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Nicolaus Copernicus

Birthdate: 19. February 1473
Date of death: 24. May 1543
Other names: Nikolaus Kopernikus

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance-era polymath whose theory of the universe placed the Sun rather than Earth at the center of the universe, in all likelihood independently of Aristarchus of Samos, who had articulated similar ideas some eighteen centuries earlier.The publication of Copernicus' book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium , just before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making a pioneering contribution to the Scientific Revolution.Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been part of the Kingdom of Poland since 1466. A polyglot and polymath, he obtained a doctorate in canon law and was also a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat, and economist. In 1517 he derived the quantity theory of money—a key concept in monetary economics—and in 1519 he formulated an economic principle that later came to be called Gresham's law. Wikipedia

Works

„Thus, supposing these motions which I attribute to the earth“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Preface Letter to Pope Paul III as quoted by Edwin Arthur Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: When, therefore, I had long considered this uncertainty of traditional mathematics, it began to weary me that no more definite explanation of the movement of the world-machine established in our behalf by the best and most systematic builder of all, existed among the philosophers who had studied so exactly in other respects the minutest details in regard to the sphere. Wherefore I took upon myself the task of re-reading the books of all the philosophers which I could obtain, to seek out whether any one had ever conjectured that the motions of the spheres of the universe were other than they supposed who taught mathematics in the schools. And I found first, that, according to Cicero, Nicetas [assumed by modern editors to mean Hicetas] had thought the earth was moved. Then later I discovered, according to Plutarch, that certain others had held the same opinion.... When from this, therefore, I had conceived its possibility, I myself also began to meditate upon the mobility of the earth. And although the opinion seemed absurd, yet because I knew the liberty had been accorded to others before me of imagining whatsoever circles they pleased to explain the phenomena of the stars, I thought I also might readily be allowed to experiment whether, by supposing the earth to have some motion, stronger demonstrations than those of the others could be found as to the revolution of the celestial sphere. Thus, supposing these motions which I attribute to the earth later on in this book, I found at length by much and long observation, that if the motions of the other planets were added to the rotation of the earth and calculated as for the revolution of that planet, not only the phenomena of the others followed from this, but also it so bound together both the order and magnitude of all the planets and the spheres and the heaven itself, that in no single part could one thing be altered without confusion among the other parts and in all the universe. Hence for this reason in the course of this work I have followed this system.

„If perchance there should be foolish speakers who“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Preface Letter to Pope Paul III as quoted by Edwin Arthur Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: Nor do I doubt that skilled and scholarly mathematicians will agree with me if, what philosophy requires from the beginning, they will examine and judge, not casually but deeply, what I have gathered together in this book to prove these things.... Mathematics is written for mathematicians, to whom these my labours, if I am not mistaken, will appear to contribute something.... What... I may have achieved in this, I leave to the decision of your Holiness especially, and to all other learned mathematicians.... If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon themselves to decide concerning these things, and because of some place in the Scriptures wickedly distorted to their purpose, should dare to assail this my work, they are of no importance to me, to such an extent do I despise their judgment as rash.

„Nor could they elicit or deduce from the eccentrics the principal consideration, that is, the structure of the universe and the true symmetry of its parts.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Preface Letter to Pope Paul III, Tr. E. Rosen, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (1978) pp. 4-7.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: Those who devised the eccentrics seen thereby in large measure to have solved the problem of apparent motions with approximate calculations. But meanwhile they introduced a good many ideas which apparently contradict the first principles of uniform motion. Nor could they elicit or deduce from the eccentrics the principal consideration, that is, the structure of the universe and the true symmetry of its parts. On the contrary, their experience was just like someone taking from various places hands, feet, a head, and other pieces, very well depicted it may be, but for the representation of a single person; since these fragments would not belong to one another at all, a monster rather than a man would be put together from them.

„I am not so enamored of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them. I am aware that a philosopher's ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God. Yet I hold that completely erroneous views should be shunned.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Preface
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Original: (la) Neque enim ita mihi mea placent, ut non perpendam, quid alii de illis iudicaturi sint. Et quamvis sciam, hominis philosophi cogitationes esse remotas à iudicio vulgi, propterea quòd illius studium sit veritatem omnibus in rebus, quatenus id à Deo rationi humanæ permissum est, inquirere, tamen alienas prorsus à rectitudine opiniones fugiendas censeo. Itaque cum mecum ipse cogitarem, quàm absurdum ἀκρόαμα existimaturi essent illi, qui multorum seculorum iudiciis hanc opinionem confirmatam norunt, quòd terra immobilis in medio cœli, tanquam centrum illius posita sit, si ego contra assererem terram moveri...
Context: For I am not so enamored of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them. I am aware that a philosopher's ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God. Yet I hold that completely erroneous views should be shunned. Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the middle of the heaven as its center would, I reflected, regard it as an insane pronouncement if I made the opposite assertion that the earth moves.

