SB 35 fllS
The Gradual Acceptance
Copernican Theory of the Universe
DOROTHY STIMSON, A.M.
Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Political
Science of Columbia University
HANOVFR, NEW HAMPSHIRE
COPYRIGHT 1917 BY DOROTHY STIMSON
TO MY FATHER AND MOTHER
THE SYSTEMS OF THE WORLD ix 1651
ACCORDING TO FATHER RICCIOLI
(Reduced facsimile of the frontispiece in Riccioli : Almagcstum Novum,
"Astrea, goddess of the heaven, wearing angel's wings and gleaming
everywhere with stars, stands at the right; on the left is Argus of the
hundred eyes, not tense, but indicating by the position of the telescope
at his knee rather than at the eyes in his head, that while observing the
work of God's hand, he appears at the same time to be worshipping as
in genuflexion." (Riccioli: Aim. Nov., Pr&fatio, xvii). He points to
the cherubs in the heavens who hold the planets, each with its zodiacal
sign : above him at the top is Mars, then Mercury in its crescent form,
the Sun, and Venus also in the crescent phase; on the opposite side are
Saturn in its "tripartite" form (the ring explanation was yet to be
given), the sphere of Jupiter encircled by its four satellites, the crescent
Moon, its imperfections clearly shown, and a comet. Thus Father
Riccioli summarized the astronomical knowledge of his day. The scrolls
quote Psalms 19:2, "Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night
Astrea holds in her right hand a balance in which Riccioli's theory of
the universe (an adaptation of the Tychonic, see p. 68) far outweighs
the Copernican or heliocentric one. At her feet is the Ptolemaic sphere,
while Ptolemy himself half lies, half sits, between her and Argus, with
the comment issuing from his mouth: "I will arise if only I am cor-
rected." His left hand rests upon the coat of arms of the Prince of
Monaco to whom the Almagestum Novum is dedicated.
At the top is the Hebrew Yah-Veh, and the hand of God is stretched
forth in reference to the verse in the Book of Wisdom (10:20) : "But
thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number and weight."
PART I. AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE HELIOCENTRIC
THEORY OF THE UNIVERSE
Chapter I. The Development of Astronomical
Thought to 1400: Preliminary Review 9
Chapter II. Copernicus and his Times 20
Chapter III. Later Development and Scientific De-
fense of the Copernican Theory 33
PART II. THE RECEPTION OF THE COPERNICAN THEORY.
Chapter I. Opinions and Arguments in the Six-
teenth Century 39
Chapter II. Bruno and Galileo 49
Chapter III. The Opposition and their Arguments.. 71
Chapter IV. The Gradual Acceptance of the Coper-
nican Theory 85
Chapter V. The Church and the New Astronomy :
APPENDICES: TRANSLATIONS BY THE WRITER.
A. Ptolemy : Almagest. Bk. I, chap. 7 : That the
earth has no movement of rotation 107
B. Copernicus : De Revolutionibus, Dedication to the
C. Bodin : Universes Natures Theatrum, Bk. V, sec-
tions 1 and 2 in part, and section 10 entire 115
D. Fienus: Epistolica Qucestio: Is it true that the
heavens are moved and the earth is at rest? 124
Facsimile of the frontispiece "The Systems of the
World" in Riccioli : Almagestum Novum,
Photographic facsimile (reduced) of a page from a
copy of Copernicus : De Revolutionibus, as
"corrected" in the 17th century according to
the directions of the Congregations of the
Index in 1620 p. 61
Photographic facsimile (reduced) of another "cor-
rected" page from the same copy p. 113
THIS study does not belong in the field of astronomy, but in
that of the history of thought; for it is an endeavor to
trace the changes in people's beliefs and conceptions in regard
to the universe as these were wrought by the dissolution of su-
perstition resulting from the scientific and rationalist move-
ments. The opening chapter is intended to do no more than to
review briefly the astronomical theories up to the age of Coper-
nicus, in order to provide a background for the better compre-
hension of the work of Copernicus and its effects.
Such a study has been rendered possible only by the generous
loan of rare books by Professor Herbert D. Foster of Dart-
mouth College, Professor Edwin E. Slosson of Columbia Uni-
versity, Doctor George A. Plimpton and Major George Haven
Putnam, both of New York, and especially by the kindly gener-
osity of Professor David Eugene Smith of Teachers College
who placed his unique collection of rare mathematical books at
the writer's disposal and gave her many valuable suggestions
as to available material. Professors James T. Shotwell and
Harold Jacoby of Columbia University have read parts of this
study in manuscript. The writer gratefully acknowledges her
indebtedness not only to these gentlemen, but to the many others,
librarians and their assistants, fellow-students and friends, too
numerous to mention individually, whose ready interest and
whose suggestions have been of real service, and above all to
Professor James Harvey Robinson at whose suggestion and
under whose guidance the work was undertaken, and to the
Reverend Doctor Henry A. Stimson whose advice and criticism
have been an unfailing source of help and encouragement.
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE HELIOCENTRIC
THEORY OF THE UNIVERSE.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF ASTRONOMICAL THOUGHT TO 1400 A. D.
A Preliminary Sketch of Early Theories as a Background.
THE appearances in the heavens have from earliest historic
ages filled men with wonder and awe; then they gradually
became a source of questioning, and thinkers sought for expla-
nations of the daily and nightly phenomena of sun, moon and
stars. Scientific astronomy, however, was an impossibility until
an exact system of chronology was devised. 1 Meanwhile men
puzzled over the shape of the earth, its position in the universe,
what the stars were and why the positions of some shifted, and
what those fiery comets were that now and again appeared and
struck terror to their hearts.
In answer to such questions, the Chaldean thinkers, slightly
before the rise of the Greek schools of philosophy, developed
the idea of the seven heavens in their crystalline spheres encir-
cling the earth as their center. 2 This conception seems to lie
back of both the later Egyptian and Hebraic cosmologies,
as well as of the Ptolemaic. Through the visits of Greek
philosophers to Egyptian shores this conception helped to shape
Greek thought and so indirectly affected western civilization.
lr rhe earliest observation Ptolemy uses is an Egyptian one of an
eclipse occurring March 21, 721 B. C. (Cumont: 7). [In these refer-
ences, the Roman numerals refer to the volume, the Arabic to the page,
except as stated otherwise. The full title is given in the bibliograohy
at the back under the author's name.]
2 Warren : 40. See "Calendar" in Hastings : Ency. of Religion and
Thus our heritage in astronomical thought, as in many other
lines, comes from the Greeks and the Romans reaching Europe
(in part through Arabia and Spain), where it was shaped by the
influence of the schools down to the close of the Middle Ages
when men began anew to withstand authority in behalf of
observation and were not afraid to follow whither their reason
But not all Greek philosophers, it seems, 1 either knew or
accepted the Babylonian cosmology.- According to Plutarch,
though Thales (640P-546? B. C.) and later the Stoics believed
the earth to be spherical in form, Anaximander (610546?
B. C.) thought it to be like a "smooth stony pillar," Anaximenes
(6th cent.) like a "table." Beginning with the followers of Thales
or perhaps Parmenides ( P-500 B. C.), as Diogenes Laertius
claims, 3 a long line of Greek thinkers including Plato (428P-347?
B. C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B. C.) placed the earth in the cen-
ter of the universe. Whether Plato held that the earth "encircled"
or "clung" around* the axis is a disputed point ; 4 but Aristotle
claimed it was the fixed and immovable center around which
swung the spherical universe with its heaven of fixed stars and
its seven concentric circles of the planets kept in their places
by their transparent crystalline spheres. 5
The stars were an even greater problem. Anaximenes
thought they were "fastened like nails" in a crystalline firma-
ment, and others thought them to be "fiery plates of gold
resembling pictures." 6 But if the heavens were solid, how could
the brief presence of a comet be explained?
Among the philosophers were some noted as mathematicians
whose leader was Pythagoras (c. 550 B. C.). He and at least one
^or a summary of recent researches, see the preface of Heath :
Aristarchus of Samos. For further details, see Heath : Op. cit., and the
writings of Kugler and Schiaparelli.
2 See Plutarch: Moralia: De placitas Philosophorum, Lib. I et II, (V,
'Diogenes Laertius: De Vitis, Lib. IX, c. 3 (252).
*Plato: Timceus, sec. 39 (III, 459 in Jowett's translation).
5 Aristotle: De Mundo, c. 2 et 6, (III, 628 and 636).
'Plutarch :'<9/>. cit., Lib. Ill, c. 2 (V, 303-4).
of the members of his school, Eudoxus (409P-356? B. C), had
visited Egypt, according to Diogenes Laertius, 1 and had in all
probability been much interested in and influenced by the astro-
nomical observations made by the Egyptian priests. On the same
authority, Pythagoras was the first to declare the earth was round
and to discuss the antipodes. He too emphasized the beauty and
perfection of the circle and of the sphere in geometry, forms
which became fixed for 2000 years as the fittest representations
of the perfection of the heavenly bodies.
There was some discussion in Diogenes' time as to the author
of the theory of the earth's motion of axial rotation. Diogenes-
gives the honor to Philolaus (5th cent. B. C.) one of the Pytha-
goreans, though he adds that others attribute it to Icetas of
Syracuse (6th or 5th cent. B. C). Cicero, however, states 3 the
position of Hicetas of Syracuse as a belief in the absolute fixed-
ness of all the heavenly bodies except the earth, which alone
moves in the whole universe, and that its rapid revolutions upon
its own axis cause the heavens apparently to move and the earth
to stand still.
Other thinkers of Syracuse may also have felt the Egyptian
influence; for one of the greatest of them, Archimedes (c. 287-
212 B. C), stated the theory of the earth's revolution around
the sun as enunciated by Aristarchus of Samos. (Perhaps this
is the "hearth-fire of the universe" around which Philolaus
imagined the earth to whirl. 4 ) In Arenarius, a curious study on
the possibility of expressing infinite sums by numerical denomi-
nations as in counting the sands of the universe, Archimedes
writes : 5 "For you have known that the universe is called a
sphere by several astrologers, its center the center of the earth,
and its radius equal to a line drawn from the center of the sun
to the center of the earth. This was written for the unlearned,
as you have known from the astrologers . . . . [Aristarchus of
'Diogenes Laertius: De Vitis, Lib. VIII, c. 1, et 8 (205, 225).
"Diogenes: Op. cit., Lib. VIII, c. 7, (225).
3 Cicero: Academica, Lib. II, c. 39 (322).
'Plutarch: Op. cit., Lib. II (V. 299-300).
'Archimedes : Arenarius, c. 1. Delambre : Astr. Anc., I, 102.
Samos] 1 concludes that the world is many times greater than
the estimate we have just given. He supposes that the fixed
stars and the sun remain motionless, but that the earth following
a circular course, revolves around the sun as a center, and that
the sphere of the fixed stars having the same sun as a center,
is so vast that the circle which he supposes the earth to follow
in revolving holds the same ratio to the distance of the fixed
stars as the center of a sphere holds to its circumference."
These ancient philosophers realized in some degree the
immensity of the universe in which the earth was but a point.
They held that the earth was an unsupported sphere the size
of which Eratosthenes (c. 276-194 B. C.) had calculated
approximately. They knew the sun was far larger than the
earth, and) Cicero with other thinkers recognized the insignifi-
cance of earthly affairs in the face of such cosmic immensity.
They knew too about the seven planets, had studied their
orbits, and worked out astronomical ways of measuring the
passage of time with a fair amount of accuracy. Hipparchus
and other thinkers had discovered the fact of the precession of
the equinoxes, though there was no adequate theory to account
for it until Copernicus formulated his ''motion of declination."
The Pythagoreans accepted the idea of the earth's turning upon
its axis, and some even held the idea of its revolution around
the motionless sun. Others suggested that comets had orbits
which they uniformly followed and therefore their reappearance
could be anticipated. 2
Why then was the heliocentric theory not definitely accepted ?
In the first place, such a theory was contrary to the supposed
facts of daily existence. A man did not have to be trained in
the schools to observe that the earth seemed stable under his
is the only account of his system. Even the age in which he
flourished is so little known that there have been many disputes
whether he was the original inventor of this system or followed some
other. He was probably a contemporary of Cleanthes the Stoic in the
3rd century B. C. He is mentioned also by Ptolemy, Diogenes Laertius
and Vitruvius. ( Schiaparelli : Die Vorlaufcr des Copernicus im Alter -
thum, 75. See also Heath: Op. cit.)
2 Plutarch: Op. cit.; Bk. Ill, c. 2 (V, 317-318).
feet and that each morning the sun swept from the east to set at
night in the west. Sometimes it rose more to the north or to
the south than at other times. How could that be explained if
the sun were stationary?
Study of the stars was valuable for navigators and for sur-
veyors, perhaps, but such disturbing theories should not be pro-
pounded by philosophers. Cleanthes, 1 according to Plutarch,"
"advised that the Greeks ought to have prosecuted Aristarchus
the Samian for blasphemy against religion, as shaking the very
foundations of the world, because this man endeavoring to save
appearances, supposed that the heavens remained immovable
and that the earth moved through an oblique circle, at the same
time turning about its own axis." Few would care to face their
fellows as blasphemers and impious thinkers on behalf of an
unsupported theory. Eighteen hundred years later Galileo
would not do so, even though in his day the theory was by no
means unsupported by observation.
Furthermore, one of the weaknesses of the Greek civilization
militated strongly against the acceptance of this hypothesis so
contrary to the evidence of the senses. Experimentation and
the development of applied science was practically an impossi-
bility where the existence of slaves made manual labor degrad-r
ing and shameful. Men might reason indefinitely; but few, if
any, were willing to try to improve the instruments of observa-
tion or to test their observations by experiments.
At the same time another astronomical theory was developing
which was an adequate explanation for the phenomena observed
up to that time. 3 This theory of epicycles and eccentrics worked
out by Apollonius of Perga (c. 225 B. C.) and by Hipparchus
(c. 160 B. C.) and crystallized for posterity in Ptolemy's great
treatise on astronomy, the Almagest, (c. 140 A. D.) became the
fundamental principle of the science until within the last three
hundred years. The theory of the eccentric was based on the
idea that heavenly bodies following circular orbits revolved
"The Stoic contemporary of Aristarchus, author of the famous Stoic
hymn. See Diogenes Laertius : De Vitis.
'Plutarch: DC Fade in Orbe Luna:, (V, 410).
around a center that did not coincide with that of the observer
on the earth. That would explain why the sun appeared some-
times nearer the earth and sometimes farther away. The epi-
cycle represented the heavenly body as moving along the cir-
cumference of one circle (called the epicycle) -the center of
which moves on another circle (the deferent). With better
observations additional epicycles and eccentric were used to
represent the newly observed phenomena till in the later Mid-
dle Ages the universe became a
With Centric and Eccentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and Epicycle, Orb in Orb" T
Yet the heliocentric theory was not forgotten. Vitruvius, a
famous Roman architect of the Augustan Age, discussing the
system of the universe, declared that Mercury and Venus, the
planets nearest the sun, moved around it as their center, though
the earth was the center of the universe. 2 This same notion
recurs in Martianus Capella's book 3 in the fifth century A. D.
and again, somewhat modified, in the 16th century in Tycho
Brahe's conception of the universe.
Ptolemy devotes a column or two of his Almagest* (to use
the familiar Arabic name for his Syntaxis Mathematical} to the
refutation of the heliocentric theory, thereby preserving it for
later ages to ponder on and for a Copernicus to develop. He
admits at the outset that such a theory is only tenable for the
stars and their phenomena, and he gives at least three reasons
why it is ridiculous. If the earth were not at the center, the
observed facts of the seasons' and of day and night would be
disturbed and even upset. If the earth moves, its vastly greater
mass would gain in speed upon other bodies, and soon animals
and other lighter bodies would be left behind unsupported in the
air a notion "ridiculous to the last degree," as he comments,
"even to imagine it." Lastly, if it moves, it would have such
Hilton: Paradise Lost, Bk. VIII, 11. 82-85.
2 Vitruvius: De Architeciura, Lib. IX, c. 4 (220).
"Martianus Capella: DC Nuptiis, Lib.. VIII, (668).
*Ptolemy: Almagest, Lib. I, c. 7, (1, 21-25). Translated in Appendix B.
tremendous velocity that stones or arrows shot straight up in
the air must fall to the ground east of their starting point, a
'laughable supposition"' indeed to Ptolemy.
This book became the great text of the Middle Ages; its
author's name was given to the geocentric theory it maintained.
Astronomy for a thousand years was valuable only to deter-
mine the time of Easter and other festivals of the Church, and
to serve as a basis for astrology for the mystery-loving people
To the Arabians in Syria and in Spain belongs the credit of
preserving for Europe during this long period the astronomical
works of the Greeks, to which they added their own valuable
observations of the heavens valuable because made with
greater skill and better instruments, 1 and because with these
observations later scientists could illustrate the permanence or
the variability of important elements. They also discovered the
so-called "trepidation" or apparent shifting of the fixed stars
to explain which they added another sphere to Ptolemy's eight.
Early in the sixth century Uranus translated Aristotle's works
into Syrian, and this later was translated into Arabic. 2 Alba-
tegnius 3 (c. 850-829 A. D.), the Arabian prince who was the
greatest of all their astronomers, made his observations from
Aracte and Damascus, checking up and in some cases amending
Ptolemy's results. 4
Then the center of astronomical development shifted from
Syria to Spain and mainly through this channel passed on into
Western Europe. The scientific fame of Alphonse X of Castile
(1252-1284 A. D.) called the Wise, rests chiefly upon his
encouragement of astronomy. With his support the Alfonsine
Tables were calculated. He is said 5 to have summoned fifty
learned men from Toledo, Cordova and Paris to translate into
'Whewdl: I, 239.
2 Whewell: I, 294.
*His book De Motu Stellarum, translated into Latin by Plato Tibur-
tinus (fl.1116) was published at Nuremberg (1557) by Melancthon with
annotations by Regiomontanus. Ency. Brit. llth. Edit.
"Vaughan: I, 281.
Spanish the works of Ptolemy and other philosophers. Under
his patronage the University of Salamanca developed rapidly to
become within two hundred years one of the four great univer-
sities of Europe 1 a center for students from all over Europe
and the headquarters for new thought, where Columbus was
sheltered, 2 and later the Copernican system was accepted and
publicly taught at a time when Galileo's views were suppressed. 3
Popular interest in astronomy was evidently aroused, for
Sacrobosco (to give John Holy wood 4 his better known Latin
name) a Scotch professor at the Sorbonne in Paris in the 13th
century, published a small treatise De Sphceri Mundo that was
immensely popular for centuries, 5 though is was practically only
an abstract of the Almagest. Whewell 6 tells of a French poem
of the time of Edward I entitled Ymage du Monde, which gave
the Ptolemaic view and was illustrated in the manuscript in the
University of Cambridge with a picture of the spherical earth
with men upright on it at every point, dropping balls down per-
forations in the earth to illustrate the tendency of all things
toward the center. Of the same period (13th century) is an
Arabian compilation in which there is a reference to another
work, the book of Hammarmunah the Old, stating that "the
earth turns upon itself in the form of a circle, and that some are
on top, the others below . . . and there are countries in which
it is constantly day or in which at least the night continues only
I some instants." 7 Apparently, however, such advanced views
were of no influence, and the uPtolemaic theorvj remained
unshaken down to the close of the 15th century.
Aside from the adequacy of this explanation of the universe
for the times, the attitude of the Church Fathers on the matter
2 Graux: 319.
'Rashdall: II, pt. I, 77.
*Dict. of Nat. Biog.
5 MSS. of it are extremely numerous. It was the second astronomical
book to be printed, the first edition appearing at Ferrara in 1472. 65
editions appeared before 1647. It was translated into Italian, French,
German, and Spanish, and had many commentators. Diet, of Nat. Biog.
6 Whewell : I, 277.
7 Blavatski: II, 29, note.
was to a large degree responsible for this acquiescence. Early
in the first century A. D., Philo Judseus 1 emphasized the minor
importance of visible objects compared with intellectual mat-
ters, a foundation stone in the Church's theory of an homo-
centric universe. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 A. D.) calls
the heavens solid since what is solid is capable of being per-
ceived by the senses.^ Origen (c. 185-c. 254.) has recourse to
the Holy Scriptures to support his notion that the sun, moon,
and stars are living beings obeying God's commands. 3 Then
Lactantius thunders against those who discuss the universe as
comparable to people discussing "the character of a city they
have never seen, and whose name only they know." "Such mat-
ters cannot be found out by inquiry." 4 The existence of the an-
tipodes and the rotundity of the earth are "marvelous fictions,"
and philosophers are "defending one absurd opinion by
another" 5 when in explanation why bodies would not fall off a
spherical earth, they claim these are borne to the center.
How clearly even this brief review illustrates what Henry
Osborn Taylor calls 6 the fundamental principles of patristic
faith: that the will of God is the one cause of all things (volun-
tate Dei immobilis manet et stat in sseculum terra. 7 Ambrose :
Hex&meron.} and that this will is unsearchable. He further
points out that Augustine's and Ambrose's sole interest in
natural fact is as "confirmatory evidence of Scriptural
truth." The great Augustine therefore denies the existence of
antipodes since they could not be peopled by Adam's children. 8
He indifferently remarks elsewhere: 9 "What concern is it to
me whether the heavens as a sphere enclose the earth in the
middle of the world or overhang it on either side?" Augustine
Judseus: Quis Rerum Dvvinarum Hares. (IV, 7).
'Clement of Alexandria: Stromatum, Lib. V, c. 14, (III, 67).
'Origen: De Principiis, Lib. I, c. 7, (XI, 171).
'Lactantius: Divinarum Institutionum, Lib. Ill, c. 3 (VI, 355).
'Ibid: Lib. Ill, c. 24, (VI, 425-428).
"Taylor : Medieval Mind, I, 74.
7 By the will of God the earth remains motionless and stands through-
out the age.
"Augustine: De Civitate Dei, Lib. XVI, c. 9, (41, p. 437).
'Augustine: De Genesi, II, c. 9, (v. 34, p. 270). (White's translation).
does, however, dispute the claims of astrologers accurately to
foretell the future by the stars, since the fates of twins or those
born at the same moment are so diverse. 1
Philastrius (d. before 397 A. D.) dealing with various here-
sies, denounces those who do not believe the stars are fixed in
the heavens as "participants in the vanity of pagans and the
foolish opinions of philosophers," and refers to the widespread
idea of the part the angels play in guiding and impelling the
heavenly bodies in their courses. 2
| It would take a brave man to face such attitudes of scornful
1 indifference on the one hand and denunciation on the other, in
1 support of a theory the Church considered heretical.
Meanwhile the Church was developing the homocentric notion
which would, of course, jpresuppose the central position in the
universe for man's abiding plaxe^ In the pseudo-Dionysius 3 is
an elaborately worked out hierarchy of the beings in the uni-
verse that became the accepted plan of later centuries, best
known to modern times through Dante's blending of it with the
yj^nlemair thenrvj in the Divine Comedy* Isidore of Seville
taught that the universe was created to serve man's purposes, 5
and Peter Lombard (12th cent.) sums up the situation in the
1 definite statement that man was placed at the center of the uni-
verse to be served by that universe and in turn himself to serve
God. 6 Supported by the mighty Thomas Aquinas 7 this became
a fundamental Church doctrine.
An adequate explanation of the universe existed. Aristotle,
Augustine, and the other great authorities of the Middle Ages,
all upheld the conception of a central earth encircled by the
seven planetary spheres and by the all embracing starry firma-
ment. In view of the phrases used in the Bible about the heav-
1 Augustine: Civitate Dei, Lib. V, c. 5, (v. 41, p. 145).
'Philastrius: De Hozresibus, c. 133, (v. 12, p. 1264).
'Pseudo-Dionysius: De Ccelesti lerarchia, (v. 122, p. 10354).
4 Milman: VIII, p. 228-9. See the Paradiso.
. "Isidore of Seville: De Ordine Creaturarum, c. 5, sec. 3, (v. 83, p. 923).
