A Short History of Science and Religion - Enlightenment
PDF Print E-mail
Article Index
A Short History of Science and Religion
The Ancient World
The Greek Contribution
Rise of Christtianity
Dark and Middle Ages
Rise of Science and Philosophy
Galileo, Newton, Kant
Modern Times
Personal Theology
All Pages

The Rise of Science - The Enlightenment in Astronomy


The Trouble Begins with Copernicus - Nicolaus Copernicus was born in the Kingdom of Poland in 1473. His handbook, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, was revolutionary in its time. It was the first open suggestion in more "modern" times that the planets revolved around the sun, rather than the earth. This is known as a "heliocentric" system, rather than the "geocentric" system discussed earlier where the planets and the sun revolve around the earth.

Heliocentric WoodcutEarlier traces of a heliocentric model are found in several anonymous Vedic Sanskrit texts composed in ancient India before the 7th century BCE. Additionally, the Indian astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata anticipated elements of Copernicus' work by over a thousand years. Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BCE elaborated some theories of Heraclides Ponticus (the daily rotation of the Earth on its axis, the revolution of Venus and Mercury around the Sun) to propose what was the first scientific model of a heliocentric solar system: the Earth and all other planets revolving around the Sun, the Earth rotating around its axis daily, the Moon in turn revolving around the Earth once a month.

Copernicus circulated his theories mainly to his friends, and was too fearful of persecution by the church to publish his works widely. They did, however catch the eyes of Martin Luther, Johannes Kepler, Tyco Brahe, and Galileo Galilei.