„Mathematics is written for mathematicians“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus

Translation as quoted in The Gradual Acceptance of the Copernican Theory of the Universe (1917) by Dorothy Stimson, p. 115
Context: If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon themselves to decide concerning these things, and because of some place in the Scriptures wickedly distorted to their purpose, should dare to assail this my work, they are of no importance to me, to such an extent do I despise their judgment as rash. For it is not unknown that Lactantius, the writer celebrated in other ways but very little in mathematics, spoke somewhat childishly of the shape of the earth when he derided those who declared the earth had the shape of a ball. So it ought not to surprise students if such should laugh at us also. Mathematics is written for mathematicians to whom these our labors, if I am not mistaken, will appear to contribute something even to the ecclesiastical state the headship of which your Holiness now occupies. (Author's preface to de revolutionibus) http://la.wikisource.org/wiki/Pagina:Nicolai_Copernici_torinensis_De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium.djvu/8

„If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon themselves to decide concerning these things, and because of some place in the Scriptures wickedly distorted to their purpose, should dare to assail this my work, they are of no importance to me, to such an extent do I despise their judgment as rash.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus

Translation as quoted in The Gradual Acceptance of the Copernican Theory of the Universe (1917) by Dorothy Stimson, p. 115
Context: If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon themselves to decide concerning these things, and because of some place in the Scriptures wickedly distorted to their purpose, should dare to assail this my work, they are of no importance to me, to such an extent do I despise their judgment as rash. For it is not unknown that Lactantius, the writer celebrated in other ways but very little in mathematics, spoke somewhat childishly of the shape of the earth when he derided those who declared the earth had the shape of a ball. So it ought not to surprise students if such should laugh at us also. Mathematics is written for mathematicians to whom these our labors, if I am not mistaken, will appear to contribute something even to the ecclesiastical state the headship of which your Holiness now occupies. (Author's preface to de revolutionibus) http://la.wikisource.org/wiki/Pagina:Nicolai_Copernici_torinensis_De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium.djvu/8

„Finally we shall place the Sun himself at the center of the Universe.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus

As quoted in The Copernican Revolution : Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (1957) by Thomas S. Kuhn
Context: Finally we shall place the Sun himself at the center of the Universe. All this is suggested by the systematic procession of events and the harmony of the whole Universe, if only we face the facts, as they say, "with both eyes open."

„Mathematics is written for mathematicians, to whom these my labours“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Preface Letter to Pope Paul III as quoted by Edwin Arthur Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: Nor do I doubt that skilled and scholarly mathematicians will agree with me if, what philosophy requires from the beginning, they will examine and judge, not casually but deeply, what I have gathered together in this book to prove these things.... Mathematics is written for mathematicians, to whom these my labours, if I am not mistaken, will appear to contribute something.... What... I may have achieved in this, I leave to the decision of your Holiness especially, and to all other learned mathematicians.... If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon themselves to decide concerning these things, and because of some place in the Scriptures wickedly distorted to their purpose, should dare to assail this my work, they are of no importance to me, to such an extent do I despise their judgment as rash.

„At rest, however, in the middle of everything is the sun.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Alternate translation: Then in the middle of all stands the sun. For who, in our most beautiful temple, could set this light in another or better place, than that from which it can at once illuminate the whole? Not to speak of the fact that not unfittingly do some call it the light of the world, others the soul, still others the governor. Tremigistus calls it the visible God; Sophocles' Electra, the All-seer. And in fact does the sun, seated on his royal throne, guide his family of planets as they circle round him.
Book 1, Ch. 10, Alternate translation as quoted in Edwin Arthur Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: At rest, however, in the middle of everything is the sun. For, in this most beautiful temple, who would place this lamp in another or better position than that from which it can light up the whole thing at the same time? For, the sun is not inappropriately called by some people the lantern of the universe, its mind by others, and its ruler by still others. The Thrice Greatest labels it a visible god, and Sophocles' Electra, the all-seeing. Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it.

„Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Alternate translation: Then in the middle of all stands the sun. For who, in our most beautiful temple, could set this light in another or better place, than that from which it can at once illuminate the whole? Not to speak of the fact that not unfittingly do some call it the light of the world, others the soul, still others the governor. Tremigistus calls it the visible God; Sophocles' Electra, the All-seer. And in fact does the sun, seated on his royal throne, guide his family of planets as they circle round him.
Book 1, Ch. 10, Alternate translation as quoted in Edwin Arthur Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: At rest, however, in the middle of everything is the sun. For, in this most beautiful temple, who would place this lamp in another or better position than that from which it can light up the whole thing at the same time? For, the sun is not inappropriately called by some people the lantern of the universe, its mind by others, and its ruler by still others. The Thrice Greatest labels it a visible god, and Sophocles' Electra, the all-seeing. Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it.