"Lombard: Sententia, Bk. II, Dist. I, sec. 8. (v. 192, p. 655).
7 Aquinas: Summa Theologica, pt I, qu. 70, art. 2. (Op. Om. Caietani,
ens, and in view of the formation of fundamental theological
doctrines based on this supposition by the kChurch Fathers^ is it
surprising that any other than a geocentric theory seemed
untenable, to be dismissed with a smile when not denounced as
heretical? Small wonder is it, in the absence of the present day
mechanical devices for the exact measurement of time and space
as aids to observation, that the Ptolemaic, or geocentric, theory
of the universe endured through centuries as it did, upheld by
the authority both of the Church and, in essence at least, by the
great philosophers whose works constituted the teachings of the
COPERNICUS AND His TIMES.
DURING these centuries, one notable scholar at least stood
forth in open hostility to the slavish devotion to Aristotle's
writings and with hearty appreciation for the greater scientific
accuracy of "infidel philosophers among the Arabians, Hebrews
and Greeks." 1 In his Opus Tertium (1267), Roger Bacon also
pointed out how inaccurate were the astronomical tables used
by the Church, for in 1267, according to these tables "Christians
will fast the whole week following the true Easter, and will eat
flesh instead of fasting at Quadragesima for a week which is
absurd," and thus Christians are made foolish in the eyes of the
heathen. 2 Even the rustic, he added, can observe the phases of
the moon occurring a week ahead of the date set by the calen-
dar. 3 Bacon's protests were unheeded, however, and the
Church continued using the old tables which grew increasingly
inaccurate with each year. Pope Sixtus IV sought to reform
the calendar two centuries later with the aid of Regiomontanus,
then the greatest astronomer in Europe (1475) ; 4 the Lateran
Council appealed to Copernicus for help (1514), but little could
I be done, as Copernicus replied, till the sun's and the moon's
positions had been observed far more precisely ; 5 and the modern
scientific calendar was not adopted until 1582 under Pope
What was the state of astronomy in the century of Coper-
nicus's birth? Regiomontanus to use Johann Miiller's Latin
name his teacher Piirbach, and the great cardinal Nicolas of
Cues were the leading astronomers of this fifteenth century.
'Roger Bacon: Opus Tertium, 295, 30-31.
2 Ibid: 289.
3 Ibid: 282.
4 Delambre: Moyen Age, 365.
'Prowe: II, 67-70.
Piirbach 1 (1432-1462) died before he had fulfilled the promise
of his youth, leaving his Epitome of Ptolemy's Almagest to be
completed by his greater pupil. In his Theorica Planetarum
(1460) Piirbach sought to explain the motions of the planets by
placing each planet between the walls of two curved surfaces
with just sufficient space in which the planet could move. As
M. Delambre remarked: 2 "These walls might aid the under-
standing, but one must suppose them transparent ; and even if
they guided the planet as was their purpose, they hindered the
movement of the comets. Therefore they had to be abandoned,
and in our own modern physics they are absolutely superfluous ;
they have even been rather harmful, since they interfered with
the slight irregularities caused by the force of attraction in plan-
etary movements which observations have disclosed." This
scheme gives some indication of the elaborate devices scholars
evolved in order to cope with the increasing number of seeming
irregularities observed in "the heavens," and perhaps it makes
clearer why Copernicus was so dissatisfied with the astronomical
hypothesis of his day, and longed for some simpler, more har-
Regiomontanus 3 (1436-1476) after Piirbach's death, con-
tinued his work, and his astronomical tables (pub. 1475) were
in general use throughout Europe till superseded by the vastly
more accurate Copernican Tables a century later. It has been
said 4 that his fame inspired Copernicus (born three years before
the other's death in 1476) to become as great an astronomer.
M. Delambre hails him as the wisest astronomer Europe had
yet produced 5 and certainly his renown was approached only by
that of the great Cardinal.
'Delambre: Moyen Age, 262-272.
"Delambre: Moyen Age, 272.
3 It has been claimed that Regimontanus knew of the earth's motion
around the sun a hundred years before Copernicus ; but a German
writer has definitely disproved this claim by tracing it to its source in
Schoner's Opusculum Geographicum (1553) which states only that he
believed in the earth's axial rotation. Ziegler : 62.
4 Ibid: 62. 5 Delambre: Op. cit.; 365.
Both Janssen, 1 the Catholic historian, and Father Hageir of
j the Vatican Observatory, together with many other Catholic
writers, claim that a hundred years before Copernicus, Cardi-
nal Nicolas Cusanus 3 (c. 1400-1464) had the courage and inde-
pendence to uphold the theory of the earth's motion and its
rotation on its axis. As Father Hagen remarked: "Had Coper-
nicus been aware of these assertions he would probably have
been encouraged by them to publish his own monumental work."
But the Cardinal stated these views of the earth's motions in a
mystical, hypothetical way which seems to justify the marginal
heading "Paradox" (in the edition of 1565). 4 And unfor-
tunately for these writers, the Jesuit father, Riccioli, the official
spokesman of that order in the 17th century after Galileo's con-
demnation, speaking of this paradox, called attention, also,
to a passage in one of the Cardinal's sermons as indicating that
the latter had perhaps "forgotten himself" in the De Do eta
Ignorantw, or that this paradox "was repugnant to him, or that
he had thought better of it." 5 The passage he referred to is as
follows : "Prayer is more powerful than all created things.
Janssen : Hist, of Ger., I, 5.
"Cath. Ency. : "Cusanus." 3 From Cues near Treves.
4 Cusanus: DC Docta Ignorantia, Bk. II, c. 11-12: "Centrum igitur
mundi, coincideret cum circumferentiam, nam si centrum haberet et
circumferentiam, et sic intra se haberet suum initium et finem et esset
ad aliquid aliud ipse mundus terminatus, et extra mundum esset
aluid et locus, quae omnia veritate carent. Cum igitur non sit
possibile, mundum claudi intra centrum corporale et circumferentiam.
non intelligitur mundus, cuius centrum et circumferentia sunt Deus : et
cum hie non sit mundus infinitus, tamen non potest concipi finitus, cum
terminis careat, intra quos claudatur. Terra igitur, quae centrum esse
nequit, motu omni carere non potest, nam earn moveri taliter etiam
necesse est, quod per infinitum minus moveri posset. Sicut igitur terra
non est centram mundi. . . . Unde licet terra quasi stella sit, pro-
pinquior polo centrali, tamen movetur, et non describit minimum circu-
lum in motu, ut est ostensum. . . . Terrae igitur figura est mobilis et
sphaerica et eius motus circularis, sed perfectior esse posset. Et quia
maximum in perfectionibus motibus, et figuris in mundo non est, ut ex
iam dictis patent : tune non est verum quod terra ista sit vilissima et
infima, nam quamvis videatur centralior, quo'ad mundum, est tamen
etiam, eadem ratione polo propinquior. ut est dictum." (pp. 38-39).
5 Riccioli: Aim. Nov., II, 292.
Although angels, or some kind of beings, move the spheres,
the Sun and the stars; prayer is more powerful than they
are, since it impedes motion, as when the prayer of
Joshua made the Sun stand still." 1 This may explain
why Copernicus apparently disregarded the Cardinal's par-
adox, for he made no reference to it in his book ; and the
statement itself, to judge by the absence of contemporary com-
ment, aroused no interest at the time. But of late years, the
Cardinal's position as stated in the De Docta Ignorantia has
been repeatedly cited as an instance of the Church's friendly
attitude toward scientific thought, 2 to show that Galileo's con-
demnation was due chiefly to his "contumacy and disobedience."
Copernicus 3 himself was born in Thorn on February 19, 1473, 4
seven years after that Hansa town founded by the Teutonic
Order in 1231 had come under the sway of the king of Poland
by the Second Peace of Thorn. 5 His father," Niklas Kopper-
nigk, was a wholesale merchant of, Cracow who had removed
to Thorn before 1458, married Barbara Watzelrode of an old
patrician Thorn family, and there had served as town councillor
a Cusanus : Opera, 549 : Excitationum, Lib. VII, ex sermone : Debitores
sumus: "Est enim oratio, omnibus creaturis potentior. Nam angeli seu
intelligentiae, movent orbes, Solem et Stellas : sed oratio potentior, quia
impedit motum, sicut oratio Josuae, fecit sistere Solem."
2 Di Bruno. 284, 286a; Walsh: An Early Allusion, 2-3.
3 Nicolaus Coppernicus (Berlin, 1883-4; 3 vol.; Pt. I, Biography, Pt. II,
Sources), by Dr. Leopold Prowe gives an exhaustive account of all the
known details in regard to Copernicus collected from earlier biographers
and tested most painstakingly by the documentary evidence Dr. Prowe
and his fellow-workers unearthed during a lifetime devoted to this sub-
ject. (Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie.) The manuscript authority Dr.
Prowe cites (Prowe: I, 19-27 and foot-notes), requires the double p in
Copernicus's name, as Copernicus himself invariably used the two p's in
the Latinized form Coppernic without the termination us, and usually when
this termination was added. Also official records and the letters from his
friends usually give the double p; though the name is found in many
variants Koppernig, Copperinck, etc. His signatures in his books, his
name in the letter he published in 1509, and the Latin form of it used
by his friends all bear testimony to his use of the double p. But custom
has for so many centuries sanctioned the simpler spelling, that it seems
unwise not to conform in this instance to the time-honored usage.
4 Prowe : I, 85. 'Ency. Brit. : "Thorn." "Prowe : I, 47-53.
for nineteen years until his death in 1483.' Thereupon his
mother's brother, Lucas Watzelrode, later bishop of Ermeland,
became his guardian, benefactor and close friend. 2
After the elementary training in the Thorn school," the lad
entered the university at Cracow, his father's former home,
where he studied under the faculty of arts from 1491-1494. 4
Nowhere else north of the Alps at this time were mathematics
and astronomy in better standing than at this university/" 1 Six-
teen teachers taught these subjects there during the years of
Copernicus's stay, but no record exists of his work under any
of them. That he must have studied these two sciences there,
however, is proved by Rheticus's remark in the Narratio Priina'
that Copernicus, after leaving Cracow, went to Bologna to work
with Dominicus Maria di Novara "non tam discipulus quam
adjutor." He left Cracow without receiving a degree, 8 returned
to Thorn in 1494 when he and his family decided he should
enter the Church after first studying in Italy." Consequently he
crossed the Alps in 1496 and was that winter matriculated at
Bologna in the "German nation." 10 The following summer he
received word of his appointment to fill a vacancy among the
canons of the cathedral chapter at Ermeland where his uncle had
been bishop since 1489. 11 . He remained in Italy, however, about
ten years altogether, studying civil law at Bologna, and canon
law and medicine at Padua, 12 yet receiving his degree as doctor
of canon law from the university of Ferrara in 1503. 13 He was
also in Rome for several months during the Jubilee year, 1500.
^These facts would seem to justify the Poles today in claiming Coper-
nicus as their fellow-countryman by right of his father's nationality
and that of his native city. Dr. Prowe, however, claims him as a "Prus-
sian" both because of his long residence in the Prussian-Polish bishopric
of Ermeland, and because of Copernicus's own reference to Prussia as
"unser lieber Vaterland." (Prowe: II, 197.)
2 Prowe: I, 73-82. 3 Ibid: I, 111. 4 Ibid: I, 124-129. 5 Ibid: I, 137.
"Ibid: I, 141-143. 7 Rheticus: Narratio Prima, 448 (Thorn edit.).
8 Prowe: 1, 154. 9 Ibid : I, 169. "Ibid: I, 174.
"Ibid: I, 175. This insured him an annual income which amounted to
a sum equalling about $2250 today. Later he received a sinecure appoint-
ment besides at Breslau. (Holden in Pop. Sci, 111.)
"Prowe: I, 224. "Ibid: I, 308.
At this period the professor of astronomy at Bologna was
the famous teacher Dominicus Maria di Novara (1454-1504), a
man "ingenio et animo liber" who dared to attack the immuta-
bility of the Ptolemiac system, since his own observations, espe-
cially of the Pole Star, differed by a degree and more from the
traditional ones. 1 He dared to criticise the long accepted system
and to emphasize the Pythagorean notion of the underlying har-
mony and simplicity in nature 2 ; and from him Copernicus may
have acquired these ideas, for whether they lived together or
not in Bologna, they were closely associated. It was here, too,
that Copernicus began his study of Greek which later was to be
the means 3 of encouraging him in his own theorizing by ac-
quainting him with the ancients who had thought along similar
In the spring of the year (1501) following his visit to Rome, 4
Copernicus returned to the Chapter at Frauenburg to get further
leave of absence to study medicine at the University of Padua. 5
Whether he received a degree at Padua or not and how long
he stayed there are uncertain points. 8 He was back in Erme-
land early in 1506.
His student days were ended. And now for many years he
led a very active life, first as companion and assistant to his
uncle the Bishop, with whom he stayed at Schloss Heilsberg till
after the Bishop's death in 1512; then as one of the leading
canons of the chapter at Frauenburg, where he lived most of
the rest of his life. 7 As the chapter representative for five years
(at intervals) he had oversight of the spiritual and temporal
affairs of two large districts in the care of the chapter. 8 He
went on various diplomatic and other missions to the King of
Poland, 9 to Duke Albrecht of the Teutonic Order, 10 and to the
councils of the German states. 11 He wrote a paper of considera-
'Ibid : I, 240 and note. Little is known about him today, except that
he was primarily an observer, and was highly esteemed by his immediate
successors; see Gilbert: De Magnete.
2 Clerke in Ency. Brit., "Novara." 3 Prowe : I, 249.
4 Prowe : I, 279. s lbid, 294. 6 Ibid : I, 319.
7 Prowe: I, 335-380. "Ibid: II, 75-110, 116, 124. 9 Ibid : II, 204-8.
ln lbid: II, 110. "Ibid: II, 144.
ble weight upon the much needed reform of the Prussian cur-
rency. 1 His skill as a physician was in demand not only in his
immediate circle 2 but in adjoining countries, Duke Albrecht
once summoning him to Konigsberg to attend one of his
courtiers. 3 He was a humanist as well as a Catholic Church-
man, and though he did not approve of the Protestant Revolt,
he favored reform and toleration. 4 Gassendi claims that he was
also a painter, at least in his student days, and that he painted
portraits well received by his contemporaries. 5 But his interest
and skill in astronomy must have been recognized early in his
life for in 1514 the committee of the Lateran Council in charge
of the reform of the calendar summoned him to their aid. 6
He was no cloistered monk devoting all his time to the study
of the heavens, but a cultivated man of affairs, of recognized
ability in business and statesmanship, and a leader among his
fellow canons. His mathematical and astronomical pursuits
were the occupations of his somewhat rare leisure moments,
except perhaps during the six years with his uncle in the com-
parative freedom of the bishop's castle, and during the last ten
or twelve years of his life, after his request for a coadjutor had
resulted in lightening his duties. In his masterwork De Revo-
lutionibus 7 there are recorded only 27 of his own astronomical
observations, and these extend over the years from 1497 to
1529. The first was made at Bologna, the second at Rome in
1 500, and seven of the others at Frauenburg, where the rest were
also probably made. It is believed the greater part of the De
Revolutionibus was written at Heilsburg 8 where Copernicus was
free from his chapter duties, for as he himself says 9 in the Dedi-
cation to the Pope (dated 1543) his work had been formulated
l lbid: II, 146. 2 Ibid: II, 293-319. 3 Ibid: II, 464-472.
4 Ibid : II, 170-187. 5 Holden in Pop. Sci., 109.
Prowe: II, 67-70.
7 Copernicus: De Revolutionibus, Thorn edit, 444. The last two words
of the full title: De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium are not on the
original MS. and are believed to have been added by Osiander. Prowe :
II, 541, note.
8 Ibid : II, 490-1.
"Copernicus: Dedication, 4. (Thorn edit.)
not merely nine years but for "more than three nines of years."
It had not been neglected all this time, however, as the original
MS. (now in the Prague Library) with its innumerable changes
and corrections shows how continually he worked over it, alter-
ing and correcting the tables and verifying his statements. 1 /
Copernicus was a philosopher. 2 He thought out a new expla- V
nation of the world machine with relatively little practical work
of his own, 3 though we know he controlled his results by the ac-
cumulated observations of the ages. 4 His instruments were in-
adequate, inaccurate and out of date even in his time, for much
better ones were then being made at Niirnberg 5 ; and the cloudy
climate of Ermeland as well as his own active career prevented
him from the long-continued, painstaking observing, which men
like Tycho Brahe were to carry on later. Despite such handi-
caps, because of his dissatisfaction with the complexities and
intricacies of the Ptolemaic system andiJDecause of his conviction ,
that the laws of nature were simple and harmonious] Copernicus \f
searched the writings of the classic philosophers, as he himself
tells us, 6 to see what other explanation of the universe had been
suggested. "And I found first in Cicero that a certain Nicetas had
thought the earth moved. Later in Plutarch I found certain oth-
ers had been of the same opinion." He quoted the Greek refer-
ring to Philolaus the Pythagorean, Heraclides of Pontus, and
Ecphantes the Pythagorean. 7 As a result he began to consider
the mobility of the earth and found that such an explanation
'Prowe : II, 503-508. 2 Ibid : II, 64. 3 Ibid : II, 58-9.
4 Rheticus : Narratio Prima.
5 Prowe: II, 56.
"Copernicus : Dedication, 5-6. See Appendix B.
'For a translation of this dedication in full, see Appendix B.
In the original MS. occurs a reference (struck out) to Aristarchus of
Samos as holding the theory of the earth's motion. (Prowe: II, 507,
note.) The finding of this passage proves that Copernicus had at least
heard of Aristarchus, but his apparent indifference is the more strange
since an account of his teaching occurs in the same book of Plutarch
from which Copernicus learned about Philolaus. But the chief source
of our knowledge about Aristarchus is through Archimedes, and the
editio princeps of his works did not appear till 1544, a year after the
death of Copernicus. C. R. Eastman in Pop. Sci. 68:325.
seemingly solved many astronomical problems with a simplicity
and a harmony utterly lacking in the old traditional scheme.
Unaided by a telescope, he worked out in part the right theory
of the universe and for the first time in history placed all the
then known planets in their true positions with the sun at the
center. He claimed that the earth turns on its axis as it travels
around the sun, and careens slowly as it goes, thus by these
three motions explaining many of the apparent movements of
the sun and the planets. He retained, 1 however, the immobile
heaven of the fixed stars (though vastly farther off in order
to account for the non-observance of any stellar parallax 2 ), the
"perfect" and therefore circular orbits of the planets, certain of
the old eccentrics, and 34 new epicycles in place of all the old
ones which he had cast aside. 3 He accepted the false notion
of trepidation enunciated by the Arabs in the 9th century and
later overthrown by Tycho Brahe. 4 His calculations were weak/"'
But his great book is a sane and modern work in an age of as-
trology and superstition. 6 His theory is a triumph of reason and
imagination and with its almost complete independence of
authority is perhaps as original a work as an human being
may be expected to produce.
Copernicus was extremely reluctant to publish his book be-
cause of the misunderstandings and malicious attacks it would
unquestionably arouse. 7 Possibly, too, he was thinking of the
hostility already existing between himself and his Bishop, Dan-
tiscus, 8 whim he did not wish to antagonize further. But his
^elambre: Astr. Mod. pp. xi-xii.
"As the earth moves, the position in the heavens of a fixed star seen
from the earth should differ slightly from its position observed six
months later when the earth is on the opposite side of its orbit. The dis-
tance to the fixed stars is so vast, however, that this final proof of the
earth's motion was not attained till 1838 when Bessel (1784-1846) ob-
served stellar parallax from Konigsberg. Berry: 123-24.
3 C 'ommentariolus in Prowe : III, 202.
4 Holden in Pop. Sci., 117.
5 Delambre : Astr. Mod., p. xi.
'Copernicus: Dedication, 3.
"Prowe: II, 362-7.
devoted pupil and friend, Rheticus, aided by Tiedeman Giese,
Bishop of Culm and a lifelong friend, at length (1542) per-
suaded him. 1 So he entrusted the matter to Giese who passed
it on to Rheticus, then connected with the University at Witten-
berg as professor of mathematics. 2 Rheticus, securing leave
of absence from Melancthon his superior, went to Niirnberg to
supervise the printing. 3 This was done by Petrejus. Upon his
return to Wittenberg, Rheticus left in charge Johann Schoner, a
famous mathematician and astronomer, and Andreas Osiander,
a Lutheran preacher interested in astronomy. The printed book 1
was placed in Copernicus's hands at Frauenburg on May 24th,
1543, as he lay dying of paralysis. 5
Copernicus passed away that day in ignorance that his life's ix^
work appeared before the world not as a truth but as an hypoth-
esis ; for there had been inserted an anonymous preface "ad lec-
torem de hypothesibus huius opera" stating this was but another &
hypothesis for the greater convenience of astronomers. 15 "Neque
enim necesse est eas hypotheses esse veras, imo ne verisimiles
quidem, sed sufficit hoc unum, si calculum observationibus con-
gruentem exhibeant." 7 For years Copernicus was thought to
have written this preface to disarm criticism. Kepler sixty
years later (1601) called attention to this error, 8 and quoted
Osiander's letters to Copernicus and to Rheticus of May, 1541,
suggesting that the system be called an hypothesis to avert at-
tacks by theologians and Aristotelians. He claimed that Osian-
der had written the preface ; but Kepler's article never was
'Ibid: II, 406. 'Ibid: II, 501. 3 Ibid: II, 517-20.
4 Four other editions have since appeared ; at Basel, 1566, Amsterdam
1617, Warsaw 1847, and Thorn 1873. For further details, see Prowe: II,
543-7, and Thorn edition pp. xii-xx. The edition cited in this study
is the Thorn one of 1873.
5 Prowe: II, 553-4.
"Copernicus : De Revolutionibus , I. "To the reader on the hypotheses
of this book."
7 "For it is not necessary that these hypotheses be true, nor even prob-
able, but this alone is sufficient, if they show reasoning fitting the obser-
"Kepler: Apologia Tychonis contra Ursum in Op. Ow.: I, 244-246.
finished and remained unpublished till 1858. 1 Giese and Rhe-
ticus of course knew that the preface falsified Copernicus's
work, and Giese, highly indignant at the "impiety" of the printer
(who he thought had written it to save himself from blame)
wrote Rheticus urging him to write another "praefatiunculus"
purging the book of this falsehood. 2 This letter is dated July 26,
1543, and the book had appeared in April. Apparently nothing
was done and the preface was accepted without further chal-
It remains to ask whether people other than Copernicus's inti-
mates had known of his theory before 1543. Peucer, Melanc-
thon's nephew, declared Copernicus was famous by 1525, ?< and
the invitation from the Lateran Council committee indicates his
renown as early as 1514. In Vienna in 1873 4 there was found a
Comment ariolus, or summary of his great work, 5 written by
Copernicus for the scholars friendly to him. It was probably
written soon after 1530, and gives a full statement of his views
following a series of seven axioms or theses summing up the
new theory. This little book probably occasioned the order from
Pope Clement VII in 1533 to Widmanstadt to report to him on
the new scheme. 6 This Widmanstadt did in the papal gardens
before the Pope with several of the cardinals and bishops, and
was presented with a book as his reward.
In 1536, the Cardinal Bishop of Capua, Nicolas con Schon-
berg, apparently with the intent to pave the way for the theory
at Rome, wrote for a report of it. 7 It is not known whether the
report was sent, and the cardinal died the following year. But
that Copernicus was pleased by this recognition is evident from
the prominence he gave to the cardinal's letter, as he printed
it in his book at the beginning, even before the dedication to the
'Prowe : II, 251, note. 2 Ibid : II, 537-9.
