discoveries like Galileo’s, was it seen as a threatto the power of the Church. (Adamczewski, p.
158) In 1620, Cardinal of St.Cecilia and Bishop Albano, the Secretary of the Congregation placed Copernicus’book on the Index of Prohibited Books, which resulted in Orthodox Catholics notbeing allowed to read it for two centuries. (Adamczewski, p.159) The Age ofDiscovery was not a safe time for any “scientific novelties” whichwere in opposition to the teachings of the Church. Any contradiction to the HolyScripture were “subject to judgement by the Inquisition.” TheInquisito Haereticae Pravitatis, Sanctum Officium was established in 1215. It’smission was to “combat all views and trends which were considered hereticaland anti-church.
All opposers were to face the dungeon, torture, and burning atthe stake. The onset of the Reformation weakened the Inquisition, but only for ashort time until the Church began to fight against it. Victims were adherents ofheretical views, suspects of blasphemy and sacrilege, mainly scholars whoseviews and beliefs did not conform with the dogmas of the Church.
(Adamczewski,p.157) Reactions towards Copernicus’ views and theories had “aroused mushopposition and downright hostility” due to the inability of some tocomprehend Copernicus. They were too “accustomed to hard-and-fastschemas” which was accepted worldly then, written in the Holy Scripture,deemed as “immutable.
” (Adamczewski, p.147) This resulted inCopernicus’ last years being dismal and De Revolutionibus “lain wellhidden.” (Adamczewski, p.148-50) Nicolaus Copernicus died in Frombork onMay 24th, 1543. He was seventy years old and all that is know of his final yearsare hidden in the shadows of Frombork Castle. (Adamczewski, p.
154) NicolausCopernicus was seen as “…the man who set the Earth in motion.”(North, p.
285) “No Genghis Khan, no Napoleon, no emperor nor pope, has hada more radical influence on the history of mankind than NicolausCopernicus.” (Adamczewski, p.7) “Of all the discoveries and opinionsproclaimed nothing surely had made such a deep impression on the human mind asthe science of Copernicus.” (Adamczewski, p. 157) Giordano Bruno, who alsosuffered from the Inquisition for his scientific views as did Galileo, had saidthat “Copernicus had not only moved the Earth but also set in motion theminds of men.” (Adamczewski, p.161) “The Copernican Revolutionconsisted in overcoming the view which had enormous prestige sanctified bycenturies of acceptance as scientific knowledge, in taking up the old idea ofthe heliocentric system, in creating for this Inquisition as ful and rigorous ascientific foundation as was possible with the framework of the time.
..Acceptinga threefold motion of the Earth and placing it in the row of planets, of movingheavenly bodies, Copernicus constructed a new heliocentric models of the worldand laid the foundation for a new vision of the universe.” (Adamczewski,p.156) It did not end there. Three men would later come along to consolidate theCopernican heliocentric system: Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and IsaacNewton. (Adamczewski, p.
158) The key figure in the battle to have the newastronomy accepted by the Church was Galileo Galilei. He “campaigned toreconcile” the Copernican theory with Christianity, which resulted in aprogram defined by Galileo to separate science and faith. (Morphet, p.
5) GalileoGalilei was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1564. Galileo is most known for havinginvented the telescope, an instrument he would later use to find evidence todefend the heliocentric theory. A very opinionated and questioning man for histime, Galileo became unpopular for challenging ancient beliefs and believing inthe Copernican theory. After he had learned of Hans Lippershey, a Dutcheyeglass-maker, inventing a spyglass, Galileo got himself one and altered itmaking the first telescope.
He was now able to see thirty-three times fartherinto the sky. Despite the evidence Galileo was able to show to back up hisdiscoveries, people still refused to believe him. Their ignorance and loyalty tothe old Aristotelian ways was the problem. Through his telescope Galileo sawfeatures if the Moon and endless amounts of stars, but people just thought thathe was being tricked by the Moon.