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„So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the most excellent Almighty.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

End of Ch. 10<!-- quoted in The Advancement of Science, and Its Burdens (1986) by p. 232 -->; the "Congregation of the Index" (the official inquisition censors) declared<!-- on 15 May 1620 --> that the last sentence of this statement was one of eleven passages which should be removed from the work, in this case because it was perceived as implying that God designed things in accord with the Copernican system, rather than that of Ptolemy.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: The forward and backward arcs appear greater in Jupiter than in Saturn and smaller than in Mars, and on the other hand greater in Venus than in Mercury. This reversal in direction appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and also more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury. Moreover, when Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars rise at sunset, they are nearer to the earth than when they set in the evening or appear at a later hour. But Mars in particular, when it shines all night, seems to equal Jupiter in size, being distinguished only by its reddish color. Yet in the other configurations it is found barely among the stars of the second magnitude, being recognized by those who track it with assiduous observations. All these phenomena proceed from the same cause, which is the earth's motion.
Yet none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars. This proves their immense height, which makes even the sphere of the annual motion, or its reflection, vanish from before our eyes. For, every visible object has some measure of distance beyond which it is no longer seen, as is demonstrated in optics. From Saturn, the highest of the planets, to the sphere of the fixed stars there is an additional gap of the largest size. This is shown by the twinkling lights of the stars. By this token in particular they are distinguished from the planets, for there had to be a very great difference between what moves and what does not move. So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the most excellent Almighty.

„All these phenomena proceed from the same cause, which is the earth's motion.
Yet none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

End of Ch. 10<!-- quoted in The Advancement of Science, and Its Burdens (1986) by p. 232 -->; the "Congregation of the Index" (the official inquisition censors) declared<!-- on 15 May 1620 --> that the last sentence of this statement was one of eleven passages which should be removed from the work, in this case because it was perceived as implying that God designed things in accord with the Copernican system, rather than that of Ptolemy.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: The forward and backward arcs appear greater in Jupiter than in Saturn and smaller than in Mars, and on the other hand greater in Venus than in Mercury. This reversal in direction appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and also more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury. Moreover, when Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars rise at sunset, they are nearer to the earth than when they set in the evening or appear at a later hour. But Mars in particular, when it shines all night, seems to equal Jupiter in size, being distinguished only by its reddish color. Yet in the other configurations it is found barely among the stars of the second magnitude, being recognized by those who track it with assiduous observations. All these phenomena proceed from the same cause, which is the earth's motion.
Yet none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars. This proves their immense height, which makes even the sphere of the annual motion, or its reflection, vanish from before our eyes. For, every visible object has some measure of distance beyond which it is no longer seen, as is demonstrated in optics. From Saturn, the highest of the planets, to the sphere of the fixed stars there is an additional gap of the largest size. This is shown by the twinkling lights of the stars. By this token in particular they are distinguished from the planets, for there had to be a very great difference between what moves and what does not move. So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the most excellent Almighty.

„The forward and backward arcs appear greater in Jupiter than in Saturn and smaller than in Mars, and on the other hand greater in Venus than in Mercury.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

End of Ch. 10<!-- quoted in The Advancement of Science, and Its Burdens (1986) by p. 232 -->; the "Congregation of the Index" (the official inquisition censors) declared<!-- on 15 May 1620 --> that the last sentence of this statement was one of eleven passages which should be removed from the work, in this case because it was perceived as implying that God designed things in accord with the Copernican system, rather than that of Ptolemy.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Context: The forward and backward arcs appear greater in Jupiter than in Saturn and smaller than in Mars, and on the other hand greater in Venus than in Mercury. This reversal in direction appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and also more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury. Moreover, when Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars rise at sunset, they are nearer to the earth than when they set in the evening or appear at a later hour. But Mars in particular, when it shines all night, seems to equal Jupiter in size, being distinguished only by its reddish color. Yet in the other configurations it is found barely among the stars of the second magnitude, being recognized by those who track it with assiduous observations. All these phenomena proceed from the same cause, which is the earth's motion.
Yet none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars. This proves their immense height, which makes even the sphere of the annual motion, or its reflection, vanish from before our eyes. For, every visible object has some measure of distance beyond which it is no longer seen, as is demonstrated in optics. From Saturn, the highest of the planets, to the sphere of the fixed stars there is an additional gap of the largest size. This is shown by the twinkling lights of the stars. By this token in particular they are distinguished from the planets, for there had to be a very great difference between what moves and what does not move. So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the most excellent Almighty.

„What indeed is more beautiful than heaven, which of course contains all things of beauty.“

—  Nicolaus Copernicus, book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

Introduction to Book 1, as quoted/translated by Edward Rosen, Nicholas Copernicus on the Revolutions (1978) ed. Jerzy Dobrzycki, Edward Rosen.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)

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