3 Ibid: II, 273. 4 Ibid: II, 286-7.
5 A second copy was found at Upsala shortly afterwards, though for
centuries its existence was unknown save for two slight references to
such a book, one by Gemma Frisius, the other by Tycho Brahe. Prowe :
6 Ibid: II, 273-4.
7 Prowe: II, 274, note.
The most widely circulated account at this time, however,
was the Narratio Prima, a letter from Georg Joachim of
Rhaetia (better known as Rheticus), written in October, 1539,
from Frauenburg to Johann Schoner at Nurnberg. 1 Rheticus,"
at twenty-five years of age professor of mathematics at Witten-
berg, had gone uninvited to Frauenburg early that summer to
visit Copernicus and learn for himself more in detail about this
new system. This was rather a daring undertaking, for not
v only were Luther and Melancthon outspoken in their condemna-
tion of Copernicus, but Rheticus was going from Wittenberg,
the headquarters of the Lutheran heresy, into the bishopric of
Ermeland where to the Bishop and the King his overlord, the
very name of Luther was anathema. Nothing daunted, Rheticus
departed for Frauenberg and could not speak too highly of the
cordial welcome he received from the old astronomer. He came
for a few weeks, and remained two years to return to Witten-
berg as an avowed believer in the system and its first teacher
and promulgator. Not only did he write the Narratio Prima
and an Encomium Borussce, both extolling Copernicus, but what
is more important, he succeeded in persuading him to allow the
publication of the De Revolutionibus. Rheticus returned to his
post in 1541, to resign it the next year and become Dean of the
Faculty of Arts. In all probability the conflict was too intense
between his new scientific beliefs and the statements required of
him as professor of the old mathematics and astronomy.
His colleague, Erasmus Reinhold, continued to teach astron-
omy there, though he, too, accepted the Copernican system. 3
He published a series of tables (Tabula Pruteniccc, 1551) based
on the Copernican calculations to supersede the inaccurate ones
by Regiomontanus ; and these were in general use throughout
Europe for the next seventy-odd years. As he himself
declared, the series was based in its principles and fundamentals
upon the observations of the famous Nicolaus Copernicus. The
almanacs deduced from these calculations probably did more to
'Prowe : II, 426-440.
2 Ibid: II, 387-405.
3 Ibid: II, 391.
bring the new system into general recognition and gradual
acceptance than did the theoretical works. 1
Opposition to the theory had not yet gathered serious head-
way. There is record 2 of a play poking fun at the system and
its originator, written by the Elbing schoolmaster (a Dutch
refugee from the Inquisition) and given in 1531 by the villagers
at Elbing (3 miles from Frauenburg). Elbing and Ermeland
were hostile to each other, Copernicus was well known in Elbing
though probably from afar, for there seems to have been almost
no personal intercourse between canons and people, and the
spread of Luther's teachings had intensified the hostility of the
villagers towards the Church and its representatives. But not
until Giordano Bruno made the Copernican system the starting-
point of his philosophy was the Roman Catholic Church seriously
aroused to combat it. Possibly Osiander's preface turned oppo-
sition aside, and certainly the non-acceptance of the system as a
whole by Tycho Brahe, the leading astronomer of Europe at
that time, made people slow to consider it.
'Holden in Pop. Sci., 119.
2 Prowe: II, 233-244.
THE LATER DEVELOPMENT AND SCIENTIFIC DEFENSE OF THE
COPERNICUS accomplished much, but even his genius could
not far outrun the times in which he lived. When one real-
izes that not only all the astronomers before him, but he and his
immediate successor, Tycho Brahe, made all their observations
and calculations unaided by even the simplest telescope, by loga-
rithms or by pendulum clocks for accurate measurement of
time, 1 one marvels not at their errors, but at the greatness of
their genius in rising above such difficulties. This lack of mate-
rial aids makes the work of Tycho Brahe, 2 accounted one of the
greatest observers that has ever lived, 3 as notable in its way per-
haps as that of Copernicus.
His life 4 was a somewhat romantic one. Born of noble family
on December 14th, 1546, at Knudstrup in Denmark, Tyge
Brahe, the second of ten children, 5 was early practically adopted
by his father's brother. His family wished him to become a
statesman and sent him in 1559 to the university at Copenhagen
to prepare for that career. A partial eclipse of the sun on
August 21st, 1560 as foretold by the astronomers thrilled the
lad and determined him to study a science that could foretell
the future and so affect men's lives. 6 When he was sent to
Leipsic with a tutor in 1562 to study law, he devoted his time
'The two standard lives of Tycho Brahe are the Vita Tychonis Brahei
by Gassendi (1655) till recently the sole source of information, and
Dreyer's Tycho Brake (1890) based not only on Gassendi but on the
documentary evidence disclosed by the researches of the 19th century.
For Tycho's works I have used the Opera Omnia published at Frank-
fort in 1648. The Danish Royal Scientific Society has issued a reprint
(1901) of the rare 1573 edition of the De Nova Stella.
'Bridges: 206. "Dreyer: 11-84.
'Gassendi: 2. "Dreyer: 13.
and money to the study of mathematics and astronomy. Two
years later when eighteen years of age, he resolved to perform
anew the task of Hipparchos and Ptolemy and make a catalogue
of the stars more accurate than their 's. His family hotly
opposed these plans ; and for six years he wandered through the
German states, now at Wittenberg, now at Rostock (where he
fought the duel in which he lost part of his nose and had to
have it replaced by one of gold and silver) 1 or at Augsburg
everywhere working on his chosen subjects. But upon his
return to Denmark (1570) he spent two years on chemistry and
medicine, till the startling appearance of the New Star in the
constellation of Cassiopaea (November, 1572) recalled him to
what became his life work. 2
Through the interest and favor of King Frederick II, he was
given the island of Hveen near Elsinore, with money to build
an observatory and the pledge of an annual income from the
state treasury for his support. 3 There at Uraniborg from 1576
to 1597 he and his pupils made the great catalogue of the stars,
and studied comets and the moon. When he was forced to leave
Hveen by the hostility and the economical tendencies of the
young king, 4 after two years of wandering he accepted the invi-
tation of the Emperor Rudolphus and established himself at
Prague in Bohemia. Among his assistants at Prague was young
Johann Kepler who till Tycho's death (on October 24, 1601)
was his chief helper for twenty months, and who afterwards
completed his observations, publishing the results in the Rudol-
phine Tables of 1627.
This "Phoenix among Astronomers" as Kepler calls him, 5
was the father of modern practical astronomy. 8 He also pro-
pounded a third system of the universe, a compromise between
the Ptolemaic and the Copernican. In this the Tychonic sys-
tem, 7 the earth is motionless and is the center of the orbits of
the sun, the moon, and the sphere of the fixed stars, while the
2 Dreyer : 38-44. 8 Ibid : 84. 4 Ibid : 234-5.
"Kepler: Tabula Rudolphina. Title page.
T As stated in his Book on the Comet of 1577 (pub. 1588).
sun is the center of the orbits of the five planets. 1 Mercury and
Venus move in orbits with radii shorter than the sun's radius,
and the other three planets include the earth within their cir-
cuits. This system was in harmony with the Bible and
accounted as satisfactorily by geometry as either of the other
two systems for the observed phenomena.- To Tycho Brahe,
the Ptolemaic system was too complex, 3 and the Copernican
absurd, the latter because to account for the absence of stellar
parallax it left vacant and purposeless a vast space between
Saturn and the sphere of the fixed stars, 4 and because Tycho's
observations did not show any trace of the stellar parallax that
must exist if the earth moves. 5
Though Tycho thus rejected the Copernican theory, his own
proved to be the stepping stone toward the one he rejected, for
by it and by his study of comets he completely destroyed the
ideas of solid crystalline spheres to the discredit of the scholas-
tics ; and his promulgation of, a third theory of the universe
helped to diminish men's confidence in authority and to stimu-
late independent thinking.
Copernicus worked out his system by mathematics with but
slight aid from his own observations. It was a theory not yet
proven true. Tycho Brahe, though denying its validity, con-
tributed in his mass of painstaking, accurate observations the
raw material of facts to be worked up by Kepler into the great
laws of the planets attesting the fundamental truth of the
Johann Kepler 7 earned for himself the proud title of "law-
maker for the universe" in defiance of his handicaps of ill-
health, family troubles, and straitened finances. Born in Weil,
Wurtemberg, (December 27. 1571) of noble but indigent par-
3 Schiaparelli in Snyder : 165.
3 Brahe : Op. Om., pt. I, p. 337. "Ibid : 409-410.
5 The Tychonic system has supporters to this day. See chap. viii.
7 The authoritative biography is the Vita by Frisch in vol. VIII, pp.
668-1028 of Op. Om. Kep.
"Frisch : VIII, 718.
ents, he was a sickly child unable for years to attend school
regularly. He finally left the monastary school in Mulifontane
in 1586 and entered the university at Tubingen to stay for four
and a half years. There he studied philosophy, mathematics,
and theology (he was a Lutheran) receiving the degree of Mas-
ter of Arts in 1591. While at the university he studied under
Msestlin, professor of mathematics and astronomy, and a
believer in the Copernican theory. Because of Maestlin's teach-
ing Kepler developed into a confirmed and enthusiastic adherent
to the new doctrine.
In 1594 he reluctantly abandoned his favorite study, philoso-
phy, and accepted a professorship in mathematics at Graetz in
Styria. Two years later he published his first work : Prodromus
Dissertationum continent mysterium cosmographicum etc.
(1596) in which he sought to prove that th6 Creator in arrang-
ing the universe had thought of the five regular bodies which
can be inscribed in a sphere according to which He had regu-
lated the order, the number and the proportions of the heavens
and their movements. 1 The book is important not only because
of its novelty, but because it gave the Copernican doctrine public
explanation and defense. 2 Kepler himself valued it enough to
reprint it with his Harmonia Mundi twenty-five years later,
And it won for him appreciative letters from various scientists,
notably from Tycho Brahe and Galileo. 3
As Kepler, a Lutheran, was having difficulties in Graetz, a
Catholic city, he finally accepted Tycho's urgent invitation to
come to Prague. 4 He came early in 1600, and after some
adjustments had been made between the two, 5 he and his family
settled with Tycho that autumn to remain till the latter's death
the following November. Kepler himself then held the office
of imperial mathematician by appointment for many years there-
With the researches of Tycho's lifetime placed at his disposal,
Kepler worked out two of his three great planetary laws from
'Delambre: Astr. Mod. 314-315.
2 Frisch: VIII, 999. 'Ibid: VIII, 696. "Ibid: VIII, 699-715.
5 Dreyer: 290-309. 6 Frisch : VIII, 715.
Tycho's observations of the planet Mars. Yet, as M. Bertrand
remarks, 1 it was well for Kepler that his material was not too ac-
curate or its variations (due to the then unmeasured force of at-
traction) might have hindered him from proving his laws; and
luckily for him the earth's orbit is so nearly circular that in
calculating the orbit of Mars to prove its elliptical form, he
could base his work on the earth's orbit as a circle without
vitiating his results for Mars. 2 That a planet's orbit is an ellipse
and not the perfect circle was of course a triumph for the new
science over the scholastics and Aristotelians. But they had
yet to learn what held the planets in their courses.
From Kepler's student days under Maestlin when as the sub-
ject of his disputation he upheld the Copernican theory, to his
death in 1630, he was a staunch supporter of the new teaching.*
In his Epitome Astronomies Copernicana? (1616) he answered
objections to it at length.* He took infinite pains to convert
his friends to the new system. It was in vain that Tycho on his
deathbed had urged Kepler to carry on their work not on the
Copernican but on the Tychonic scheme. 5
Kepler had reasoned out according to physics the laws by
which the planets moved. 6 In Italy at this same time Galileo
with his optic tube (invented 1609) was demonstrating that
Venus had phases even as Copernicus had declared, that Jupiter
had satellites, and that the moon was scarred and roughened
ocular proof that the old system with its heavenly perfection in
number (7 planets) and in appearance must be cast aside. With-
in a year after Galileo's death Newton was born 7 (January 4,
1643). His demonstration of the universal application of the
law of gravitation (1687) was perhaps the climax in the devel-
*Bertrand: p. 870-1.
2 The two laws first appeared in 1609 in his Physica Coelestis tradita
commentarius de motu stella martis. (Frisch: VIII, 964.) The third
he enunciated in his Harmonia Mundi, 1619. (Ibid: VIII, 1013-1017.)
3 "Cor et animam meam": Kepler's expression in regard to the Coper-
nician theory. Ibid: VIII, 957.
4 Ibid: VIII, 838. 5 Ibid: VIII, 742.
"Kepler: Op. Om.; I, 106: Prafatio ad Lectorem.
7 Berry: 210.
opment of the Copernican system. Complete and final proof
was adding in the succeeding years by Roemer's (1644-1710)
discovery of the velocity of light, by Bradley's (1693-1762)
study of its aberration, 1 by Bessel's discovery of stellar paral-
lax in 1838, 2 and by Foucault's experimental demonstration of
the earth's axial motion with a pendulum in 185 1. 3
^erry: 265. 2 Ibid: 359.
3 Jacoby: 89.
THE RECEPTION OF THE COPERNICAN THEORY.
OPINIONS AND ARGUMENTS IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
DURING the life-time of Copernicus, Roman Catholic
churchmen had been interested in his work: Cardinal
Schonberg wrote for full information, Widmanstadt reported
on it to Pope Clement VII and Copernicus had dedicated his
book to Pope Paul III. 1 But after his death, the Church
authorities apparently paid little heed to his theory until some
fifty years later when Giordano Bruno forced it upon their
attention in his philosophical teachings. Osiander's preface had
probably blinded their eyes to its implications.
The Protestant leaders were not quite so urbane in their atti-
tude. While Copernicus was still alive, Luther is reported 2 to
have referred to this "new astrologer" who sought to prove that
the earth and not the firmament swung around, saying: "The
fool will overturn the whole science of astronomy. But as the /
Holy Scriptures state, Joshua bade the sun stand still and not /
the earth." Melancthon was more interested in this new idea,
perhaps because of the influence of Rheticus, his colleague in
the University of Wittenberg and Copernicus's great friend and
supporter ; but he too preferred not to dissent from the accepted
opinion of the ages. 3 Informally in a letter to a friend he
1 See before, p. 30.
'Luther: Tischreden; IV, 575; "Der Narr will die ganze Kunst Astron-
omiae umkehren. Aber wie die heilige Schrift anzeigt, so heiss Josua
die Sonne still stehen, und nicht das Erdreich."
3 "Nori est autem hominis bene instituti dissentire a consensu tot sae-
culorum." Praefatio Philippi Melanthonis, 1531, in Sacro-Busto: Libel-
lus de Sphara (no date).
implies the absurdity of the new teaching, 1 and in his Jnitia
Doctrina Physica he goes to some pains to disprove the new
assumption not merely by mathematics but by the Bible, though
with a kind of apology to other physicists for quoting the Divine
Witness. 2 He refers to the phrase in Psalm XIX likening the
sun in its course "to a strong man about to run a race," proving
that the sun moves. Another Psalm states that the earth was
founded not to be moved for eternity, and a similar phrase
occurs in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. Then there was the
miracle when Joshua bade the sun stand still. While this is a
sufficient witness to the truth, there are other proofs: First, in
the turning of a circumference, the center remains motionless.
Next, changes in the length of the day and of the seasons would
ensue, were the position of the earth in the universe not central,
and it would not be equidistant from the two poles. (He has
previously disposed of infinity by stating that the heavens
revolve around the pole, which could not happen if a line drawn
from the center of the universe were infinitely projected ). :!
Furthermore, the earth must be at the center for its shadow
to fall upon the moon in an eclipse. He refers next to the Aris-
totelian statement that to a simple body belongs one motion :
the earth is a simple body ; therefore it can have but one motion.
What is true of the parts applies to the whole; all the parts of
the earth are borne toward the earth and there rest; therefore
the whole earth is at rest. Quiet is essential to growth. Lastly,
if the earth moved as fast as it must if it moves at all, every-
thing would fly to pieces. 4
1 "Vidi dialogum et fui dissuassor editionis. Fabula per sese paulatim
consilescet; sed quidam putant esse egregiam katorthoma rem tarn ab-
surdam ornare, sicut ille Sarmaticus Astronomis qui movet terram et
figet solem. Profecto sapientes gubernatores deberent ingeniorum pet-
ulantia cohercere." Epistola B. Mithobio, 16 Oct. 1541. P. Melancthon :
Opera : IV, 679.
2 "Quamquam autem rident aliqui Physicum testimonia divina citantem,
tamen nos honestum esse censemus, Philosophiam conferre ad coelestia
dicta, et in tanta caligine humanae mentis autoritatem divinam con-
sulere ubicunque possumus." Melancthon : Initia Doctrines Physicce :
Bk. I, 63.
3 Ibid: 60.
4 Ibid: 59-67.
Melancthon thus sums up the usual arguments from the
Scriptures, from Aristotle, Ptolemy and the then current
physics, in opposition to this theory. Not only did he publish
his own text-book on physics, but he republished Sacrobosco's
famous introduction to astronomy, writing for it a preface urg-
ing diligent study of this little text endorsed by so many genera-
tions of scholars.
Calvin, the great teacher of the Protestant Revolt, apparently
was little touched by this new intellectual current. 1 He did
write a semi-popular tract 2 against the so called "judicial" astro-
logy, then widely accepted, which he, like Luther, condemns as
a foolish superstition, though he values "la vraie science d'astro-
logie" from which men understand not merely the order and
place of the stars and planets, but the causes of things. In his
Commentaries, he accepts the miracle of the sun's standing still
at Joshua's command as proof of the faith Christ commended,
so strong that it will remove mountains ; and he makes reference
only to the time-honored Ptolemaic theory in his discussion of
Psalm XIX. 3
For the absolute authority of the Pope the Protestant leaders
substituted the absolute authority of the Bible. It is not strange,
then, that they ignored or derided a theory as yet unsupported
by proof and so difficult to harmonize with a literally accepted
How widespread among the people generally did this theory
become in the years immediately following the publication of the
De Revolutionibus? M. Flammarion, in his Vie de Copernic
(1872), refers 4 to the famous clock in the Strasburg Cathedral
as having been constructed by the University of Strasburg in
protest against the action taken by the Holy Office against
"Farrar: Hist, of Interpretation: Preface; xviii: "Who," asks Calvin,
"will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the
2 Calvin: Oeuvres Francois: Traite . . . contre I'Astrologie ; 110-112.
3 Calvin: Op. Om. in Corpus Reformatorum: vol. 25; 499-500; vol. 59;
4 P. 78-79: "Ce planetaire . . . represente le systeme du monde tel qu'il
a etc explique par Copernic."
Galileo, (though the clock was constructed in 1571 and Galileo
was not condemned until 1633). This astronomical clock con-
structed only thirty years after the death of Copernicus, he
claims represented the Copernican system of the universe with
the planets revolving around the sun, and explained clearly in
the sight of the people what was the thought of the makers.
Lest no one should miscomprehend, he adds, the portrait of
Copernicus was placed there with this inscription : Nicolai
Copernici vera effigies, ex ipsius autographo depicta.
This would be important evidence of the spread of the theory
were it true. But M. Flammarion must have failed to see a
brief description of the Strasburg Clock written in 1856 by
Charles Schwilgue, son of the man who renovated its mechan-
ism in 1838-1842. He describes the clock as it was before his
father made it over and as it is today. Originally constructed
in 1352, it was replaced in 1571 by an astrolabe based on the
Ptolemaic system ; six hands with the zodiacal signs of the
planets gave their daily movements and, together with a seventh
representing the sun, revolved around a map of the world. 1
When M. Schwilgue repaired the clock in 1838, he changed it
to harmonize with the Copernican system. 2
But within eighteen years after the publication of the
De Revolutionibus , proof of its influence is to be found in such
widely separated places as London and the great Spanish Uni-
versity of Salamanca. In 1551, Robert Recorde, court physician
to Edward and to Mary and teacher of mathematics, published
in London his Castle of Knowledge, an introduction to astro-
nomy and the first book printed in England describing the
Copernican system. 3 He evidently did not consider the times
quite ripe for a full avowal of his own allegiance to the new
doctrine, but the remarks of the Maister and the Scholler are
worth repeating: 4
'Schwilgue : p. 15. 2 Ibid : p. 48.
"Diet, of Nat. Biog: "Recorde."
4 Quoted (p. 135), from the edition of 1596 in the library of Mr. George
A. Plimpton. See also Recorde's Whetstone of Witte (1557) as cited
by Berry, 127.
"MAISTER: . . . howbeit Copernicus a man of great learning,
of much experience, and of wonder full diligence in observation,
hath renewed the opinion of Aristarchus Samius, affirming that
the earth, not onely moveth circularly about his owne centre,
but also may be, yea and is, continually out of the precise centre
of the world eight and thirty hundred thousand miles : but be-
cause the understanding of that controversie depends of pro-
founder knowledge than in this Introduction may be uttered
conveniently, 1 wil let it passe til some other time.
"SCHOLLER: Nay sit, in good faith, I desire not to heare
such vaine fantasies, so farre against the common reason, and
repugnant to the content of all the learned multitude of Writers,
and therefore let it passe for ever and a day longer.
"MAISTER: You are too yong to be a good judge in so great
a matter: it passeth farre your learning, and their's also,
that are much better learned than you, to improuve his supposi-
tion by good arguments, and therefore you were best condemne
nothing that you do not well understand: but an other time, as
1 saide, I will so declare his supposition, that you shall not onely
wonder to heare it, but also peradventure be as earnest then to
credite it, as you are now to condemne it: in the meane season
let us proceed forward in our former order . . . "
This little book, reprinted in 1556 and in 1596, and one of the
most popular of the mathematical writings in England during
that century, must have interested the English in the new doc-
trine even before Bruno's emphatic presentation of it to them in
Yet the English did not welcome it cordially. One of the
most popular books of this period was Sylvester's translation
(1591) of DuBartas's The Divine Weeks which appeared in
France in 1578, a book loved especially by Milton. 1 DuBartas
writes : 2
"Those clerks that think think how absurd a jest I
That neither heavens nor stars do turn at all,
Nor dance around this great, round earthly ball,
But the earth itself, this massy globe of our's,
Turns round about once every twice twelve hours !
And we resemble land-bred novices
New brought aboard to venture on the seas ;
Who at first launching from the shore suppose
The ship stands still and that the firm earth goes."
^DuBartas: The Divine Weeks (Sylvester's trans, edited by Haight)
Preface, pp. xx-xxiii and note.
*Op. cit.: 72. 43
Quite otherwise was the situation in the sixteenth century at
the University of Salamanca. A new set of regulations for the
University, drawn up at the King's order by Bishop Covar-
rubias, was published in 1561. It contained the provision in
the curriculum that "Mathematics and Astrology are to be given
in three years, the first, Astrology, the second, Euclid, Ptolemy
or Copernicus ad vota audientium," which also indicates, as
Vicente de la Fuente points out, that at this University "the
choice of the subject-matter to be taught lay not with the
teachers but with the students, a rare situation." 1 One wonders
what happened there when the professors and students received
word 2 from the Cardinal Nuncio at Madrid in 1633 that the
Congregations of the Index had decreed the Copernican doc-
trine was thereafter in no way to be held, taught or defended.
One of the graduates of this University, Father Zufiiga, 3
(better known as Didacus a Stunica), wrote a commentary on
Job that was licensed to be printed in 1579, but was not pub-
lished until 1584 at Toledo. Another edition appeared at Rome
seven years later. It evidently was widely read for it was con-
demned donee corrigatur by the Index in 1616 and the mathema-
tical literature of the next half century contains many allusions
to his remarks on Job: IX: 6; "Who shaketh the earth out of
her place, and the pillars thereof tremble." After commenting
here upon the greater clarity and simplicity of the Copernican
theory, Didacus a Stunica then states that the theory is not con-
tradicted by Solomon in Ecclesiastes, as that "text signifieth no
more but this, that although the succession of ages, and genera-
tions of men on earth be various, yet the earth itself is still one
and the same, and continueth without any sensible variation" . . .
and "it hath no coherence with its context (as Philosophers
show) if it be expounded to speak of the earth's immobility.
The motion that belongs to the earth by way of speech is
assigned to the sun even by Copernicus himself, and those who
are his followers . . . To conclude, no place can be produced
a La Fuente ; Historia de la Universidades . . . de Espana : II, 314.