In 1610, Galileo published his discoveries ina book called Starry Messenger. One of his discoveries being that of Jupiterhaving four Moons! Wow. It was translated and sold all over the world. By theend of that year, he had discovered that Jupiter also had rings, but mostimportantly he discovered that the Sun was the center of the solar systembecause the sunlight on the other planets move across like here on Earth. He nowhad the proof to defend the Copernican heliocentric theory, but would peoplebelieve him? After the 1613 of another book called Letters on Sunspots, PopePaul found Galileo’s book a threat to the Catholic Church.
In 1616, The Popedenounced the Copernican theory, surprising Galileo. During 1626, a group formedand plotted to ruin Galileo. They felt that faith was more important than thetruth of the universe.
The asked Galileo to renounce his belief in heliocentrismand his discoveries because the Bible spoke nothing of his discoveries thereforethey thought them false. Despite the evidence Galileo now had to prove thevalidity of the heliocentric theory, the Church ordered Galileo to speak ofheliocentrism only as an hypothesis even though it was true. Galileo’s thirdbook, Dialogue on the Two Great Systems of the World, was about the Church andscience. Although it was very popular the Pope banned it feeling it was wrongand insulting. The Church now saw his book as heresy and ordered Galileo toappear before the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
Now 68 years old and failingin health, Galileo publicly recanted and admitted his crimes in order to savehis life. He was not able to escape the wrath of the Inquisition and wasconfined to his home for the rest of his life. Seeing that the Inquisition gaveharsher punishments than that, Galileo was glad to receive a light conviction.
Galileo lived to be 78 years old, and died in 1642 due to sickness causing histo be bedridden his last three years. Through Galileo’s experiments anddiscoveries he was able to confirm Copernicus theories, further developedobservational astronomy, and with Kepler, prepared the groundwork for IsaacNewton’s discovery of the Law of Universal Gravitation. (Adamczewski, p.158)BibliographyPrimary North, John. The Norton History of Astronomy ans Cosmology. New York:W.
W. Norton and Company, 1995. Information on the history of astronomy,cosmology, and the important figures who helped to further develop science.Quotes and information were used in my report. Adamczewski, Jan. NicolausCopernicus and His Epoch. Washington DC: Copernicus Society of America, 197-.
Abiography on Nicolaus Copernicus. Information on Copernicus and quotes were usedin my report. Morphet, Clive. Galileo and Copernican Astronomy: A scientificworld view defined. Boston: Buttherworths, 1977.
The influence of Copernicus andGalileo in the history of science. Information and quotes on these two figureswere used in my report. Silverburg, Robert. Four Men Who Changed the Universe.New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968.
Information on four figures who changedscience: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Brahe. Quotes and facts on all four ofthese men were used in my report. “Copernican System.” Passages fromDe Revolutionibus. http://es.rice.
edu/ES/humsoc/Galileo/Things/copernican_system.htmlWebsite containing information on Galileo, and other science-related thingsinvolving Galileo. A picture of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory was used to helpwith the background information to my report. Secondary Sis, Peter. StarryMessenger. New York: Frances Foster Books, 1996.
A pictorial biography ofGalileo Galilei. Information on his life was used for background information tomy report. Yamasaki, Mitch. The Scientific Revolution in Pre-Modern Europe.
Honolulu, Hawaii: National History Day, 1998. An essay on the ScientificRevolution sparked by the introduction of heliocentrism. Information onCopernicus and his influences were used for background information.”Galileo,” Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 96 Encyclopedia.
(c)1993-1995Microsoft Corp. This CD-ROM contained photos and information on Galileo Galilei.Facts on Galileo were used for background information in my report.”Johannes Kepler,” Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia.(c)1993-1997 Microsoft Corp.
This CD-ROM article contained general informationon Kepler. Facts on his impact in science were used in my research. People WhoHave Influenced Our Ideas of the Solar System. http://seds.lpl.
arizona.edu/nineplanets/psc/theman.htmlThis website contained information on key figures in the development ofastronomy. Information on scientists was used in my research.