“Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the middle of the heavens as its center, would, I reflected, regard it as an insane pronouncement if I made the opposite assertion that the earth moves.”
The Renaissance was in full bloom when Nicolas Copernicus was born February 1473, in Royal Prussia, a region of the Kingdom of Poland. He became a priest and astronomer, a man of faith and science.
Centuries had passed since Ptolemy had written the Almagest; it is likely that Ptolemy would have been pleased to know that another person had embraced his passion and added to the accumulated knowledge. The status quo, however, was quite content to accept the concepts that dated back to Aristotle, and Ptolemy. Ironically, it was Copernicus’s religious background which led him to question Ptolemy’s accepted geocentric model, which viewed earth as the centre of the cosmos around which everything else revolved. Wouldn’t it be more logical, simpler and elegant to have everything revolve around the sun? .
Copernicus literally used a cathedral to advance his studies, observing the stars from a bell tower. Over the years, he became convinced that he was correct. Between 1510 and 1514 he drafted “Commentariolus,” his initial exposition of the theory, giving it only to his friends. For the next twenty years, he continued his work, but refused to publish his findings. Yet, the idea was spreading across Europe and gaining notoriety.
In 1543, the year of his death, Copernicus’s “On the Revolutions of Celestial Spheres” was published only to be rejected for being too radical. Ideas have a way of living, of igniting firestorms. Other stargazers, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, would be drawn to the flame. The journey would continue.
“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”