2 Doc. 86 in Favaro; 130.
5 Diccionario Enciclopedico Hispano- Americano le literatura, ciencias
y artes (Barcelona, 1898).
out of Holy Scriptures which so clearly speaks the earth's
immobility as this doth its mobility. Therefore this text of
which we have spoken is easily reconciled to this opinion. And
to set forth the wonderful power and wisdom of God who can
indue the frame of the whole earth (it being of monstrous
weight by nature) with motion, this our Divine pen-man added;
'And the pillars thereof tremble :' As if he would teach us, from
the doctrine laid down, that it is moved from its foundations." 1
French thinkers, like the English, did not encourage the new
doctrine at this time. Montaigne 2 was characteristically indif-
ferent: "What shall we reape by it, but only that we neede not
care which of the two it be? And who knoweth whether a
hundred yeares hence a third opinion will arise which happily
shall overthrow these two precedent?" The famous political^
theorist, Jean Bodin, (1530-1596), was as thoroughly opposed
to it as DuBartas had been. In the last year of his life, Bodin
wrote his Universe? Natures Theatrum* in which he discussed
the origin and composition of the universe and of the animal,
vegetable, mineral and spiritual kingdoms. These five books
(or divisions) reveal his amazing ideas of geology, physics and
astronomy while at the same time they show a mind thoroughly
at home in Hebrew and Arabian literature as well as in the
classics. His answer to the Copernican doctrine is worth quot-
ing to illustrate the attitude of one of the keenest thinkers in a ,
"THEORIST: Since the sun's heat is so intense that we read
it has sometimes burned crops, houses and cities in Scythia,"
would it not be more reasonable that the sun is still and the
earth indeed revolves?
'Quoted in Salusbury: Math. Coll.: I; 468-470 (1661), as a work inac-
cessible to most readers at that time because of its extreme rarity. It
remained on the Index until the edition of 1835.
3 Montaigne : Essays : Bk: II, c. 2: An Apologie of Raymonde Sebonde
3 This book, published at Frankfort in 1597, was translated into French
by M. Fougerolles and printed in Lyons that same year. It has become
extremely rare since its "atheistic atmosphere" (Peignot; Dictionnaire)
caused the Roman Church to place it upon the Index by decree of 1628,
where it has remained to this day.
"Cromer in History of Poland.
''MYSTIC: Such was the old idea of Philolaus, Timaeus,
Ecphantes, Seleucus, Aristarchus of Samos, Archimedes and
Eudoxus, which Copernicus has renewed in our time. But it
can easily be refuted by its shallowness although no one has
done it thoroughly.
''THE. : What arguments do they rely on who hold that
the earth is revolved and that the. sun forsooth is still ?
"Mvs. : Because the comprehension of the human mind
cannot grasp the incredible speed of the heavenly spheres and
especially of the tenth sphere which must be ten times greater
than that of the eighth, for in twenty-four hours it must tra-
verse 469,562,845 miles, so that the earth seems like a dot in the
universe. This is the chief argument. Besides this, we get rid
entirely of epicycles in representing the motions of the pianei.
and what is taught concerning the motion of trepidation in the
eighth sphere vanishes. Also, there is no need for the ninth and
tenth spheres. There is one argument which they have omitted
' but which seems to me more efficacious than any, viz. : rest is
nobler than movement, and that celestial and divine things have
a stable nature while elemental things have motion, disturbance
and unrest; therefore it seems more probable that the latter
move rather than the former. But while serious absurdities
result from the idea of Eudoxus, far more serious ones result
from that of Copernicus.
'THE. : What are these absurdities ?
"Mvs. : Eudoxus knew nothing of trepidation, so his idea
1 seems to be less in error. But Copernicus, in order to uphold
his own hypothesis, claims the earth has three motions, its
diurnal and annual ones, and trepidation ; if we add to these the
pull of weight towards the center, we are attributing four
| natural motions to one and the same body. If this is granted,
1 then the very foundations of physics must fall into ruins ; for
all are agreed upon this, that each natural body has but one
motion of its own, and that all others are said to be either violent
or voluntary. Therefore, since he claims the earth is agitated
by four motions, one only can be its own, the others must be
confessedly violent; yet nothing violent in nature can endure con-
tinuously. Furthermore the earth is not moved by water, much
less by the motion of air or fire in the way we have stated the
heavens are moved by the revolutions of the enveloping heavens.
Copernicus further does not claim that all the heavens are
immobile but that some are moved, that is, the moon, Mercury.
Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. But why such diversity?
No one in his senses, or imbued with the slightest knowledge of
physics, will ever think that the earth, heavy and unwieldy from
its own weight and mass, staggers up and down around its own
center and that of the sun ; for at the slightest jar of the earth,
we would see cities and fortresses, towns and mountains thrown
down. A certain courtier Aulicus, when some astrologer
in court was upholding Copernicus's idea before Duke Albert
of Prussia, turning to the servant who was pouring the Faler-
nian, said: "Take care that the flagon is not spilled." 8 For if
the earth were to be moved, neither an arrow shot straight up,
nor a stone dropped from the top of a tower would fall per-
pendicularly, but either ahead or behind. With this argument
Ptolemy refuted Eudoxus. But if we search into the secrets of
the Hebrews and penetrate their sacred sanctuaries, all these
arguments can easily be confirmed ; for when the Lord of Wis-
dom said the sun swept in its swift course from the eastern
shore to the west, he added this: Terra vero stat aeternam.
Lastly, all things on rinding places suitable to their natures,
remain there, as Aristotle writes. Since therefore the earth
has been alloted a place fitting its nature, it cannot be whirled
around by other motion than its own.
"THE. : I certainly agree to all the rest with you, but Aris-
totle's law I think involves a paralogism, for by this argument
the heavens should be immobile since they are in a place fitting
"Mvs. : You argue subtly indeed, but in truth this argument
does not seem necessary to me ; for what Aristotle admitted,
that, while forsooth all the parts of the firmament changed their
places, the firmament as a whole did not, is exceedingly absurd.
For either the whole heaven is at rest or the whole heaven is
moved. The senses themselves disprove that it is at rest ; there-
fore it is moved. For it does not follow that if a body is not
moved away from its place, it is not moved in that place. Fur-
thermore, since we have the most certain proof of the movement
of trepidation, not only all the parts of the firmament, but also
the eight spheres, must necessarily leave their places and move
up and down, forward and back." 1
This was the opinion of a profound thinker and experienced
man of affairs living when Tycho Brahe and Bruno were still
alive and Kepler and Galileo were beginning their astronomical
investigations. But he was not alone in his views, as we shall
"Cromer in History of Poland.*
*I could not find this reference in either of Martin Kromer's books ;
De Origine et Rebus Gestis Polonorum, ad 1511, or in his Res Public
sive Status Regnl Polonies.
'Bodin; Univ. Nat. Theatrum: Bk. V, sec. 2 (end).
see; for at the close of the sixteenth century, the Copernican
doctrine had few avowed supporters. The Roman Church was
still indifferent; the Protestants clinging to the literal interpre-
tation of the Bible were openly antagonistic; the professors as
a whole were too Aristotelian to accept or pay much attention
to this novelty, except Kepler and his teacher Msestlin (though
the latter refused to uphold it in his text-book) j 1 while astron-
omers and mathematicians who realized the insuperable objec-
tions to the Ptolemaic conception, welcomed the Tychonic sys-
tem as a via media; and the common folk, if they heard of it
at all, must have ridiculed it because it was so plainly opposed
to what they saw in the heavens every day. In the same
way their intellectual superiors exclaimed at the "delirium" of
of those supporting such a notion. 2 One thinker, however was
to see far more in the doctrine than Copernicus himself had
conceived, and by Giordano Bruno the Roman Church was to
'Delambre; Astr. Mod.: I, 663.
2 Justus-Lipsius ; Physiologic Stoicorum; Bk. II; dissert. 19; (Dedica-
tion 1604, Louvain), (IV, 947) ; "Vides deliria, quomodo aliter appel-
BRUNO AND GALILEO.
WHEN the Roman Catholic authorities awoke to the dan-
gers of the new teaching, they struck with force. The
first to suffer was the famous monk-philosopher, Giordano
Bruno, whose trial by the Holy Office was premonitory of
trouble to come for Galileo. 1
After an elementary education at Naples near his birth-place,
Nola, 2 Filippo Bruno 3 entered the Dominican monastery in 1562
or 1563 when about fourteen years old, assuming the name
Giordano at that time. Before 1572, when he entered the priest-
hood, he had fully accepted the Copernican theory which later v
became the basis of all his philosophical thought. Bruno soon
showed he was not made for the monastic life. Various pro-
cesses were started against him, and fleeing to Rome he aban-
doned his monk's garments and entered upon the sixteen years
of wandering over Europe, a peripatetic teacher of the philos-
ophy of an infinite universe as deduced from the Copernican
doctrine and thus in a way its herald. 4 He reached Geneva in
1579 (where he did not accept Calvinism as was formerly /
thought), 5 but decided before many months had passed that it
was wise to depart elsewhere because of the unpleasant position
in which he found himself there. He had been brought before
the Council for printing invectives against one of the professors,
^erti: 285. 3 McIntyre: 3-15.
3 Four lives of Bruno have been written within the last seventy-five
years. The first is Jordano Bruno by Christian Bartholmess (2 vol., Paris
1846). The next, Vita di Giordano Bruno da Nola by Domenico Berti
(1868, Turin), quotes in full the official documents of his trial. Frith's
Life of Giordano Bruno (London, 1887), has been rendered out of date
by J. L. Mclntyre's Giordano Bruno (London, 1903), which includes a
critical bibliography. In addition, W. R. Thayer's Throne Makers (New
York, 1899), gives translations of Bruno's confessions to the Venetian
Inquisition. Bruno's Latin works (Opera Latina Conscripta), have been
republished by Fiorentino (3 vol., Naples, 1879), and the Opere Italiane
by Gentile (3 vol., Naples, 1907).
'Bartholmess : I, 134. 'Libri: IV, 144.
pointing out some twenty of his errors. The Council sent him
to the Consistory, the governing body of the church, where a
formal sentence of excommunication was passed against him.
When he apologized it was withdrawn. Probably a certain
stigma remained, and he left Geneva soon thereafter with a.
warm dislike for Calvinism. After lecturing at the University
of Toulouse he appeared in Paris in 1581, where he held an
extraordinary readership. Two years later he was in England,
for he lectured at Oxford during the spring months and defend-
ed the Copernican theory before the Polish prince Alasco during
the latter's visit there in June. 1
To Bruno belongs the glory of the first public proclamation
in England of the new doctrine, 2 though only Gilbert 3 and pos-
sibly Wright seem to have accepted it at the time. Upon
Bruno's return to London, he entered the home of the French
ambassador as a kind of secretary, and there spent the happiest
years of his life till the ambassador's recall in October, 1585.
It was during this period that he wrote some of his most famous
books. In La Cena de la Ceneri he defended the Copernican
\/ theory, incidentally criticising the Oxford dons most severely, 4
for which he apologized in De la Causa, Principio et Uno. He
developed his philosophy of an infinite universe in De I'lnfinito
e Mondi, and in the Spaccio de la Bestia Trionphante "attacked
all religions of mere credulity as opposed to religions of truth
and deeds." 1 This last book was at once thought to be a biting
attack upon the Roman Church and later became one of the
grounds of the Inquisition's charges against him. During this
time in London also, he came to know Sir Philip Sydney inti-
mately, and Fulk Greville as well as others of that brilliant
period. He may have known Bacon; 2 but it is highly improb-
able that he and Shakespeare met, 5 or that Shakespeare ever
was influenced by the other's philosophy. 6
'Mclntyre : 16-40. 2 Bartholmess : I, 134.
'Gilbert: De Magnete (London, 1600). "Berti: 369, Doc. XIII.
"Beyersdorf : Giordano Bruno und Shakespear, 8-36.
6 Such passages as Troilus and Cressida : Act I, sc. 3 ; King John, Act
III, sc. 1 ; and Merry Wives, Act III, sc. 2, indicate that Shakespeare
accepted fully the Ptolemaic conception of a central, immovable earth.
See also Beyersdorf: op. cit.
Leaving Paris soon after his return thither, Bruno wandered
into southern Germany. At Marburg he was not permitted to
teach, but at Wittenberg the Lutherans cordially welcomed him
into the university. After a stay of a year and a half, he moved
on to Prague for a few months, then to Helmstadt, Frankfort
and Zurich, and back to Frankfort again where, in 1591, he
received an invitation from a young Venetian patrician, Mcecen-
igo, to come to Venice as his tutor. He re-entered Italy, there-
fore, in August, much to the amazement of his contemporaries. ,
It is probable that Moecenigo was acting for the Inquisition. 1
At any rate, he soon denounced Bruno to that body and in May,
1592, surrendered him to it. 1 '
In his trial before the Venetian Inquisition, 3 Bruno told the
story of his life and stated his beliefs in answer to the charges
against him, based mainly on travesties of his opinions. In this
statement as well as in La Cena de le Ceneri, and in De Immen-
so et InnumerabiltSf* Bruno shows how 1 completely he had not \
merely accepted the Copernican doctrine, but had expanded it
far beyond its author's conception. The universe according to
Copernicus, though vastly greater than that conceived by Aris-
totle and Ptolemy, was still finite because enclosed within the
sphere of the fixed stars. Bruno declared that not only was the
earth only a lesser planet, but "this world itself was merely one
of an infinite number of particular worlds similar to this, and
that all the planets and other stars are infinite worlds without
number composing an infinite universe, so that there is a double
infinitude, that of the greatness of the universe, and that of the
multitude of worlds." 5 How important this would be to the
Church authorities may be realized by recalling the patristic
doctrine that the universe was created for man and that his
home is its center. Of course their cherished belief must be
defended from such an attack, and naturally enough, the
Copernican doctrine as the starting point of Bruno's theory of
'Mclntyre: 68. 2 Ibid : 47-72.
s See official documents in Berti : 327-395.
4 Bruno: DC Immenso ct Innumerabilis ; Lib. Ill, cap. 9 (vol. 1, pt. 1,
an infinite universe was thus brought into question; 1 for, as M.
Berti has said, 2 Bruno's doctrine was equally an astro-theology
or a theological astronomy.
The Roman Inquisition was not content to let the Venetian
court deal with this arch heretic, but wrote in September, 1592,
demanding his extradition. The Venetian body referred its con-
sent to the state for ratification which the Doge and Council
refused to grant. Finally, when the Papal Nuncio had repre-
sented that Bruno was not a Venetian but a Neapolitan, and that
cases against him were still outstanding both in Naples and in
Rome, the state consented, and in February of the next year,
Bruno entered Rome, a prisoner of the Inquisition. Nothing
further is known about him until the Congregations took up his
case on February 4th, 1599. Perhaps Pope Clement had hoped
to win back to the true faith this prince of heretics. 8 However
Bruno stood firm, and early in the following year he was
degraded, sentenced and handed over to the secular authorities,
who burned him at the stake in the Campo di Fiori, February
17, 1600. 4 All his books were put on the Index by decree of
February 8, 1600, (where they remain to this day), and as a
consequence they became extremely rare. It is well to remem-
ber Bruno's fate, when considering Galileo's case, for Galileo 5
was at that time professor of mathematics in the university of
Padua and fully cognizant of the event.
Galileo's father, though himself a skilled mathematician, had
'Berti: 285. 2 Ibid: 282. 3 Fahie: 82-89. "Thayer: 299.
8 The publication of A. Favaro's Galileo e I'lnquisizione: Documenti del
Processo Galileiano . . . per la prima volta integralmente pubblicati,
(Firenze, 1907), together with that of the National Edition (in 20 vols.)
of Galileo's works, edited by Favaro (Firenze, completed 1909), renders
somewhat obsolete all earlier lives of Galileo. The more valuable, how-
ever, of these books are: Martin's Galilee (Paris, 1868), a scholarly
Catholic study containing valuable bibliographical notes; Anon. (Mrs.
Olney) : Private Life of Galileo, based largely on his correspondence
with his daughter from which many extracts are given ; and von Gebler's
Galileo Galilei and the Roman Curia (trans, by Mrs. Sturge, London,
1879), which includes in the appendix the various decrees in the original.
Fahie's Life of Galileo (London, 1903), is based on Favaro's researches
and is reliable. The documents of the trial have been published in part
by de 1'Epinois, von Gebler and Berti, but Favaro's is the complete and
intended that his son (born at Pisa, February 15, 1564), should
be a cloth-dealer, but at length permitted him to study medicine
instead at the university of Pisa, after an elementary education
at the monastery of Vallombrosa near Florence. At the Tuscan
Court in Pisa, Galileo received his first lesson in mathematics,
which thereupon became his absorbing interest. After nearly
four years he withdrew from the university to Florence and
devoted himself to that science and to physics. His services as
a professor at this time were refused by five of the Italian uni-
versities ; finally, in 1 589, he obtained the appointment to the
chair of physics at Pisa. He became so unpopular there, how-
ever, through his attacks on the^Aristotelian physicslof the day,
that after three years he resigned and accepted a similar posi-
tion at Padua. 1 He remained here nearly eighteen years till his
longing for leisure in which to pursue his researches, and the
patronage of his good friend, the Grand Duke of Tuscany,
brought him a professorship at the university of Pisa again, this
time without obligation of residence nor of lecturing. He took
up his residence in Florence in 1610; and later (1626), pur-
chased a villa at Arcetri outside the city, in order to be near the
convent where his favorite daughter "Suor Maria Celeste" was
a religious. 2
During the greater part of his lectureship at Padua, Galileo
taught according to the Ptolemaic cosmogony but of compliance
with (popular feelingj though himself a Copernican. In a letter
to Kepler (August 4, 1597) 3 he speaks of his entire acceptance
of the new system for some years ; but not until after the appear- \
ance of the New Star in the heavens in 1604 and 1605, and the ]
controversy that its appearance aroused over the Aristotelian
notion of the perfect and unchangeable heavens, did he publicly
repudiate the old scheme and teach the new. The only informa-
tion we have as to how he came to adopt the Copernican scheme
for himself is the account given by "Sagredo" Galileo's spokes-
man in the. famous Dialogue on the Two Principal Systems
a Fahie: 20-40. 2 Ibid: 121.
3 Galileo: Opere, X, 68.
"Being very young and having scarcely finished my course of
Philosophy which I left off, as being set upon other employ-
ments, there chanced to come into these parts a certain foreigner
of Rostock, whose name as I remember, was Christianus Vur-
stitius, a follower of Copernicus, who in an Academy made two
or three lectures upon this point, to whom many flock't as audi-
tors; but I thinking they went more for the novelty of the sub-
ject than otherwise, did not go to hear him ; for I had concluded
with myself that that opinion could be no other than a solemn
madnesse. And questioning some of those who had been there,
I perceived they all made a jest thereof, except one, who told
me that the business was not altogether to be laugh't at, and
because this man was reputed by me to be very intelligent and
wary, I repented that I was not there, and began from that time
forward as oft as I met with anyone of the Copernican persua-
sion, to demand of them, if they had always been of the same
judgment; and of as many as I examined, I found not so much
as one, who told me not that he had been a long time of the con-
trary opinion, but to have changed it for this, as convinced by
the reasons proving the same : and afterwards questioning them,
one by one, to see whether they were well possest of the reasons
of the other side, I found them all to be very ready and perfect
in them; so that I could not truly say that they had took up this
opinion out of ignorance, vanity, or to show the acuteness of
their wits. On the contrary, of as many of the Peripateticks and
Ptolemeans as I have asked (and out of curiosity I have talked
with many) what pains they had taken in the Book of Coperni-
cus, I found very few that had so much as superficially perused
it; but of those whom, I thought, had understood the same, npt
one; and moreover, I have enquired amongst the followers of
the Peripatetick Doctrine, if ever any of them had held the con-
trary opinion, and likewise found that none had. Whereupon
considering that there was no man who followed the opinion of
Copernicus that had not been first on the contrary side, and that
was not very well acquainted with the reasons of Aristotle and
Ptolemy ; and on the contrary, that there is not one of the fol-
lowers of Ptolemy that had ever been of the judgment of Coper-
nicus, and that had left that to embrace this of Aristotle, con-
sidering, I say, these things, I began to think, that one, who
leaveth an opinion imbued with his milk, and followed by very
many, to take up another owned by very few, and denied by all
the Schools, and that really seems a very great Parodox, must
needs have been moved, not to say forced, by more powerful
reasons. For this cause I am become very curious to dive, as
they say, into the bottom of this business . . and bring myself
to a certainty in this subject." 1
Galileo's brilliant work in mechanics and his great popular-
ity for his lectures were thronged combined with, his skilled
and witty attacks upon the accepted scientific ideas of the age,
embittered and antagonized many who were both conservative
and jealous. 2 The Jesuits particularly resented his influence
and power, for they claimed the leadership in the educational
world and were jealous of intruders. Furthermore, they were T
houiul by the decree of the fiftieth General Congregation of r
their society in 1593 to defend Aristotle;, a decree strictly
enforced. 3 While a few of the Jesuits were friendly disposed
to Galileo at first, the controversies in which he and they became
involved and their bitter attacks upon him made him feel by
1633 that they were among his chief enemies.- 3
Early in 1609, Galileo heard a rumor of a spy-glass having
been made in Flanders, and proceeded to work one out for him-
self according to the laws of; perspective. The fifth telescope
that he made magnified thirty diameters, and it was with such
instruments of his own manufacture that he made in the next
three years his famous discoveries : Jupiter's four satellites
(which he named the Medicean Planets), Saturn's "tripartite"
character (the rings were not recognized as such for several
decades thereafter), the stars of the Milky Way, the crescent
form of Venus, the mountains of the moon, many more fixed
stars, and the spots on the sun. Popular interest waxed with i
each new discovery and from all sides came requests for tele-
scopes ; yet there were those who absolutely refused even to look
through a telescope lest they be compelled to admit Aristotle
was mistaken, and others claimed that Jupiter's moons were
merely defects in the instrument. The formal announcement
of the first of these discoveries was made in the Sidereus Nuncius
(1610), a book that aroused no little opposition. Kepler, how-
ever, had it reprinted at once in Prague with a long apprecia-
tive preface of his own. 4
"The Second Day' in Salusbury : Math. Coll. I, 110-111.
J Fahie: 265.
3 Conway: 46-47. 4 Fahie : 77-126.
The following March Galileo went to Rome to show his dis-
coveries and was received with the utmost distinction by princes
and church dignitaries alike. A commission of four scientific
members of the Roman College had previously examined his
claims at Cardinal Bellarmin's suggestion, and had admitted
their truth. Now Pope Paul V gave him long audiences ; the
Academia dei Lincei elected him a member, and everywhere he
was acclaimed. Nevertheless his name appears on the secret
books of the Holy Office as early as May of that year (161 1). 1
Already he was a suspect.
