A More Perfect Heaven

A More Perfect Heaven

How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

Book - 2011
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By 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of observations, while compiling in secret a book-length manuscript that tantalized mathematicians and scientists throughout Europe. For fear of ridicule, he refused to publish.

In 1539, a young German mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, drawn by rumors of a revolution to rival the religious upheaval of Martin Luther's Reformation, traveled to Poland to seek out Copernicus. Two years later, the Protestant youth took leave of his aging Catholic mentor and arranged to have Copernicus's manuscript published, in 1543, as De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ( On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres )-the book that forever changed humankind's place in the universe.

In her elegant, compelling style, Dava Sobel chronicles, as nobody has, the conflicting personalities and extraordinary discoveries that shaped the Copernican Revolution. At the heart of the book is her play And the Sun Stood Still , imagining Rheticus's struggle to convince Copernicus to let his manuscript see the light of day. As she achieved with her bestsellers Longitude and Galileo's Daughter , Sobel expands the bounds of narration, giving us an unforgettable portrait of scientific achievement, and of the ever-present tensions between science and faith.

Publisher: New York : Walker Pub., 2011.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780802717931
0802717934
Branch Call Number: 520.92/SOBEL
Characteristics: xiv, 273 p. : ill., maps, ports. ; 22 cm.

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JeremiahSutherland May 07, 2012

Confusing piece of work.

Sobel, a generally clear writer, departs from a strict reconstruction of the Copernicus' work. She adds in the perturbations caused by the religious split between Catholics and Lutherans. She describes the appearance of an apprentice of Copernicus' who persuades him to actually publish his work.

Then it gets a bit wobbly; she adds in a long-ish section written as a play that gives us the flavour of what happened at that time. After Copernicus' death, the structure gets messy with various players taking a role in the production of the books, the science of astronomy and the politics of faith.

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