His Delle Macchie Solari (1611) brought on a sharp contest
over the question of priority of discovery between him and the
Jesuit father, Christopher Scheiner of Ingolstadt, from which
Galileo emerged victorious and more disliked than before by that
order. Opposition was becoming active; Father Castelli, for
instance, the professor of mathematics at Pisa and Galileo's inti-
mate friend, was forbidden to discuss in his lectures the double
motion of the earth or even to hint at its probability. This same
father wrote to his friend early in December, 1613, to tell him of
a dinner-table conversation on this matter at the Tuscan Court,
then wintering at Pisa. Castelli told how the Dowager Grand
Duchess Cristina had had her religious scruples aroused by a
remark that the earth's motion must be wrong because it con-
tradicted the Scriptures, a statement that he had tried to refute. 2
Galileo wrote in reply (December 21, 1613), the letter 3 that was
to cause him endless trouble, in which he marked out the boun-
daries between science and religion and declared it a mistake to
take the literal interpretation of passages in Scripture that were
obviously written according to the understanding of the com-
mon people. He pointed out in addition how futile the miracle
of the sun's standing still was as an argument against the Coper-
nican doctrine for, even according to the Ptolemaic system, not
the sun but the primum mobile must be stayed for the day to be x
Father Castelli allowed others to read and to copy this sup-
posedly private letter; copies went from hand to hand in Flor-
a Doc. in Favaro: 13. 2 Fahie: 149
3 Galileo: Opere, V, 281-288.
ence and discussion ran high. On the fourth Sunday in Decem-
ber, 1614, Father Caccini of the Dominicans preached a sermon
in the church of S. M. Novella on Joshua's miracle, in which he
sharply denounced the Copernican doctrine taught by Galileo as
heretical, so he believed. 1 The Copernicans found a Neapolitan
Jesuit who replied to Caccini the following Sunday from the
pulpit of the Duomo. 2
In February (1615), came the formal denunciation of Galileo
to the Holy Office at Rome by Father Lorini, a Dominican asso-
ciate of Caccini's at the Convent San Marco. The father sent
with his "friendly warning," a copy of the letter to Castelli
charging that it contained "many propositions which were either
suspect or temerarious," and, he added, "though the Galileisti
were good Christians they were rather stubborn and obstinate
in their opinions." 3 The machinery of the Inquisition began se-
cretly to turn. The authorities failed to get the original of the
letter, for Castelli had returned that to Galileo at the latter's re-
quest. 4 Pope Paul sent word to Father Caccini to appear before
the Holy Office in Rome to depose on this matter of Galileo's
errors "pro exoneratione suae conscientise." 5 This he did "freely"
in March and was of course sworn to secrecy. He named a cer-
tain nobleman, a Copernican, as the source of his information
about Galileo, for he did not know the latter even by sight. This
nobleman was by order of the Pope examined in November after
some delay by the Inquisitor at Florence. His testimony was to
the effect that he considered Galileo the best of Catholics."
Meanwhile the Consultors of the Holy Office had examined
Lorini's copy of the letter and reported the rinding of only three
objectionable places all of which, they stated, could be amended
by changing certain doubtful phrases ; otherwise it did not
deviate from the true faith. It is interesting to note that the
copy they had differed in many minor respects from the original
letter, and in one place heightened a passage with which the
Examiners found fault as imputing falsehood to the Scriptures
'Doc. in Favaro : 48-49.
2 Doc. in Favaro : 49. 3 Ibid : 38 : "amorevole avviso."
4 Ibid: 46, 47, 51. 5 Ibid : 47. "Ibid: 49.
although they are infallible. 1 Galileo's own statement ran that
there were many passages in the Scriptures which according to
the literal meaning of the words, "hanno aspetto diverse dal
vero. . . ' The copy read, "molte propositioni falso quanto al
nudo senso delle parole."
Rumors of trouble reached Galileo and, urged on by his
friends, in 1615 he wrote a long formal elaboration of the earlier
letter, addressing this one to the Dowager Grand Duchess, but
he had only added fuel to the fire. At the end of the year he
voluntarily went to Rome, regardless of any possible danger to
himself, to see if he could not prevent a condemnation of the
doctrine. 2 It came as a decided surprise to him to' receive an
order to appear before Cardinal Bellarmin on February 26,
1616, 3 and there to learn that the Holy Office had already con-
demned it two days before. He was told that the Holy Office
had declared : first, "that the proposition that the sun is the cen-
ter of the universe and is immobile is foolish and absurd in phil-
osophy and formally heretical since it contradicts the express
words of the Scriptures in many places, according to the mean-
ing of the words and the common interpretation and sense of the
Fathers and the doctors of theology ; and, secondly, that the
proposition that the earth is not the center of the universe nor
immobile receives the same censure in philosophy and in regard
to its theological truth, it at least is erroneous in Faith." 3
Exactly what was said at that meeting between the two men
became the crucial point in Galileo's trial sixteen years later,
hence a somewhat detailed study is important. At the meeting
of the Congregation on February 25th, the Pope ordered Cardi-
nal Bellarmin to summon Galileo and, in the presence of a notary
and witnesses lest he should prove recusant, warn him to aban-
don the condemned opinion and in every way to abstain from
teaching, defending or discussing it ; if he did not acquiesce, he
was to be imprisoned. 3 The Secret Archives of the Vatican
contain a minute reporting this 1 interview (dated February 26,
1616), in which the Cardinal is said to have ordered Galileo to
relinquish this condemned proposition, "nee earn de caetero,
'Ibid: 43-45, see original in Galileo: Operc, V, 281-285.
2 Doc. in Favaro: 78. 3 Ibid : 61.
quovis modo, teneat, doceat aut defendat, verbo aut scriptis,"
and that Galileo promised to obey. 1 Rumors evidently were rife
in Rome at the time as to what had happened at this secret inter-
view, for Galileo wrote to the Cardinal in May asking for a
statement of what actually had occurred so that he might silence
his enemies. The Cardinal replied :
"We, Robert Cardinal Bellarmin, having heard that Signor
Galileo was calumniated and charged with having abjured
in our hand, and also of being punished by salutary
penance, and being requested to give the truth, state that the
aforesaid Signor Galileo has not abjured in our hand nor in the
hand of any other person in Rome, still less in any other place,
so far as we know, any of his opinions and teachings, nor has
he received salutary penance nor any other kind; but only was
he informed of the declaration made by his Holiness and pub-
lished by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, in which it is
stated that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus, that the
earth moves around the sun and that the sun stands in the center \
of the world without moving from the east to the west, is con-
trary to the Holy Scriptures and therefore cannot be defended
nor held (non si possa difendere ne tenere). And in witness of
this we have written and signed these presents with our own
hand, this 26th day of May, 1616.
ROBERT CARDINAL BELLARMIN. "-
Galileo's defense sixteen years later 3 was that he had obeyed
the order as given him by the Cardinal and that he had not
"defended nor held" the doctrine in his Dialoghi but had refuted
it. The Congregation answered that he had been ordered not
only not to hold nor defend, but also not to treat in any wav
(quovis modo) this condemned subject. When Galileo dis-
claimed all recollection of that phrase and produced the Cardi-
nal's statement in support of his position, he was told that this
document, far from lightening his guilt, greatly aggravated it
since he had dared to deal with a subject that he had been
informed was contrary to the Holy Scriptures. 4
To return to 1616. On the third of March the Cardinal
reported to the Congregation in the presence of the Pope that he
had warned Galileo and that Galileo had acquiesced. 5 The Con-
l Doc. in Favaro : 61-62.
2 Ibid: 88. 3 Ibid : 80-86. 4 Ibid : 145. 5 Ibid : 16.
gregation then reported its decree suspending "until corrected"
"Nicolai Copernici De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium, et
Didaci Astunica in Job," and prohibiting "Epistola Fratris Pauli
Antonii Foscarini Carmelitse," together with all other books
dealing with this condemned and prohibited doctrine. The Pope
ordered this decree to be published by the Master of the Sacred
\Palace, which was done two days later. 1 But this prohibition
could not have been widely known for two or three years ; the
next year Mulier published his edition of the De Revolutionibus
at Amsterdam without a word of reference to it ; in 1618
Thomas Feyens, professor at Louvain, heard vague rumors of
the condemnation and wondered if it could be true; 2 and the
following spring Fromundus, also at Louvain and later a noted
antagonist of the new doctrine, wrote to Feyens asking:
"What did I hear lately from you about the Copernicans?
That they have been condemned a year or two ago by our Holy
Father, Pope Paul V? Until now I have known nothing about
it; no more have this crowd of German and Italian scholars,
very learned and, as I think, very Catholic, who admit with
Copernicus that the earth is turned. Is it possible that after a
lapse of time as considerable as this, we have nothing more than
a rumor of such an event ? I find it hard to believe, since nothing
more definite has come from Italy. Definitions of this sort
ought above all to be published in the universities where the
learned men are to whom the danger of such an opinion is very
Galileo meanwhile had retired to Florence and devoted him-
self, to mechanical science, (of which his work is the founda-
tion) though constantly harassed by much ill health and many
family perplexities. At the advice of his friends, he allowed
the attacks on the Copernican doctrine to go unanswered, 4 till
in Favaro: 16. 2 Monchamp : 46.
3 Fromundus : De Cometa Anni 1618: chap. VII, p. 68. (From the pri-
vate library of Dr. E. E. Slosson. A rare book which Lecky could not
find. History of Rationalism in Europe, I, 280, note.)
4 In 1620 the Congregation issued the changes it required to have made
in the De Revolutionibus. They are nine in all, and consist mainly in
changing assertion of the earth's movement to hypothetical statement
and in striking out a reference to the earth as a planet. Doc. in Favaro :
140-141. See illustration, p. 61.
r g NICOLA! COPERNICI
motum, qui circa medium eft, generalius accipere , acfitis efle ,
dum unufoui/quc motusfiiiipfius medio incumbat .
Sol-vuntur hoc capite difficulties 4 Ptolemto adverftu motum ttrrt,
, & quidcm inge/tiofe magif qn*mfilide, excogttata, nempt nov*
hypothefi de motu aerit quam Ptolem&tu ignora/evidetur.
Vtteres terr* glfbum ex eiuabttf partibus conftttut dixtrunt y ex terr*
& tqutf Coper mew htfcepartibufaddiitertiam , nempeaerem itrr* ci'r-
emf;ifum,adeout terra jit g!obiijiiu$ velut nucleus. Htnctottghbo ex
tribtMdtvcrfupArtibtu eompoftto Copernicus tribuit motum hc locoftm-
flicem , c?* cjtp. undecimo trtplicem. in qtiantam vero <itudinem acr ijtt
terrx ( ut fie loq uar) affix us fupra terram AtteflAtttr, Author non deptttt:
hoc tamen tnnuit , tn eogigm ventos^ ntibts, tonitrua, & cttera meteor A.
Htcaer nuncHparidcbtiit acr terrenuf ^cujttf afflatu vruunt qHtcuntque
in terra vivunt . Comet A tn ftiblimton nafcuntur a'ertt rtgtone , attjut
ides butc tcrr* mo tut mwimt obnoxij fttnt , fed more jlellarum nobit
crmntur & occidunt.
t [ Cum jegro animal] Pro a:gro rtftxtntbantft cquo. Sententu
f>xc eft : QHemtdmodum genus contrnetiir in qualibetfyecie , ut anisaliit
cquo, Uovc,porco . itain fuolibct motttcontinetnr c/rfu/ans.reKtiftruft-
ttir in qtumltbet mundt pl^un wottic/tatiffiwo tfttenttxmt* una. cum
rel'tauii ma?m iftin* globt p.'.rtibus a^tr/itur in qyrum ab ocdifit m or-
tum . tta lapu e turriffafltgifl dimiftiu dupltci mottifertur , rcclo (f circu-
lari . Sententitt hu^uf ventas dependct ex hypothifi Copermciarta
C A P v T IX.
vAn terr* plures poflint attnbm mot us, & de centra mtindi.
V Jj^r -
-..M ^_^ HEWMggAHtutm i ^ Uci'iim umltmmi i , Quod cnim omnium
, *T' revolutionum centrum non lit, motus errantium ma-quahs appa-
^.^rM^c/K-. rcnS) &rvanabileseoruma terra diflannx- declarant, quaimho-
moccntro tcrrx circulo non poiTunt inrclhgi . Pluribus ergo exi-
A "CORRKCTED" PAGE FROM THE De Revolittio-mbiis.
A photographic ^facsimile (reduced) of a page from Mulier's edition
(1617) of the DC Revolutionibus as "corrected" according to the
Monitnni of the Congregations in 1620. The first writer underlined the
passages to be deleted or altered with marginal notes indicating the
changes ordered ; the second writer scratched out these passages, and
wrote out in full the changes the other had given in abbreviated form.
The Xotcc are Mulier's own, and so were not affected by the order. The
effect of the page is therefore somewhat contradictory!
with the accession to the papacy in 1623 of Cardinal Barberini,
as Urban VIII, a warm admirer and supporter of his, he thought
relief was in sight. He was further cheered by a conversation Car-
dinal di Zollern reported having had with Pope Urban, in which
his Holiness had reminded the Cardinal how he (the Pope) had
defended Copernicus in the time of Paul V, and asserted that
out of just respect owed to the memory of Copernicus, if he had
been pope then, he would not have permitted his opinion to be
declared heretical. 1 Feeling that he now had friends in power,
Galileo began his great work, Dialogo sopra i Due Sistemi
Mvssimi del Mondo, a dialogue in four "days" in which three
interlocutors discuss the arguments for and against the Coper-
nican theory, though coming to no definite conclusion. Sagredo
was an avowed Copernican and Galileo's spokesman, Salviati
was openminded, and the peripatetic was Simplicio, appropri-
ately named for the famous Sicilian sixth century commentator
on Aristotle. 2
In 1630 he brought the completed manuscript to Riccardi,
Master of the Sacred Palace, for permission to print it in Rome.
After much reading and re-reading of it both by Ricardi and
his associate. Father Visconti, permission was at length granted
on condition that he insert a preface and a conclusion practically
dictated by Riccardi, emphasizing its hypothetical character. 3
The Pope's own argument was to be used : "God is all-powerful ;
all things are therefore possible to Him; ergo, the tides cannot
be adduced as a necessary proof of the double motion of the
earth without limiting God's omnipotence which is absurd." 4
Galileo returned to Florence in June with the permission to print
his book in Rome. Meanwhile the plague' broke out. He
decided to print it in Florence instead, and on writing to Riccardi
for that permission, the latter asked for the book to review it
again. The times were too troublesome to risk sending it, so a
compromise was finally effected : Galileo was to send the preface
and conclusion to Rome and Riccardi agreed to instruct the
Inquisitor at Florence as to his requirements and to, authorize
him to license the book. 5 The parts were not returned from
'Doc. in Favaro: 149. 2 Galileo : Dialogo: To the Reader.
3 Doc. in Favaro: 70. "Fahie : 230. 6 Ibid : 240.
Rome till July, 1631, and the book did not appear till February
of the following year, when it was published at Florence with
all these licenses, both the Roman and the Florentine ones.
The Dialogo was in Italian so that all could read it. It begins
with an outline of the Aristotelian system, then points out the
resemblances between the earth and the planets. The second
"day" demonstrates the daily rotation of the earth on its axis.
The next claims that the necessary stellar parallax is too minute
to be observed and discusses the earth's annual rotation. The
last seeks to prove this rotation by the ebb and flow of the tides.
It is a brilliant book and received a great reception.
The authorities of the Inquisition at once examined it and
denounced Galileo (April 17, 1633) because in it he not merely
taught and defended the "condemned doctrine but was gravely
suspected of firm adherence to this opinion." Other charges
made against him were that he had printed the Roman licenses
without the permission of the Congregation, that he had printed
the preface in different type so alienating it from the body of
the book, and had put the required conclusion into the mouth of
a fool (Simplicio), that in many places he had abandoned the
hypothetical treatment and asserted the forbidden doctrine, and
that he had dealt indecisively with the matter though the Con-
gregation had specifically condemned the Copernican doctrine as
contrary to the express words of the Scripture. 2
The Pope became convinced that Galileo had ridiculed him in
the character of Simplicio to whom Galileo had naturally enough
assigned the Pope's syllogistic argument. On' the 23rd of
September, he ordered the Inquisitor of Florence to notify
Galileo (in the presence of concealed notary and witnesses in
case he were "recusant") to come to Rome and appear before
the Sacred Congregation before the end of the next month ; 3 the
publication and sale of the Dialogo meanwhile being stopped at
great financial loss to the printer. 4 Galileo promised to obey ;
but he was nearly seventy years old and so much broken
in health that a long difficult journey in the approaching winter
seemed a great and unnecessary hardship, especially as he was
'Doc. in Favaro: 88-89. 2 Ibid: 66. 3 Ibid : 17-18. "Galileo: Opere, XV, 26.
loath to believe that the Church authorities were really hostile to
him. Delays were granted him till the Pope in December finally
ordered him to be in Rome within a month. 1 The Florentine
Inquisitor replied that Galileo was in bed so sick that three doc-
tors had certified that he could not travel except at serious risk
to his life. This certificate declared that he suffered from an
intermittent pulse, from enfeebled vital faculties, from frequent
dizziness, from melancholia, weakness of the stomach, insomnia,
shooting pains and serious hernia. 1 The answer the Pope made
to this was to order the Inquisitor to send at Galileo's expense a
commissary and a doctor out to his villa to see if he were feign-
ing illness ; if he were, he was to be sent bound and in chains to
Rome at once ; if were really too ill to travel, then he was to be
sent in chains as soon as he was convalescent and could travel
safely. 2 Galileo did not delay after that any longer than he
could help, and set out for Rome in January in a litter supplied
by the Tuscan Grand Duke. 3 The journey was prolonged by
quarantine, but upon his arrival (February 13, 1633), he was
welcomed into the palace of Niccolini, the warm-hearted ambas-
sador of the Grand Duke.
Four times was the old man summoned into the presence of
the Holy OfBce, though never when the Pope was presiding. In
his first examination held on the 12th of April, he told how he
thought he had obeyed the decree of 1616 as his Dialogo did not
defend the Copernican doctrine but rather confuted it, and that
in his desire to dq the right, he had personally submitted the
book while in manuscript to the censorship of the Master of the
Sacred Palace, and had accepted all the changes he and the Flor-
entine Inquisitor had required. He had not mentioned the affair
of 1616 because he thought that order did not apply to this book
in which he proved the lack of validity and of conclusiveness of
the Copernican arguments. 4 With remarkable, in fact unique,
consideration, the Holy Office then assigned Galileo to a suite of
rooms within the prisons of the Holy Office, allowed him to have
his servant with him and to have his meals sent in by the ambas-
sador. On the 30th after his examination, they even assigned
'Doc. in Favaro: 74. 2 Ibid : 75. 'Ibid: 76. 4 Ibid : 80-81.
as his prison, the Ambassador's palace, out of consideration for
his age and ill-health.
In his second appearance (April 30), Galileo declared he had
been thinking matters over after re-reading his book (which he
had not read for three years), and freely confessed that there
were several passages which would mislead a reader unaware of
his real intentions, into believing the worse arguments were the
better, and he blamed these slips upon his vain ambition and
delight in his own skill in debate. 1 He thereupon offered to
write another "day" or two more for the Dialogo in which he
would completely refute the two "strong" Copernican arguments
based on the sun's spots and on the tides. 2 Ten days later, at his
third appearance, he presented a written statement of his defence
in which he claimed that the phrase vel quovis tnodo docere was
wholly new to him, and that he had obeyed the order given him
by Cardinal Bellarmin over the latter's own signature. However
he would make what amends he could and begged the Cardinals
to "consider his miserable bodily health and his incessant mental
trouble for the past ten months, the discomforts of a long hard
journey at the worst season, when 70 years old, together with
the loss of the greater part of the year, and that therefore such
suffering might be adequate punishment for his faults which
they might condone to failing old age. Also he commended to
them his honor and reputation against the calumnies of his ill-
wishers who seek to detract from his good name." 3 To such a
plight was the great man brought ! But the end was not yet.
Nearly a month later (June 16), by order of the Pope, Galileo
was once again interrogated, this time under threat of torture. 4
Once again he declared the opinion of Ptolemy true and indubit-
able and said he did not hold and had not held this doctrine of
Copernicus after he had been informed of the order to abandon
it. "As for the rest," he added, "I am in your hands, do with
me as you please." "I am here to obey." 5 Then by the order
of the Pope, ensued Galileo's complete abjuration on his knees
in the presence of the full Congregation, coupled with his prom-
~ T Do~c. in Favaro: 83. 2 Ibid : 84. 'Ibid: 85-87. 4 Ibid: 101.
8 Doc. in Favaro : 101.
ise to denounce other heretics (/. e., Copernicans). 1 In addi-
tion, because he was guilty of the heresy of having held and
believed a doctrine declared and defined as contrary to the
Scriptures, he was sentenced to "formal imprisonment" at the
will of the Congregation, and to repeat the seven penitential
Psalms every week for three years. 2
At Galileo's earnest request, his sentence was commuted
almost at once, to imprisonment first in the archiepiscopal palace
in Siena (from June 30-December 1), then in his own villa at
Arcetri, outside Florence, though under strict orders not to re-
ceive visitors but to live in solitude. 3 In the spring his increas-
ing illness occasioned another request for greater liberty in order
to have the necessary visits from the doctor ; but on March 23,
1634, this was denied him with a stern command from the Pope
to refrain from further petitions lest the Sacred Congregation
be compelled to recall him to their prisons in Rome. 4
The rule forbidding visitors seems not to have been rigidly
enforced all the time, for Milton visited him, "a prisoner of the
Inquisition" in 1638; 5 yet Father Castelli had to write to Rome
for permission to visit him to learn his newly invented method
of rinding longitude at sea. 6 When in Florence on a very brief
stay to see his doctor, Galileo had to have the especial consent
of the Inquisitor in order to attend mass at Easter. He won
approval from the Holy Congregation, however, by refusing
to receive some gifts and letters brought him by some German
merchants from the Low Countries. 7 He was then totally blind,
but he dragged out his existence until January 8, 1642 (the year
of Newton's birth), when he died. As the Pope objected to i
public funeral for a man sentenced by the Holy Office, he was
buried without even an epitaph. 8 The first inscription was made
31 years later, and in 1737, his remains were removed to Santa
Croce after the Congregation had first been asked if such action
would be unobjectionable. 9
Pope Urban had no intention of concealing Galileo's abjura-
'Doc. in Favaro : 146. 2 Ibid : 145. 'Ibid : 103, 129. 4 Ibid : 134.
"Milton: Areopagitica: 35. 8 Doc. in Favaro: 135. 7 Ibid: 137.
"Doc. in Favaro: 138; and Fahie: 402.
tion and sentence. Instead, he ordered copies of both to be sent
to all inquisitors and papal nuncios that they might notify all
their clergy and especially all the professors of mathematics and
philosophy within their districts, particularly those at Florence,
Padua and Pisa. 1 This was done during the summer and fall of
1633. From Wilna in Poland, Cologne, Paris, Brussels, and
Madrid, as well as from all Italy, came the replies of the papal
officials stating that the order had been obeyed. 2 He evidently
intended to leave no ground for a remark like that of Fromun-
dus about the earlier condemnation.
Galileo was thus brought so low that the famous remark,
''Eppur si muove," legend reports him to have made as he rose
to his feet after his abjuration, is incredible in itself, even if it
had appeared in history earlier than its first publication in 1761. :i
But his discoveries and his fight in defence of the system did
much both to strengthen the doctrine itself and to win adherents
to it. The appearance of the moon as seen through a telescope
destroyed the Aristotelian notion of the) perfection of heavenly
bodies.^ Jupiter's satellites gave proof by analogy of the solar
system, though on a smaller scale. The discovery of the phases
of Venus refuted a hitherto strong objection to the Copernican
system ; and the discovery of the spots on the sun led to his later
discovery of the sun's axial rotation, another proof by analogy
of the axial rotation of the earth. Yet he swore the Ptolemaic
conception was the true one.
The abjuration of Galileo makes a pitiful page in the history
of thought and has been a fruitful source of controversy 4 for
nearly three centuries. He was unquestionably a sincere and
loyal Catholic, and accordingly submitted to the punishment de-
creed by the authorities. But in his abjuration he plainly per-
jured himself, however fully he may be pardoned for it because
of the extenuating circumstances. Had he not submitted and
been straitly imprisoned, if not burned, the world would indeed
1 Doc. in Favaro: 101, 103.
2 Ibid: 104-132.
3 Fahie : 325, note.
Tor full statement, see Martin: 133-207.
have been the poorer by the loss of his greatest work, the Dialo-
c/hi delle Nuove Scienze, which he did not publish until 1636. 1
Even more hotly debated has been the action of the Congrega-
tions in condemning the Copernican doctrine, and sentencing
Galileo as a heretic for upholding it. 2 Though both Paul V and
Urban VIII spurred on these actions, neither signed either the
decree or the sentence, nor was the latter present at Galileo's
examinations. Pope Urban would prefer not so openly to have
changed his position from that of tolerance to his present one of
active opposition caused partly by his piqued self-respect 3 and
partly by his belief that this heresy was more dangerous even
than that of Luther and Calvin. 4 It is a much mooted question
whether the infallibility of the Church was involved or not.
Though the issue at stake was not one of faith, nor were the
decrees issued by the Pope ex cathedra, but by a group of Cardi-
nals, a fallible body, yet they had the full approbation of the
Popes, and later were published in the Index preceded by a
papal bull excommunicating those who did not obey the decrees
contained therein. 5 It seems to be a matter of the letter as
opposed to the spirit of the law. De Morgan points out that con-
temporary opinion as represented by Fromundus, an ardent
opponent of Galileo, did not consider the Decree of the Index or
of the Inquisition as a declaration of the Church. 6 a position
which Galileo himself may have held, thus explaining his practi-
cal disregard of the decree of 1616 after he was persuaded the
authorities were more favorably disposed to him. But M.
Martin, himself a Catholic, thinks 7 that theoretically the Congre-
gations could punish Galileo only for disobedience of the secret
order, but even so his book had been examined and passed by
the official censors.
When the Index was revised under Pope Benedict XIV in
1757, largely through the influence of the Jesuit astronomer
Boscovich, so it is said, 8 the phrase prohibiting all books teach-
'Gebler: 263. 2 See Gebler : 244-247; White: I, 159-167; also Martin.
"Martin: 136; and Salusbury: Math. Coll. "To the reader."
'Galileo : Opere, XV, 25. 'Putnam : I, 310. 6 DeMorgan : I, 98.
7 Martin: 140.
*Cath. Ency.: "Boscovich."
ing the immobility of the sun, and the mobility of the earth was
omitted from the decrees. 1 But in 1820, the Master of the
Sacred Palace refused to permit the publication in Rome of a
text-book on astronomy by Canon Settele, who thereupon
appealed to the Congregations. They granted his request in
August, and two years later, issued a decree approved by Pope
Pius VII ordering the Master of the Sacred Palace in future
"not to refuse license for publication of books dealing with the
mobility of the earth and the immobility of the sun according to
the common opinion of modern astronomers" on that ground
alone. 2 The next edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
(1835) did not contain the works of Copernicus, Galileo, Fos-
carini, a Stunica and Kepler which had appeared in every edi-
tion up to that time since their condemnation in 1616, (Kepler's
'Doc. in Favaro: 159. 2 Ibid: 30, 31.
THE OPPOSITION AND THEIR ARGUMENTS.
I HE Protestant leaders had rejected the Copernican doctrine (i
as contrary to the Scriptures. The Roman Congregations had |
now condemned Galileo for upholding this doctrine after they
had prohibited it for the same reasons. These objections are
perhaps best summarized in that open letter Foscarini wrote to
the general of his order, the Carmelities, at Naples in January,
161 5, 1 the letter that was absolutely prohibited by the Index
in March, 1616. He gave these arguments and answered them
lest, as he said, "whilst otherwise the opinion is favored with
much probability, it be found in reality to be extremely repug-
nant (as at first sight it seems) not only to physical reasons and
common principles received on all hands (which cannot do so
much harm), but also (which would be of far worse conse-
quence) to many authorities of Sacred Scripture. Upon which
account many at first looking into it explode it as the most fond
paradox and monstrous capriccio that ever was heard of." "Yet
many modern authors," he says further on, "are induced to fol-
low it, but with much hesitancy and fear, in regard that it
seemeth in their opinion so to contradict the Holy Scriptures
that it cannot possibly be reconciled to them." Consequently Fos-
carini argued that the theory is either true or false; if false, it
ought not to be divulged; if true, the authority of the Sacred
Scriptures will not oppose it; neither does one truth contradict
another. So he turned to the Bible.
He found that six groups of authorities seemed to oppose this
doctrine. (1) Those stating that the earth stands fast, as Eccles.
1:4. (2) Those stating, that the sun moves and revolves ; as
Psalm XIX, Isaiah XXXVIII, and the miracle in Josh. X :12-14.
(3) Those speaking of the heaven above and the earth beneath,
as in Joel II. Also Christ came dmvn from Heaven. (4) Those
a ln Salisbury: Math. Coll; I, 471-503.
authorities who place Hell at the center of the world, a "common
opinion of divines," because it ought to be in the lowest part of
the world, that is, at the center of the sphere. Then by the Cop-
ernican hypothesis, Hell must either be in the sun; or, if in the
earth, if the earth should move about the sun, then Hell within
the earth would be in Heaven, and nothing could be more ab-
surd. (5) Those authorities opposing Heaven to earth and
earth to Heaven, as in Gen. I, Mat. VI, etc. Since the two are
always mutually opposed to each other, and Heaven undoubt-
edly refers to the circumference, earth must necessarily be at
the center. (6) Those authorities ("rather of fathers and divines
than of the Sacred Scriptures") who declare that after the
Day of Judgment, the sun shall stand immovable in the east
and the moon in west.
Foscarini then lays down in answer six maxims, the first of
which_js^ that things attributed to God must be expounded
metaphorically according to our manner of understanding and
of common speech. The other maxims are more metaphysical,
as that everything in the universe, whether corruptible or in-
corruptible, obeys a fixed law of its nature ; so, for example,
Fortune is -always fickle. In concluding his defense, he claims
among other things,, that the Copernician is a more admirable
hypothesis than the Ptolemaic, and that it is an easy way into
astronomy and philosophy. Then he adds that there may be an
analogy between the seven-branched candle-stick of the Old
Testament and the seven planets around the sun, and possibly
the arrangement of the seeds in the "Indian Figg," in the pome-
granate and in grapes is all divine evidence of the solar sys-
tem. With such an amusing reversion to mediaeval analogy his
spirited letter ends.
Some or all of these scriptural arguments appear in most of
the attacks on the doctrine even before its condemnation by the
Index in 1616 was widely known. Besides these objections,
Aristotle's and Ptolemy's statements were endlessly repeated
with implicit faith in their accuracy. Even Sir Francis Bacon
(1567-1631) with all his modernity of thought, failed in this
instance to recognize the value of the new idea and, despite his
interest in Galileo's discoveries, harked back to the time-hon-
ored objections. At first mild in his opposition, he later be-
came emphatically opposed to it. In the Advancement of
Learning 1 (1604), he speaks of it as a possible explanation of
the celestial phenomena according to astronomy but as con-
trary to natural philosophy. Some fifteen years later in the
Novum Organon* he asserts that the assumption of the earth's
movement cannot be allowed; for, as he says in his Thema
Coeli? at that time he considered the opinion that the earth is
stationary the truer one. Finally, in his De Augmentis Scien-
tiarum* (1622-1623) he speaks of the old notions of the solid-
ity of the heavens, etc., and adds, "It is the absurdity of these
opinions that has driven men to the diurnal motion; which I
am convinced is most false." He gives his reasons in the
Descriptio Globi Intellectually (ch. 5-6) : "In favor of the
earth [as the center of the world] we have the evidence of our
sight, and an inveterate opinion; and most of all this, that as
dense bodies are contracted into a narrow compass, and rare
bodies are widely diffused (and the area of every circle is
contracted to the center) it seems to follow almost of necessity
that the narrow space about the middle of the world be set
down as the proper and peculiar place for dense bodies." The
sun's claims to such a situation are satisfied through having two
satellites of its own, Venus and Mercury. Copernicus's scheme
is inconvenient; it overloads the earth with a triple motion; it
creates a difficulty by separating the sun from the number of the
planets with which it has much in common ; and the "introduction
of so much immobility into nature . . . and making the moon
revolve around the earth in an epicycle, and some other as-
sumptions of his are the speculations of one who cares not
what fictions he introduces into nature, provided his calcula-
tions answer." The total absence of all reference to the Scrip-
tures is the unique and refreshing part of Bacon's thought.
All the more common arguments against the diurnal rotation
of the earth are well stated in an interesting little letter (1619)
>Bk. II; sec. 8, 1. 2 Bk. II, ch. 46. *Phil. Works: 705.
4 Bk.. III. *Phil. Works: 684-685.
by Thomas Feyens, or Fienus, a professor at the school of
medicine in the University of Lou vain. 1 Thus Catholic, Prot-
estant, and unbeliever, Feyens, Melancthon, Bacon and Bodin,
all had recourse to the same arguments to oppose this seemingly
Froidmont, or Fromundus, the good friend and colleague
of Feyens at Louvain, was also much interested in these mat-
ters, so much so that some thought he had formerly accepted
the Copernican doctrine and "only fled back into the camp of
Aristotle and Ptolemy through terror at the decree of the S.
Congregation of Cardinals." 2 His indignant denial of this
imputation of turn-coat in 1634 is somewhat weakened by ref-
erence to his Saturnalitice Coen<z z (1615) in which he sug-
gests that, if the Copernican doctrine is admitted, then Hell
may be in the sun at the center of the universe rather than in
the earth, in order to be as 'far as possible from Paradise. He
also refers in his De Cometv (1618) to the remark of Justus-
Lipsius 4 that this paradox was buried with Copernicus,, saying
"You are mistaken, O noble scholar : it lives, and it is full of
vigor even now among many/' 5 thus apparently not seeing seri-
ous objection to it. M. Monchamp summarizes Froidmont's point
of view as against Aristotle and Ptolemy, half for Copernicus
and wholly for Tycho Brahe.
Froidmont's best known books are the two he wrote in
answer to a defense of the Copernican position first by Philip
Lansberg, then by his son. The Ant-Aristarchus sive Orbis
Terra Immobilis, Liber unicus in quo decretum S. Congrega-
tionis S. R. E. Cardinal, an. 1616, adversus Pythagorico-Coper-
nicanous editum, defenditur, appeared in 1631 before Galileo's
condemnation. The Jesuit Cavalieri wrote to Galileo in May
about it thus : 6 "I have run it through, and verily it states the
Copernican theory and the arguments in its favor with so much
skill and efficacy that he seems to have understood it very well
indeed. But he refutes them with so little force that he seems
translated in Appendix C. For criticism, see Monchamp : 58-64.
2 Fromundus; Vesta; Ad Lectorem. 3 Monchamp: 41.
4 Justus-Lipsius : IV, 947. 'Monchamp: 48. e lbid: 94.
rather to be of an opinion contrary to that expressed in the title
of his book. I have given it to M. Cesar. If you wish it, I
will have it sent to you. The arguments he brings against
Copernicus are those you have so masterfully stated and
answered in your Dialogo" Nearly a year later, Galileo wrote
to Gassendi and Diodati that he had received this book a month
before and, although he had been unable to read much of it on
account of his eye trouble, it seemed to him that of all the
opponents of Copernicus whom he had seen, Fromundus was
the most sensible and efficient. 1 Again he wrote in January,
1633, regretting that he had not seen it till six months after he
had published his dialogues, for he would have both praised it
and commented upon certain points. "As for Fromundus (who
however shows himself to be a man of great talent) I wish he
had not fallen into what seems to me a truly serious error,
although a rather common one, in order to refute the Copernican
opinion, of beginning by poking scorn and ridicule at those who
consider it true, and then (what seems to me still less becoming)
of basing his attack chiefly on the authority of the Scriptures,
and finally of deducing from this that in this respect it is an
opinion little short of heretical. To argue in this way is clearly
not praiseworthy;" for as Galileo goes on to show, if the Scrip-
tures are the word of God, the heavens themselves are his handi-
work. Why is the one less noble than the other? 2
Froidmont replied in 1633 to Lansberg's reply with his sec-
ond attack, Vesta, sive Ant-Aristarchi V index, in which he laid
even more emphasis upon the theological and scriptural objec-
tions. Yet, in ignorance of Galileo's condemnation, he con-
Aiders the charge of heresy too strong. "The partisans of this
system do not after all disdain the authority of the Scriptures,
although they appear to interpret it in a way rather in their
favor." He also, and rightly, denies the existence at that time
of any conclusive proof. 3
In spite of Froidmont's position, the University of Louvain
was not cordial in its response to the papal nuncio's announce-
'Galileo: Opere: XV, 25. 'Ibid : XIV, 340-341.
ment in September, 1633, of Galileo's abjuration and sentence,
in marked contrast to the reply sent by the neighboring univer-
sity of Douay. The latter body, in a letter signed by Mat-
thseus Kellison (Sept. 7, 1633), declared the condemned
theory "should be discarded and hissed from the schools; and
that in the English College there in Douay, this paradox never
had been approved and never would be, but had always been
opposed and always would be." 1
This, opposition in the universities in Belgium continued
throughout the century to be based not so much on scientific
grounds as upon the Bible. This may be seen in the manu-
script reports of lectures in physics and astronomy given at
Liege in 1662, and at Lou vain between 1650-1660, though one
of these does not mention the decree of 1616. 2 The general
congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1650 drew up a list
of the propositions proscribed in their teaching, though, ac-
cording to M. Monchamp (himself a Catholic) not thereby
implying a denial of any probability they might have. The 35th
proposition ran: "Terra movetur motu diurno; planetae, tan-
quam viventia, moventur ab intrinseco. Firmamentum stat.'"'
The Jesuit astronomer Tacquet in his textbook (Antwerp,
1669) respected this decision, acknowledging that no scientific
s reason kept him from defending the theory, but solely his re-
spect for the Christian faith. 4
One of the pupils of the Jesuits revolted however. Martin
van Welden, appointed professor of mathematics at Louvain
in 1683, debated a series of theses in January, 1691. The sec-
ond read : "Indubitum est systhema Copernici de planetarum
motu circa sole; inter quos merito terra censetur." His refusal
to alter the wording except to change indubitum to cerium
brought on a stormy controversy within the faculty which even-
tually reached the Council of Brabant and the papal nuncio at
Brussels. 5 The professor finally submitted, though he was not
forbidden to teach the Copernician system, nor did the faculty
affirm its falsity, merely that it was contrary to the Roman
'Doc. in Favaro: 120-121, 132, 133. 2 Monchamp: 125, 143.
"Ibid: 148-149. 4 Ibid : 152-153. 6 Ibid : 182-234.
decree. The professor re-opened the matter with a similar
thesis in July, thereby arousing a second controversy that this
time reached even the Privy Council. Once more he submitted,
but solely with an apology for having caused a disagreement.
His new theses in 1695 contained no explicit mention of the
Copernician system; at least he had learned tact. 1
The absorption of the German states in the Thirty Years
War may account for the apparent absence there of Copernican
discussion until after the Peace of Westphalia. A certain
Georgius Ludovicus Agricola gave a syllogistic refutation of
the doctrine as his disputation at the university of Wittenberg
in 1665. While he acknowledged its ingenuity, he preferred to
it "the noblest, truest, and divinely inspired system" of Tycho
Brahe. The four requirements of an acceptable astronomical
hypothesis according to this student are : ( 1 ) That it suit all the
observations of all the ages; (2) That as far as possible, it be
simple and clear; (3) That it be not contrary to the principles
of physics and optics; (4) That it be not contrary to the Holy
Scriptures. As the Copernican theory does not meet all; these
tests, it is unsatisfactory. Incidentally, he considers it "ridic-
ulous to include the earth among the planets, because then we
would be living in Heaven, forsooth, since we would be in a
star." He decides finally "that the decree of March, 1616,
condemning the Copernican opinion was not unjust, nor was
Galileo unfairly treated." 2
Two years later appeared a text-book at Nurnberg, by a
Jesuit father, based on the twelfth century Sacrobosco treatise
and without a single reference so far as 1 could find, to Coper-
nicus! 3 Another publication of the same year was a good deal
more up to date. This was a kind of catechism in German by
Johann-Henrich Voight 4 explaining for the common people
various scientific and mathematical problems in a hundred ques-
tions and answers. He himself, a Royal Swedish astronomer,
obviously preferred the Tychonic system, but he left his reader
^onchamp: 321. 2 Agricola: Disputatio.
'Schotto: Organum Mathematicum (1667).
*Voight : Dcr Kunstgunstigen Einfalt Mathcmatischer Raritdten Erstcs
Hmidert. (Hamburg, 1667).
free to choose between that and the Copernican one, both of
S which he carefully explained. 1 He made an interesting sum-
mary in parallel columns of the arguments for and against the
earth's motion which it seems worth while to repeat as an in-
stance of what the common people were taught:
Reasons for asserting the earth Reasons for the belief that the
is motionless: earth is moved:
1. David in Psalm 89: God has 1. The sun, the most excel-
founded the earth and it shall
not be moved.
2. Joshua bade the sun stand
still which would not be
notable were it not already at
3. The earth is the heaviest ele-
ment, therefore it more prob-
ably is at rest.
4. Everything loose on the earth
seeks its rest on the earth, 3. That Joshua bade the sun
why should not the whole stand still Moses wrote for
earth itself be at rest? the people in accordance
5. We always see half of the with the popular miscon-
heavens and the fixed stars ception.
also in a great half circle, 4. As the planets are each a
- which we could not see if the special created thing in the
earth moved, and especially
if it declined to the north
lent, the greatest and the
midmost star, rightly stands
still like a king while all
the other stars with the
earth swing round it.
2. That you believe that the
heavens revolve is due to
ocular deception similar to
that of a man on a ship
heavens, so the earth is a
6. A stone or an arrow shot 5. The sun fitly rests at the
straight up falls straight center as the heart does in
down. But if the earth
turned under it, from west to
the middle of the human
east, it must fall west of its 6. Since the earth has in itself
its especial centrum, a stone
or an arrow falls freely out
of the air again to its own
centrum as do all earthly
7. In such revolutions houses
and towers would fall in
8. High and low tide could not
exist; the flying of birds and 7. The earth can move five
the swimming of fish would miles in a second more
be hindered and all would be readily than the sun can go
in a state of dizziness. forty miles in the same time-
And similarly on both sides. 2
'Voight : op. cit.: 28. 2 Ibid : 30-31.
Another writer preferring the Tychonic scheme was Longo-
montanus, whose Astronomica Danica (Amsterdam, 1640) up-
held this theory because it "obviates the absurdities of the
Copernican hypothesis and most aptly corresponds to celestial
appearances," and also because it is "midway between that and
the Ptolemaic one." 1 Even though he speaks of the "apparent
motion of the sun," he attributed diurnal motion to the heavens,
and believed the earth was at the center of the universe be-
cause (1), from the account of the Creation, the heaven and the
earth were first created, and what could be more likely than that
the heavens should fill the space between the center (the earth)
and the circumference? (2) and because of the incredibly
enormous interval between the sphere of the fixed stars and the
earth necessitated by Copernican doctrine. 2
The high- water mark of opposition after Galileo's condem-
nation was reached in the Almagestuni Novum (Bologna, 1651)
by Father Riccioli of the Society of Jesus. It was the author-
itative answer of that order, the leaders of the Church in mat-
ters of education, to the challenges of the literary world for
a justification of the condemnation of the Copernican doc-
trine and of Galileo for upholding it. Father Riccioli had been
professor of philosophy and of mathematics for six years and
of theology for ten when by order of his superiors, he was
released from his lectureship to prepare a book containing all
the material he could gather together on this great contro-
versy of the age. 3 He wrote it as he himself said, as "an
apologia for the Sacred Congregation of the Cardinals who
officially pronounced these condemnations, not so much because
I thought such great height and eminence needed this at my
hands but especially in behalf of Catholics; also out of the
love of truth to which every non-Catholic, even, should be per-
suaded ; and from a certain notable zeal and eagerness for the
preservation of the Sacred Scriptures intact and unimpaired;
and lastly because of that reverence and devotion which I owe
^ongomontanus : Op. cit.: 162.
"Longomontanus : Op. cit. : 158.
"Riccioli : Aim. Nov.; Praefatio, I, xviii.
from my particular position toward the Holy, Catholic and
Apostolic Church." 1
This monumental work, the most important literary produc-
tion of the Society in the 17th century,- is abundant witness to
Riccioli's remarkable erudition and industry. Nearly one-
fifth of the total bulk of the two huge volumes is devoted to a
statement of the Copernican controversy. This is prefaced by
a brief account of his own theory of the universe the inven-
tion of which is another proof of the ability of the man for
his scientific training prevented his acceptance of the Aristo-
telian-Ptolemaic theory in the light of Galileo's discoveries; his
position as a Jesuit and a faithful son of the Church precluded
him from adopting the system condemned by its representatives ;
and Tycho Brahe's scheme was not wholly to his liking. There-
for he proposed an adaptation of the last-named, more in ac-
cordance, as he thought, with the facts. 3 Where Tycho had all
the planets except the earth and the moon encircle the sun, and
that in turn, together with the moon and the sphere of the fixed
stars, sweep around the earth as the center of the universe, Ric-
cioli made only Mars, Mercury and Venus encircle the sun,
Mars with an orbit the radius of which included the earth with-
in its sweep, the other two planets with orbital radii shorter than
that of the sun, and so excluding the earth. This he did, ( 1 ) be-
cause both Jupiter and Saturn have their own kingdoms in the
heavens, and Mars, Mercury and Venus are but satellites of
the sun; (2) because there are greater varieties of eccentricity
among these three than the other two; (3) because Saturn and
Jupiter are the greatest planets and with the sphere of the fixed
stars move more slowly; (4) Mars belongs with the sun because
of their related movements ; and (5) because it is likely that one
of the planets would have much in common both with Saturn
and Jupiter and with Mercury and Venus also. 3
Then he takes up the attack upon the Copernican doctrine. M .
Delambre summarizes and comments upon 57 of his arguments
'Riccioli: Aim. Nov.: II, 496.
~Cath. Ency.; "Riccioli," and Walsh: Catholic Churchmen in Science:
200. (2nd series, 1909.)
8 Riccioli: Aim. Nov.: II, 288-289; see frontispiece.
against it, 1 and Riccioli himself claims 2 to have stated "40 new
arguments in behalf of Copernicus and 77 against him." But
these sound somewhat familiar to the reader of anti-Copernican
literature : as, for instance, ''which is more natural, straight or
circular movement?" Or, the Copernican argument that move-
ment is easier if the object moved is smaller involves a matter of
Faith since it implies a question of God's power ; for to God all
is alike, there is no hard nor easy. 3 Although diurnal movement
is useful to the earth alone and so, according to the Copernicans,
the earth should have the labor of it, Riccioli argues that every-
thing was created for man ; let the stars revolve around him. The
sun may be nobler than the earth, but man is nobler than the
sun. 4 If the earth's movement were admitted, Ptolemy's de-
fense would be broken down through the elimination of the
epicycles of the superior planets : here, if ever, the Copernicans
appear to score, as Riccioli himself admits, 5 but he calls to his
aid Tycho Brahe and the Bible. "To invoke such aids is to
avow his defeat" is M. Delambre's comment at this point.
There are many more arguments, of which the foregoing are
but instances chosen more or less at random ; but no one of
them is of especial weight or novelty.
To strengthen his case, Riccioli listed the) supporters of the/
heliocentric doctrine throughout the ages, with those of the op-
posite view. If a man's fame adds to the weight of his opinion,
the modern reader will be inclined to think the Copernicans have
the best of it, for omitting the ancients, most of those opposing
it are obscure men. 7
In favor of the Copernican Against the hypothesis of the
doctrine [references omit- earth's movement.
ted]. 8 Aristotle
Rheticus Theon the Alexandrine
'Delambre: Astr. Mod.: I, 674-680.
2 Riccioli: Apologia: 2.
"Riccioli: Aim. Nov.: II, 313, 315.
4 Riccioli: Aim. Nov.: II, 330-351. s lbid: II, 339-340.
"Delambre : Op. cit. : I, 677. 7 Ibid : I. 673. "Riccioli : Aim. Nov. : II, 290.
Gilbert (diurnal motion)
Didacus Stunica (sic)
Gassendi, "but submits his
intellect captive to the
Descartes "inclines to this
A. L. Politianus
Julius Caesar La Galla
Riccioli nevertheless viewed the Copernican system with
much sympathy. After a full statement of it, he comments;
"We have not yet exhausted the full profundities of the Coper-
nican hypothesis, for the deeper one digs into it, the more in-
genious and valuable subtilties may one unearth." Then he
adds that "the greatness of Copernicus has never been suffi-
ciently appreciated nor will it be, that man who accomplished
what no astronomer before him had scarcely been able even to
suggest without an insane machinery of spheres, for by a
triple motion of the earth he abolished epicycles and eccentrics.
What before so many Atlases could not support, this one Her-
cules has dared to carry. Would that he had kept himself
within the limits of his hypothesis I" 1
His conclusions seem to show that only his position as a Jesuit
restrained him from being a Copernican himself. 2 "I. If the
celestial phenomena alone are considered, they are equally well
explained by the two hypotheses [Ptolemaic and Copernican].
II. The physical evidence as explained in the two systems with
exception of percussion and the speed of bodies driven north
or south, and east or west, is all for immobility. III. One
might waver indifferently between the two hypotheses aside
from the witness of the Scriptures, which settles the question.
IV. There are in addition plenty of other motives besides
Scriptural ones for rejecting this system." ( !) But with the
Scriptural evidence he adduces the decree of the Index under
Paul V against the doctrine, and the sentence of Galileo, so
that "the sole possible conclusion is that the earth stands by na-
ture immobile in the center of the universe, and the sun moves
around it with both a diurnal and an annual motion." 3
Even this great book was as insufficient to stop the criticism of
the action of the Congregations, as it was to stop the spread of
the doctrine. So once again the father took up the cudgels in de-
fense of the Church. The full title of his Apologia runs : "An
Apologia in behalf of an argument from physical mathematics
against the Copernican system, directed against that system by
a new argument from the reflex motion of falling weights."
(Venice, 1669). He states in this that his Almagestum Novum
had received the approbation of professors of mathematics at
Bologna, of one at Pisa, and of another at Padua, and he quotes
the conclusion from Niceta-s Orthodoxus ("a diatribe by Julius
Turrinus, doctor of mathematics, philosophy, medicine, law, and
Greek letters") : "That the sun is revolved by diurnal and by an-
nual motion, and that the earth is at rest I firmly hold, infallibly
believe, and openly confess, not because of mathematical reasons,
'Riccioli: Op. cit.: II, 304, 309. 2 Delambre: Astr. Mod.: I, 680.
'Riccioli: Op. cit.: II, 478 (condensed), 500.
but solely at the command of faith, by the authority of the Scrip-
tures, and the nod of approval (nutu) of the Roman See, whose
rules laid down at the dictation of the spirit of truth, may I, as
befits everyone, uphold as law." 1
Riccioli further on proceeds to answer his objecters, declaring
that "the Church did not decide ex cathedra that the Scripture
concerning movement should be interpreted literally; that the
censure was laid by qualified theologians and approved by emin-
ent cardinals, and was not merely provisional, nor for the time be-
ing absolute, since the contrary could never be demonstrated ; and
that while it was the primary intent of the Inquisitors to con-
demn the opinion as heretical and directly contrary to the Scrip-
tures. . . .they added that it was absurd and false also in phil-
osophy, in order, not to avert any objections which could be
on the side of philosophy or astronomy, but only lest any one
should say that Scripture is opposed to philosophy." 2 These an-
swers are indicative of the type of criticism with which the
Church had to cope even at that time. 3
'Riccioli: Apologia: 4. 2 Ibid : 103.
3 One bit of contemporary opinion on Riccioli and his work has come
down to us. A canon at Liege, Rene-Frangois Sluse, wrote* asking a
friend (about 1670) to sound Wallis, the English mathematician, as to his
opinion of the Almagestum Novum, and of this argument based on the
acceleration of movement in falling bodies. Wallis himself replied that
he thought the argument devoid of all value. The canon at once wrote.
"I do not understand how a man as intelligent as Riccioli should think
he could bring to a close a matter so difficult [the refutation] by a
proof as futile as this." Monchamp : 165-166.
For a full, annotated list of books published against the Copernican
system between 1631-1688, see Martin: Galilee: 386-388.
THE GRADUAL ACCEPTANCE OF THE COPERNICAN SYSTEM
JUST as Tycho Brahe's system proved to be for some a good
half-way station between the improbable Ptolemaic and the
heretical Copernican system j 1 so the Cartesian philosophy helped
others to reconcile their scientific knowledge with their reverence
for the Scriptures, until Newton's work had more fully demon-
strated the scientific truth.
Its originator, Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was in Holland
when word of Galileo's condemnation reached him in 1633, as he
was seeking in the bookshops of Amsterdam and Leyden for a
copy of the Dialogo. 3 He at once became alarmed lest he too be
accused of trying to establish the movement of the earth, a doc-
trine which he had understood was then publicly taught even in
Rome, and which he had made the basis of his own philosophy.
If this doctrine were condemned as false, then his philosophy
must be also ; and, true to his training by the Jesuits, rather than
go against the Church he would not publish his books. He set
aside his Cosmos, and delayed the publication of the Methode
for some years in consequence, even starting to translate it into
Latin as a safeguard. 4 His conception of the universe, the Co-
pernican one modified to meet the requirements of a literally
interpreted Bible, was not printed until 1644, when it appeared
in his Principes?
According to this statement which he made only asja possible
explanation of the phenomena and not as an absolute truth, while
there was little to choose between the Tychonic and r the Coper-
*See Moxon: Advice, A Tutor to Astronomy and Geography (1670):
2 Haldane's Descartes (1905) is the most recent and authoritative ac-
count based upon Descartes's works as published in the Adams-Tannery
edition (Paris, 1896, foil.). This edition supersedes that W Cousin.
3 Haldane: 153. 4 Ibid : 158. 5 Descartes : Principes, Pt. Ill, chap. 13.
nican conceptions, he inclined slightly toward the former. He
conceived of the earth and the other planets as each borne along
in its enveloping heaven like a ship by the tide, or like a man
asleep on a ship that was sailing from Calais to Dover. The
earth itself does not move, but it is transported so that its position
is changed in relation to the other planets but not visibly so in
relation to the fixed stars because of the vast intervening spaces.
The laws of the universe affect even the most minute particle,
and all alike are swept along in a series of vortices, or whirlpools,
of greater or less size. Thus the whole planetary system sweeps
around the sun in one great vortex, as the satellites sweep
around their respective planets in lesser ones. In this way Des-
cartes worked out a mechanical explanation of the universe of
considerable importance because it was a rational one which any-
one could understand. Its defects were many, to be sure, as for
example, that it did not allow for the elliptical orbits of the plan-
ets j 1 and one critic has claimed that this theory of a motionless
earth borne along by an enveloping heaven was comparable to
a worm in a Dutch cheese sent from Amsterdam to Batavia,
the worm has travelled about 6000 leagues but without changing
its place ! 2 But this theory fulfilled Descartes's aim : to show
that the universe was governed by mechanical laws of which we
can be absolutely certain and that Galileo's discoveries simply
indicated this. 3
This exposition of the Copernican doctrine strongly appealed
to the literary world of the 17th and 18th centuries in western
Europe, especially in the Netherlands, in the Paris salons and
in the universities. 4 M. Monchamp cites a number of contempor-
ary comments upon its spread, in one of which it is claimed that
in 1691, ; the university of Louvain had for the preceding forty
years been practically composed of Cartesians. 5 For the time be-
ing, this theory was a more or less satisfactory explanation of
the universe according to known laws ; it answered to Galileo's
observatioi / ; it was in harmony with the Scriptures, and its vor-
tices paved the way for the popular acceptance of Newton's law
of uni versa,! gravitation.
'Haldane : 291. 2 Monchamp: 185, note. 'Haldane: 292.
4 Ibid: 193, 279. 5 Monchamp: 177-181.
Protestant England was of course little disturbed by the decree
against the Copernican doctrine, a fact that makes it possible,
perhaps, to see there more clearly the change in people's attitude
from antagonism to acceptance, than in Catholic Europe where
fear of the Church's power, and respect for its decisions inhib-
ited honest public expression of thought and conviction. While
in England also the literal interpretation of the Scriptures con-
tinued to be with the common people a strong objection against
the doctrine, the rationalist movement of the late seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries along with Newton's great work, helped win
acceptance for it among the better educated classes.
Bruno had failed to win over his English hearers, and in 1600
when the De Magnete was published, William Gilbert, (1540-
1603) was apparently the only supporter of the earth's move-
ment then in England, 1 and he advocated the diurnal motion
only. 2 Not many, however, were as outspoken as Bacon in de-
nunciation of the system; they were simply somewhat ironically
indifferent. An exception to this was Dean Wren of Windsor
(father of the famous architect). He could not speak strongly
enough against it in his marginal notes on Browne's Pseudodoxia
Epidewiica. As Dr. Johnson wrote, 3 Sir Thomas Browne (1605-
1682) himself in his zeal for the old errors, did not easily admit
new positions, for he never mentioned the motion of the earth
but with contempt and ridicule. This was not enough for the
*Berry quotes (p. 92) a passage from Thomas Digges (d. 1595) with
the date 1590: "But in this our age, one rare witte (seeing the continuall
errors that from time to time more and more continually have been dis-
covered, besides the infinite absurdities in their Theoricks, which they
have been forced to admit that would not confess any mobility in
the ball of the Earth) hath by long studye, paynfull practise, and rare
invention delivered a new Theorick or Model of the World, shewing
that the Earth resteth not in the Center of the whole world or globe of
elements, which encircled or enclosed in the Moone's orbit, and together
with the whole globe of mortality is carried round about the Sunne.
which like a king in the middst of all, rayneth and giveth laws of motion
to all the rest, sphaerically dispersing his glorious beames of light through
all this sacred celestiall Temple." Browne also refers to Digges
'Gilbert: DC Magnete. Bk. VI, c. 3-5 (214-228).
'Johnson ; Life, in Browne : I, xvii.
Dean, who wrote in the margin of Browne's book, at such a pas-
sage, 1 that there were "eighty-odd expresse places in the Bible
affirming in plaine and overt terms the naturall and perpetuall
motion of sun and moon" and that "a man should be affirighted
to follow that audacious and pernicious suggestion which Satan
used, and thereby undid us all in our first parents, that God
hath a double meaning in his commands, in effect condemning
God of amphibologye. And all this boldness and overweaning
having no other ground but a seeming argument of some phe-
nomena forsooth, which notwithstanding we know the learned
Tycho, prince of astronomers, who lived fifty-two years since
Copernicus, hath by admirable and matchlesse instruments and
many yeares exact observations proved to bee noe better than a
Richard Burton (1576-1639) in The Anatomy of Melancholy
speaks of the doctrine as a "prodigious tenent, or paradox,"
lately revive by "Copernicus, Brunus and some others," and
calls Copernicus in consequence the successor of Atlas. 2 The
vast extent of the heavens that this supposition requires, he
considers "quite opposite to reason, to natural philosophy, and
all out as absurd as disproportional, (so some will) as prodi-
gious, as that of the sun's swift motion of the heavens." If the
earth is a planet, then other planets may be inhabited (as Chris-
tian Huygens argued later on) ; and this involves a possible plu-
rality of worlds. Burton laughs at those who, to avoid the
Church attitude and yet explain the celestial phenomena, invent
new hypotheses and new systems of the world, "correcting
others, doing worse themselves, reforming some and marring
all," as he says of Roeslin's endeavors. "In the meantime the
world is tossed in a blanket amongst them ; they hoyse the earth
up and down like a ball, make it stand and goe at their pleas-
ure." 3 He himself was indifferent.
Others more sensitive to the implications of this system,
might exclaim with George Herbert (1593-1633) : 4
Browne: I, 35.
2 Burton : Anatomy of Melancholy, I, 1 ; I, 66. First edition, 1621 ;
reprinted 1624, 1628, 1632, 1638, 1651-2, 1660, 1676.
"Ibid: I, 385, 389. 'Herbert: II, 315.
"Although there were some fourtie heav'ns, or more,
Sometimes I peere above them all;
Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
Sometimes to hell I fall.
"O rack me not to such a vast extent,
Those distances belong to thee.
The world's too little for thy tent,
A grave too big for me."
Or they might waver, undecided, like Milton who had the arch-
angel answer Adam's questions thus: 1
"But whether thus these things, or whether not,
Whether the Sun predominant in Heaven
Rise on the Earth, or Earth rise on the Sun,
Hee from the East his flaming robe begin,
Or Shee from West her silent course advance
With inoffensive pace that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces ev'n
And bears thee soft with the smooth Air along,
Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid,
Leave them to God above, him serve and feare;
Of other Creatures, as him pleases best,
Wherever plac't, let him dispose; joy thou
In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
And the fair Eve: Heaven is for thee too high
To know what passes there: be lowlie wise." (1667)
Whewell thinks 2 that at this time the diffusion of the Coper
nican system was due more to the writings of Bishop Wilkins
than to those of any one else, for their very extravagances drew
stronger attention to it. The first, "The Discovery of a New
World: or a Discourse tending to prove that there may be
another habitable world in the moon," appeared in 1638 ; and
'Milton: Paradise Lost, Bk. VIII, lines 159 et seq.
The great Puritan divine, John Owen (16161683), accepts the mira-
cle of the sun's standing still without a word of reference to the new
astronomy. (Works: II, 160.) Farrar states that Owen declared New-
ton's discoveries were against the evident testimonies of Scripture
(Farrar: History of Interpretation: xviii.), but I have been unable to
verify this statement. Owen died before the Principia was published in
2 Whewell: I, 410.
a third edition was issued only two years later together with
the second book; "Discourse concerning a New Planet that
'tis probable our Earth is one of the planets." In this latter,
the Bishop stated certain propositions as indubitable; among
these were, that the scriptural passages intimating diurnal mo-
tion of the sun or of the heavens are fairly capable of another
interpretation; that there is no sufficient reason to prove the
earth incapable of those motions which Copernicus ascribes to
it; that it is more probable the earth does move than the heav-
ens, and that this hypothesis is exactly agreeable to common ap-
pearances. 1 And these books appeared when political and con-
stitutional matters, and not astronomical ones, were the burn-
ing questions of the day in England.
The spread of the doctrine was also helped by Thomas Salus-
bury's translations of the books and passages condemned by the
Index in 1616 and 1619. This collection, "intended for gentle-
men," he published by popular subscription immediately after
the Restoration, 2 a fact that indicates that not merely mathe-
maticians (whom Whewell claims 3 were by that time all de-
cided Copernicans) but the general public were interested and
The appearance of Newton's Principia in 1687 with his state-
ment of the universal application of the law of gravitation, soon
ended hesitancy for most people. Twelve years later, John
Keill, (1671-1721), the Scotch mathematician and astronomer
at Oxford, refuted Descartes's theory of vortices and opened
the first course of lectures delivered at Oxford on the new New-
tonian philosophy. 5 Not only were his lectures thronged, but
'Wilkins: Discourse Concerning a New Planet.
"Salusbury: Math. Coll.: To the Reader.
3 Whewell: I, 411.
4 One London bookseller in 1670 advertised for sale "spheres accord-
ing to the Ptolmean, Tychonean and Copernican systems with books for
their use." (Moxon: 272.) In 1683 in London appeared the third
edition of Gassendi's Institutio, the text-book of astronomy in the
universities during this period of uncertainty. It too wavers between
the Tychonic and the Copernican systems.
"Diet, of Nat. Blog. : "Keill."
his books advocating the Copernican system in full 1 went
through several editions in relatively few years.
In the Colonies, Yale University which had hitherto been us-
ing Gassendi's textbook, adopted the Newtonian ideas a few
years later, partly through the gift to the university of some
books by Sir Isaac himself, and partly through the enthusiasm
of two young instructors there, Johnson and Brown, who in
1714-1722 widened the mathematical course by including the new
theories. 2 The text they used was by Rohault, a Cartesian,
edited by Samuel Clarke with critical notes exposing the falla-
cies of Cartesianism. This "disguised Newtonian treatise" was
used at Yale till 1744. The University of Pennsylvania used
this same text book even later. 3
In 1710 Pope (1688-1744) refers to "our Copernican sys-
tem," 4 and Addison (1671-1719) in the Spectator (July 2,
1711) writes this very modern passage:
"But among this set of writers, there are none who more
gratify and enlarge the imagination, than the authors of the
new philosophy, whether we consider their theories of the
earth or heavens, the discoveries they have made by glasses,
or any other of their contemplations on nature. . . . But
when we survey the whole earth at once, and the several plan-
ets that lie within its neighborhood, we are filled with a pleas-
ing astonishment, to see so many worlds hanging one above
another, and sliding around their axles in such an amazing-
pomp and solemnity. If, after this, we contemplate those wide
fields of aether, that reach in height as far as from Saturn to
the fixed stars, and run abroad almost to an infinitude, our
imagination finds its capacity filled with so immense a prospect,
as puts it upon the stretch to comprehend it. But if we yet rise
higher, and consider the fixed stars as so many vast oceans of
flame, that are each of them attended with a different set of
planets, and still discover new firmaments and new lights, that
are sunk farther in those unfathomable depths of aether, so
as not to be seen by the strongest of our telescopes, we are lost
in such a labyrinth of suns and worlds, and confounded with
the immensity and magnificence of nature.
a Keill : Introductio ad Veram Astronomiam.
"Cajori: 37. 4 Pope: Works, VI, 110.
"Nothing is more pleasant to the fancy, than to enlarge itself
by degrees, in its contemplation of the various proportions
which its several objects bear to each other, when it compares
the body of man to the bulk of the whole earth, the earth to
the circle it describes round the sun, that circle to the sphere
of the fixed stars, the sphere of the fixed stars to the circuit of
the whole creation, the whole creation itself to the infinite space
that is everywhere diffused around it; . . . But if, after all
this, we take the least particle of these animal spirits, and con-
sider its capacity wrought into a world, that shall contain within
those narrow dimensions a heaven and earth, stars and planets,
and every different species of living creatures, in the same
analogy and proportion they bear to each other in our own uni-
verse; such a speculation, by reason of its nicety, appears ridic-
ulous to those who have not turned their thoughts that way,
though, at the same time, it is founded on no less than the
evidence of a demonstration." 1
A little later, Cotton Mather declared (1721) that the "Co-
pernican hypothesis is now generally preferred,'' and "that
there is no objection against the motion of the earth but what
has had a full solution." 2 Soon the semi-popular scientific
books took up the Newtonian astronomy. One such was de-
scribed as "useful for all sea-faring Men, as well as Gentle-
1 Addison : Spectator, No. 420, (IV, 372-373). An interesting contrast
to this passage and a good illustration of how the traditional phraseol-
ogy continued in poetry is found in Addison's famous hymn, written a
"Whilst all the stars that round her [earth] burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
"What though in solemn silence all
Move round this dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found ;
"In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing, as they shine,
'The hand that made us is divine'."
2 Mather: Christian Philosopher. 75, 76.
men, and Others." 1 "Newtonianisme pour les Dames" was
advertised in France in the forties.- By 1738 when Pope
wrote the Universal Prayer:
"Yet not to earth's contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round,"
the Copernican-Newtonian astronomy had become a common-
place to most well-educated people in England. To be sure, the
great John Wesley (1770) considered the systems of the uni-
verse merely "ingenious conjectures," but then, he doubted
whether "more than Probabilities we shall ever attain in regard
to things at so great a distance from us." 3
The old phraseology, however, did recur occasionally, es-
pecially in poetry and in hymns. For instance, a hymnal (pref-
ace dated 1806) contains such choice selections as :
"Before the pondr'ous earthly globe
In fluid air was stay'd,
Before the ocean's mighty springs
Their liquid stores display'd"-
"Who led his blest unerring hand
Or lent his needful aid
When on its strong unshaken base
The pondr'ous earth was laid?" 4
But too much importance should not be attributed to such pas-
sages ; though poetry and astronomy need not conflict, as Keble
illustrated : r>
"Ye Stars that round the Sun of Righteousness
In glorious order roll." . . .
'Leadbetter: Astronomy (1729).
2 In de Maupertius: Outrages Divers } (at the back).
3 Wesley : Compendium of Natural Philosophy, I, 14, 139.
4 Dobell: Hymns, No. 5, No. 10.
6 Keble: Christian Year, 279.
By the middle of the 18th century in England, one could say
with Home "that the Newtonian System had been in posses-
sion of the chair for some years ;' J1 but it had not yet convinced
^ the common people, for as Pike wrote in 1753, "Many Com-
mon Christians to this day firmly believe that the earth really
stands still and that the sun moves all round the earth once a
day: neither can they be easily persuaded out of this opinion,
because they look upon themselves bound to believe what the
Scripture asserts." 2
There was, however, just at this time a little group of
thinkers who objected to Newton's scheme, "because of the
endless uninterrupted flux of matter from the sun in light, an
expense which should destroy that orb." 8 These Hutchinson-
ians conceived of light as pure ether in motion springing forth
from the sun, growing more dense the further it goes till it be-
comes air, and, striking the circumference of the universe
(which is perhaps an immovable solid), is thrown back toward
the sun and melted into light again. Its force as its tides of
motion strike the earth and the other planets produces their
constant gyrations. 4 Men like Duncan Forbes, Lord Presi-
dent of the Court of Sessions, and George Home, President of
Magdalen College, Oxford, as a weapon against rationalism,
favored this notion that had been expounded by John Hutchin-
son (1674-1737) in his Moses's Principia (1724)/' They were
also strongly attracted by the scriptural symbolism with which
the book abounds. Leslie Stephen summarizes their doctrines
as (1) extreme dislike for rationalism, (2) a fanatical respect
1 for the letter of the Bible, and (3) an attempt to enlist the ris-
ing powers of scientific enquiry upon the side of orthodoxy. 6
This "little eddy of thought" 7 was not of much influence even
at that time, but it has a certain interest as indicating the posi-
1 tions men have taken when on the defensive against new ideas.
1 Horne : Fair, Candid, Impartial Statement . . , 4.
2 Pike: Philosophia Sacra, 43.
'Forbes: Letter, (1755). 4 See Wesley: I, 136-7.
5 Dict. of Nat. Biog. "Hutchinson."
"Stephen: Hist, of Eng. Thought: I, 390. 7 Ihid : 391.
THE CHURCH AND THE NEW ASTRONOMY : CONCLUSION
ASTRONOMICAL ;thought on the Continent was more
hampered, in the Catholic countries especially, by the re-
strictive opinions of the Church. Yet in 1757, when the de-
cree prohibiting all books dealing with the Copernican doctrine
was removed from the Index, that system had already long
been adopted by the more celebrated academies of Europe, for
so Mrne. de Premontval claimed in 1750; and it was then
reaching out to non-scientific readers, through simple accounts
for "ladies and others not well versed in these somewhat tech-
nical matters." 1 The great landmark in the development of the
doctrine was the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687,
though its effect in Europe was of course slower in being felt
than it was in England. Newton's work and that of the as-
tronomers immediately following him was influential except
where the Church's prohibitions still held sway.
During this period, the books published in free Holland were
more outspoken in their radical acceptance or in their uncer-
tainty of the truth than were those published in the Catholic
countries. Christian Huygens's treatises on the plurality of
worlds not only fully accepted the Copernican doctrine, but like
those of Bishop Wilkins in England, deduced therefrom the
probability that the other planets are inhabited even as the
earth is. A writer 2 on the sphere in 1697 stated the different
theories of the universe so that his readers might choose the
one that to them appeared the most probable. He himself pre-
ferred the Cartesian explanation as the simplest and most con-
venient of all, "though it should be held merely as an hypoth-
esis and not as in absolute agreement with the truth." Pierre
Bayle 3 also explained the different systems, but appears himself
Me Premontval: Le Mpchaniste Philosophe, 54, 72. (The Hague, 1750).
Me Brisbar: Calendrier Historiquc, (Leyden), 228-233.
'Bayle: Systemc Abregc de Philosophic (The Hague, 1731), IV, 394-412.
to waver between the Copernican and the Tychonic concep-
tions. He used, however, the old word "perigee" (nearness
to the earth) rather than the Newtonian "perihelion" (near-
ness to the sun). His objections to the Copernican doctrine
have a familiar ring: It is contrary to the evidence of the
senses ; a stone would not fall back to its starting-place, nor
could a bird return to her nest; the earth would not be equi-
distant from the horizon and the two poles; and lastly it is con-
trary to the Scriptures. Only a few years later, however, De
Maupertius wrote that no one at that day (1744) doubted any
longer the motion of the earth around its axis, and he believed
with Newton that the laws of gravity applied to the universe as
well as to the earth. Then he proceeded to explain the Coper-
nican system which he favored on the ground of its greater
Even in 1750, Mme. de Premontval thought it wiser to pub-
lish in Holland her little life of her father, Le Mechaniste Phi-
losophe. This Jean Piegeon, she claimed, was the first man in
France to make spheres according to the Copernican system.
An orphan, he was educated by a priest ; then took up carpen-
try and mechanics. When he tried to make a celestial sphere
according to the Ptolemaic system, he became convinced of its
falsity because of its complexities. Therefore he plunged into
a study of the new system which he adopted. His first Coper-
nican sphere was exhibited before Louis XIV at Versailles !n
1706 and was bought by the king and presented to the Acad-
emic des Sciences. 2 The second was taken to Canada by one of
the royal officials. Public interest in his work was keen; even
Peter the Great, who was then in Paris, visited his workroom. 3
M. Piegeon also wrote a book on the Copernican system. 4
It seems, however, as though M. Piegeon were slightly in ad-
vance of his age, or more daring, perhaps, than his contempo-
raries, for there was almost no outspoken support of the Co-
pernican system at this time in France. Even Cassini of the
French Academic des Sciences did not explicitly support it,
Me Maupertius : Elements de Geographic, xv, 9-14.
2 de Premontval: 123. "Ibid : 132. "Ibid: 157.
though he spoke favorably of it and remarked that recent ob-
servations had demonstrated the revolutions of each planet
around the sun in accordance with that supposition. 1 But the
great orator, Bossuet, (1627-1703), clung to the Ptolemaic con-
ception as alone orthodox, and scriptural. 2 Abbe Fenelon
(1651-1715) writing on the existence of God, asked: "Who is
it who has hung up this motionless ball of the earth ; who has
placed the foundations for it," and "who has taught the sun to
turn ceasely and regularly in spaces where nothing troubles
it?" 3 And a writer on the history of the heavens as treated by
poets, philosophers and Moses (1739), tells Gassendi, Descartes
and many other great thinkers that their ideas of the heavens
are proved vain and false by daily experience as well as by the
account of Creation ; for the most enlightened experience is
wholly and completely in accord with the account of Moses.
This book was written, the author said, for young people stu-
dents of philosophy and the humanities, also for teachers. 4
The Jesuit order, still a power in Europe in the early 18th
century, was bound to the support of the traditional view, which
led them into some curious positions in connection with
the discoveries made in astronomy during this period. Thus
the famous Jesuit astronomer Boscovich (1711-1787) published
in Rome in 1746 a study of the ellipticity of the orbits of plan-
ets which necessitated the use of the Copernican position; he
stated he had assumed it as true merely to facilitate his labors.
In the second edition (1785) published some years after the re-
moval from the Index of the decree against books teaching the
Copernican doctrine (at his instigation, it is claimed), 5 he
added a note to this passage asking the reader to remember the
time and the place of its former publication. 6 Just at the
end of the preceding century, one of the seminary fathers at
Liege maintained that were the earth to move, being made up
1 Cassini: De I'Origine et du Progres . . 35.
'Shields: 59. I have failed to find this reference in Bossuet's works.
'Fenelon: Oeuvres, I, 3 and 7.
4 Pluche : Histoire du del : viii, ix, xiii.
5 Cath. Ency.: "Boscovitch." 'Opera : III (1785).
of so many and divers combustible materials, it would soon
burst into flames and be reduced to ashes! 1
During the 18th century at Louvain the Copernican doctrine
was warmly supported, but as a theory. A MS. of a course
given there in 1748 has come down to us, in which the pro-
fessor, while affirming its hypothetical character, described it as
a simple, clear and satisfactory explanation of the phenomena,
then answered all the objections made against it by theologians,
physicists, and astronomers. 2 A few years earlier, (1728) a
Jesuit at Liege, though well acquainted with Newton's work,
declared: "For my part I do not doubt the least in the world
that the earth is eternally fixed, for God has founded the ter-
restrial globe, and it will not be shaken." 3 Another priest
stated in the first chapter of his astronomy that the sun and the
planets daily revolve around the earth; then later on, he ex-
plained the Copernican and the Tychonic schemes and the Car-
tesian theory of motion with evident sympathy. 4 Two others,
one a Jesuit in 1682 at Naples, 5 the other in 1741 at Verona,
frankly preferred the Tychonic system, and the latter called the
system found by "Tommaso Copernico" a mere fancy. 6 Still
another priest, evidently well acquainted with Bradley's work^,
as late as in 1774 declared that there was nothing decisive on
either side of the great controversy between the systems. 7 At
this time, however, a father was teaching the Copernican sys-
tem at Liege without differentiating between thesis and hypoth-
esis. 8 And a Jesuit, while he denied (1772) universal gravita-
tion, the earth's movement, and the plurality of inhabited
worlds, declared that the Roman Congregation had done wrong
in charging these as heretical suggestions. In fact, M. Mon-
champ, himself a Catholic priest at Louvain, declared that the
Newtonian proofs were considered by many in the 18th century
virtually to abrogate the condemnation of 1616 and 1633 ; hence
the professors of the seminary at Liege had adopted the Coper-
nican system. 9
'Cited in Monchamp : 335 note. 3 Ibid : 326. *Ibid : 330.
*Fontana : Institutio, II, 32-35. *Ferramosca : Positiones . . :19.
"Piccoli: La Scienza, 4, 7. T Spagnio, De Motu, 81. "Monchamp : 331.
9 Monchamp : 345.
The famous French astronomer Lalande, in Rome in 1757
when the Inquisition first modified its position, tried to per-
suade the authorities to remove Galileo's book also from the
Index; but his efforts were unavailing, because of the sentence
declared against its author. 1 In 1820 Canon Settele was not
allowed by the Master of the Sacred Palace to publish his text-
book because it dealt with the forbidden subject. His appeal
to the Congregation itself resulted, as we 1 have seen, in the
decree of 1822 removing this as a cause for prohibition. Yet
as late as in 1829, when a statue to Copernicus was being un-
veiled at Warsaw, and a great convocation had met in the
church for the celebration of the mass as part of the ceremony,
at the last moment the clergy refused in a body to attend a
service in honor of a man whose book was on the Index. 2
Thus the Roman Catholic Church by reason of its organiza- I
tion and of its doctrine requiring obedience to its authority was
more conspicuous for its opposition as a body to the Copernican
doctrine, even though as individuals many of its members fav-
ored the new system. But the Protestant leaders were quite as
emphatic in their denunciations, though less influential because
of the Protestant idea of the right to individual belief and inter-
pretation. Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Turrettin, 3 Owen, and
Wesley are some of the notable opponents to it. And when the v
scientific objections had practically disappeared, those who in-
terpreted the Scriptures literally were still troubled and hesi-
tant down to the present day. Not many years ago, people /
flocked to hear a negro preacher of the South, Brother Jas-
per, uphold with all his ability that the sun stood still at
Joshua's command, and that today "the sun do move!" Far
more surprising is this statement in the new Catholic Encyclo-
pedia under "Faith," written by an English Dominican :
"If, now, the will moves the intellect to consider some debat-
able point c. g., the Copernican and Ptolemaic theories of the
relationship between the sun and the earth it is clear that the
intellect can only assent to one of these views in proportion that
'Bailly: II, 132, note.
"Flammarion : 196-198. 'Shields: 60.
it is convinced that the particular view is true. But neither
view has, as far as we can know, more than probable truth,
hence of itself the intellect can only give in its partial adherence
to one of these views, it must always be precluded from abso-
lute assent by the possibility that the other may be right. The
fact that men hold more tenaciously to one of these than the
arguments warrant can only be due to some extrinsic consider-
ation, e. g., that it is absurd not to hold to what a vast majority
of men hold."
In astronomical thought as in many another field, science and
reason have had a hard struggle in men's minds to defeat tra-
dition and the weight of verbal inspiration. Within the Roman
Catholic Church opposition to this doctrine was officially weak-
ened in 1757, but not completely ended till the publication of the
Index in 1835 the first edition since the decrees of 1616 and
1619 which did not contain the works of Copernicus, Galileo,
Foscarini, a Stunica and Kepler. Since then, Roman Catholic
writers have been particularly active in defending and explain-
ing the positions of the Church in these matters. They have
not agreed among themselves as to whether the infallibility of
the Church had been involved in these condemnations, nor as
to the reasons for them. As one writer has summarized these
diverse positions, 1 they first claimed that Galileo was condemned
not for upholding a heresy, but for attempting to reconcile these
ideas with the Scriptures, though in fact he was sentenced spe-
cifically for heresy. In their next defense they declared Gali-
leo was not condemned for heresy, but for contumacy and want
. of respect to the Pope. 2 This statement proving untenable,
others held that it was the result of a persecution developing
out of a quarrel between Aristotelian professors and those pro-
fessors who favored experiment, a still worse argument for
the Church itself. Then some claimed that the condemnation
was merely provisional, a position hardly warranted by the
wording of the decrees themselves and flatly contradicted by
Father Riccioli, the spokesman of the Jesuit authorities. 3 More
recently, Roman Catholics have held that Galileo was no more
White : I, 159-167. 2 See di Bruno : Catholic Belief, 286a.
'Riccioli: Apologia, 103.
a victim of the Roman Church than of the Protestant which
fails to remove the blame of either. The most recent position
is that the condemnation of the doctrine by the popes was not
as popes but as men simply, and the Church was not commit-
ted to their decision since the popes had not signed the decrees.
But two noted English Catholics, Roberts and Mivart, publicly
stated in 1870 that the infallibility of the papacy was fully com-
mitted in these condemnations by what they termed incontro-
vertible evidence. 1
One present-day Catholic calls the action of the Congrega-
tions "a theoretical mistake;" 2 another admits it was a deplora-
ble mistake, but practically their only serious one; 3 and a third
considers it "providential" since it proved conclusively "that
whenever there is apparent contradiction between the truths of
science and the truths of faith, either the scientist is declaring
as proved what in reality is a mere hypothesis, or the theologian
is putting forth his own personal views instead of the teaching
of the Gospel." 4 Few would accept today, however, the opinion
of the anonymous writer in the Dublin Reviezv in the forties
that "to the Pontiffs and dignitaries of Rome we are mainly in-
debted for the Copernican system" and that the phrases "heret-
ical" and "heresy" in the sentence of 1633 were but the stylus
curia, for it was termed heresy only in the technical sense. 5
The majority of Protestants, with the possible exception of
the Lutherans, were satisfied with the probable truth of the Co-
pernican doctrine before the end of the 18th century. Down
to the present day, however, there have been isolated protests
raised against it, usually on technical grounds supported by ref-
erence to the Scriptures. DeMorgan refers to one such, "An
Inquiry into the Copernican System . . . wherein it is proved
in the clearest manner, that the earth has only her diurnal mo-
tion . . . with an attempt to point out the only true way
whereby mankind can receive any real benefit from the study
I, 165. See the answer by Wegg-Prosser : Galileo and his
2 Donat: 183. 'Walsh: Popes and Science, 17. *Conway: 48.
5 Anon. : Galileo the Roman Congregation, 39, 60.
of the heavenly bodies, by John Cunningham, London, 1789,"
DeMorgan adds that "the true way appears to be the treatment
of heaven and earth as emblematical of the Trinity." 1 Another,
by "Anglo-American," is entitled "Copernicus Refuted ; or the
True Solar System" (Baltimore, 1846). It begins thus:
"One of these must go, the other stand still,
It matters not which, so choose at your will ;
But when you find one already stuck fast,
You've only got Hobson's choice left at last."
This writer admits the earth's axial rotation, but declares the
earth is fixed as a pivot in the center of the universe, because
the poles of the earth are fixed and immovable, and that the sun
as in the Tychonic scheme encircles the earth and is itself en-
circled by five planets. 2 His account of the origin of the Coper-
nican system is noteworthy : it was originated by Pythagoras
and his deciples but lay neglected because it was held to be
untenable in their time ; it was "revived when learning was at
its lowest ebb by a monk in his cloister, Copernicus, who in ran-
sacking the contents of the monastery happened to lay his hands
on the MS. and then published it to the world with all its blun-
ders and imperfections !" 3 One might remark that the Anglo-
American's own learning was at very low ebb.
The Tychonic scheme was revived also some years later by a
Dane, Zytphen (1856). 4 Three years after, an assembly of
Lutheran clergy met together at Berlin to protest against "sci-
ence falsely so-called," 5 but were brought into ridicule by Pas-
tor Knap's denunciations of the Copernican theory as abso-
lutely incompatible with belief in the Bible. A Carl Schoepffer
had taken up the defense of the Tychonic scheme in Berlin be-
fore this (1854) and by 1868 his lecture was in its seventh edi-
tion. In it he sought to prove that the earth revolves neither
upon its own axis nor yet about the sun. He had seen Fou-
cault's pendulum demonstration of the earth's movement, but he
held that something else, as yet unexplained, caused the devia-
tion of the pendulum, and that the velocity of the heavens
*De Morgan: I, 172. '"Anglo-American": 5-6. 'Ibid: 11.
4 De Morgan : II, 335. 'White : I, 150.
would be no more amazing than the almost incredible velocity
of light or of electricity. 1 His lecture, curiously enough, fell
into the hands of the late General John Watts de Peyster of
New York, who had it translated and published in 1900 together
with a supplement by Frank Allaben. 2 Both these gentlemen ac-
cepted its scientific views and deductions, but the General refused
to go as far as his colleague in the latter's enthusiastic acceptance
of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures as a result of these
statements. 3 A few months later, they published a supplemen-
tary pamphlet claiming to prove the possibility of the sun's
velocity by the analogy of the velocity of certain comets. 4 A
Professor J. R. Lange of California (a German), attracted by
these documents, sent them his own lucubrations on this sub-
ject. He considered Newton's doctrine of universal attraction
"nonsense," and had "absolute proof" in the fixity of the Pole
Star that the earth does not move. 5 In a letter to General de
Peyster, he wrote : "Let us hope and pray that the days of the
pernicious Copernican system may be numbered," 6 but he did
not specify why he considered it pernicious: The General was
nearly eighty years old when he became interested in these mat-
ters, and he did not live long thereafter to defend his position.
His biographers make no mention of it. The other men seem
almost obsessed, especially Lange ; like the Italian painter, Sin-
dico, who bombarded the director of the Paris Observatory in
1878 with many letters protesting against the Copernican sys-
German writers, whether Lutherans or not, appear to have
opposed the system more often in the last century than have
the writers of other nationalities. Besides those already men-
tioned, one proposed an ingenious scheme in which the sun
moves through space followed by the planets as a comet is by
^choepffer: The Earth Stands Fast, title-page, 6-7.
"Ibid: Supplement by Allaben, 21, 74.
3 Ibid : Note by J. W. de P., 74.
4 De Peyster and Allaben: Algol, preface.
'Lange: The Copernican System: The Greatest Absurdity in the His-
tory of Human Thought.
8 De Peyster and Allaben: Algol, 74.
7 Sindico : Refutation du Sysfeme de Copernic. . .
its tail, the planets revolving in a plane perpendicular to that of
the sun's path. A diagram of it would be cone-shaped. He
included in this pamphlet, besides a list of his own books, (all
published in Leipsic), a list of twenty-six titles from 1758 to
1883, books and pamphlets evidently opposed in whole or in
part to the modern astronomy, and seventeen of these were in
German or printed in Germany. 1 In this country at St. Louis
was issued an Astronomische Unterredung (1873) by
J. C. W. L. ; according to the late President White, a bitter
attack on modern astronomy and a decision by the Scriptures
that the earth is the principal body of the universe, that it
stands fixed, and that the sun and the moon only serve to light
Such statements are futile in themselves nowadays, and are
valuable only to illustrate the advance of modern thought of
which these are the little eddies. While modern astronomers
know far more than Copernicus even dreamed of, much of his
work still holds true today. The world was slow to accept his
system because of tradition, authority, so-called common sense,
and its supposed incompatibility with scriptural passages. Cath-
olic and Protestant alike opposed it on these grounds ; but be-
cause of its organization and authority, the Roman Catholic
Church had far greater power and could more successfully
hinder and delay its acceptance than could the Protestants.
Consequently the system won favor slowly at first through the
indifference of the authorities, then later in spite of their active
antagonism. Scholars believed it long before the universities
were permitted to teach it ; and the rationalist movement of the
18th century, the revolt against a superstitious religion, helped
to overturn the age-old conception of the heavens and to bring
Newtonian-Copernicanism into general acceptance.
The elements of this traditional conception are summarized
in the fifth book of Bodin's Unwersoz Nwtura Theatrum, a
scholar's account of astronomy at the close of the sixteenth cen-
tury. 3 Man in his terrestrial habitation occupies the center of
a Tischner : Le Systeme Solaire se Mouvant. (1894).
2 White: I, 151.
*See translated sections in Appendix C.
a universe created solely to serve him, God presides over all
from the Empyrean above, sending forth his messengers the an-
gels to guide and control the heavenly bodies. Such had been
the thought of Christians for more than a thousand years. Then
came the influence of a new science. Tycho Brahe "broke the
crystal spheres of Aristotle" 1 by his study of the comet of 1572;
Galileo's telescopes revealed many stars hitherto unknown, and
partly solved the mysteries of the Milky Way ; Kepler's laws ex-
plained the courses of the planets, and Newton's discovery of the
universal application of the forces of attraction relieved the an-
gels of their duties among the heavens. Thinkers like Bruno
proposed the possibility of other systems and universes besides
the solar one in which the earth belongs. And thus not only did
man shrink in importance in his own eyes ; but his conception of
the heavens changed from that of a finite place inexplicably
controlled by the mystical beings of a supernatural world, to one
of vast and infinite spaces traversed by bodies whose density and
mass a man could calculate, whose movements he could foretell,
and whose very substance he could analyze by the science of to-
day. This dissolution of superstition, especially in regard to
comets was notably rapid and complete after the comet
of 1680. 2 Thus the rationalist movement with the new
science opened men's minds to a universe composed of familiar
substances and controlled by known or knowable laws with no
tinge remaining of the supernatural. Today a man's theological
beliefs are not shaken by the discovery of a new satellite or even
a new planet, and the appearance of a new comet merely pro-
vides the newspaper editor with the subject of a passing jest.
Yet it was fully one hundred and fifty years after the publica-
tion of the De Revolutionibus before its system met with the
general approval of scholars as well as of mathematicians; then
nearly a generation more had to elapse/ before it was openly
taught even at Oxford where the Roman Catholic and Lutheran
Churches had no control. During the latter part of this period,
readers were often left free to decide for themselves as to the
relative merits of the Tychonic and Copernican or Copernican-
'Robinson: 107. 2 Ibid : 119.
Cartesian schemes. But it took fully fifty years and more, be-
sides, before these ideas had won general acceptance by the com-
mon people, so wedded were they to the traditional view
through custom and a superstitious reverence for the Bible.
Briefly then, the De Revolutionibus appeared in 1543 ; and quiet-
ly won some supporters, notably Bruno, Kepler and Galileo; the
Congregations of the Index specifically opposed it in 1616 and
1633 ; however it continued to spread among scholars and oth-
ers with the aid of Cartesianism for another fifty years till the
appearance of Newton's Principia in 1687. Then its acceptance
rapidly became general even in Catholic Europe, till it was al-
most a commonplace in England by 1743, two hundred years
after its first formal promulgation, and had become strong enough
in Europe to cause the Congregations in 1757 to modify their
stand. Thereafter opposition became a curiosity rather than a
significant fact. Only the Roman Church officially delayed its
recognition of the new astronomy till the absurdity of its obso-
lete position was brought home to it by Canon Settele's appeal in
1820. Fifteen years later the last trace of official condemnation
was removed, a little over two hundred years after the decrees
had first been issued, and just before Bessel's discovery of
stellar parallax at length answered one of the strongest and old-
est arguments against the system. Since then have come many
apologias in explanation and extenuation of the Church's decided
stand in this matter for so many generations.
Though Galileo himself was forced to his knees, unable to
withstand his antagonists, his work lived on after him ; he and
Copernicus, together with Kepler and Newton stand out both
as scientists and as leaders in the advance of intellectual enlight-
enment. The account of their work and that of their less well-
known supporters, compared with that of their antagonists,
proves the truth of the ancient Greek saying which Rheticus used
as the motto for the Narratio Priwia, the first widely known ac-
count of the Copernican system: "One who intends to phil-
osophize must be free in mind."
PTOLEMY : Syntoxis Mat hematic a (Almagest)
'That the earth has no movement of rotation," in Opera
Quce Exstant Omnia, edidit Heiberg, Leipsic, 1898, Bk. I, sec. 7 :
(I, 21-25) ; compared with the translation into French by
Halma, Paris, 1813.
By proofs similar to the preceding, it is shown that the earth
cannot be transported obliquely nor can it be moved away from
the center. For, if that were so, all those things would take
place which would happen if it occupied any other point than
that of the center. It seems unnecessary to me, therefore, to
seek out the cause of attraction towards the center when it is
once evident from the phenomena themselves, that the earth
occupies the center of the universe and that all heavy bodies
are borne towards it; and this will be readily understood if it
is remembered that the earth has been demonstrated to have a
spherical shape, and according to what we have said, is placed
at the center of the universe, for the direction of the fall of
heavy bodies (I speak of their own motions) is always and
everywhere perpendicular to an uncurved plane drawn tangent
to the point of intersection. Obviously these bodies would all
meet at the center if they were not stopped by the surface,
since a straight line drawn to the center is perpendicular: to a
plane tangent to the sphere at that point.
Those who consider it a paradox that a mass like the earth is
supported on nothing, yet not moved at all, appear to me to ar-
gue according to the preconceptions they get from what they
see happening to small bodies about them, and not according to
what is characteristic of the universe as a whole, and this is the
cause of their mistake. For I think that such a thing would not
have seemed wonderful to them any longer if they had per-
ceived that the earth, great as it is, is merely a point in compar-
ison to the surrounding body of the heaven. They would find
that it is possible for the earth, being infinitely small relative to
the universe, to be held in check and fixed by the forces exer-
cised over it equally and following similar directions by the
universe, which is infinitely great and composed of similar parts.
There is neither up nor down in the universe, for that cannot
be imagined in a sphere. As to the bodies which it encloses,
by a consequence of their nature it happens that those that are
light and subtle are as though blown by the wind to the out-
side and to the circumference, and seem to appear to us to go
up, because that is how we speak of the space above our heads
that envelops us. It happens on the other hand that heavy
bodies and those composed of dense parts are drawn towards
the middle as towards a center, and appear to us to fall down,
because that it is the word we apply to what is beneath our feet
in the direction of the center of the earth. But one should be-
lieve that they are checked around this center by the retarding
effect of shock and of friction. It would be admitted then that
the entire mass of the earth, which is considerable in compari-
son to the bodies falling on it, could receive these in their fall
without acquiring the slightest motion from the shock of their
weight or of their velocity. But if the earth had a movement
which was common to it and to all other heavy bodies, it would
soon seemingly outstrip them as a result of its weight, thus
leaving the animals and the other heavy bodies without other
support than the air, and would soon touch the limits of the
heaven itself. All these consequences would seem most ridic-
ulous if one were only even imagining them.
There are those who, while they admit these arguments be-
cause there is nothing to oppose them, pretend that nothing-
prevents the supposition, for instance, that if the sky is motion-
less, the earth might turn on its axis from west to east, making
this revolution once a day or in a very little less time, or that,
if they both turn, it is around the same axis, as we have said,
and in a manner conformable to the relations between them
which we have observed.
It has escaped these people that in regard to the appearances
of the planets themselves, nothing perhaps prevents the earth
from having the simpler motion; but they do not realize how
very ridiculous their opinion is in view of what takes place
around us and in the air. For if we grant them that the light-
est things and those composed of the subtlest parts do not
move, which would be contrary to nature, while those that are
in the air move visibly more swiftly than those that are terres-
trial; if we grant them that the most solid and heavy bodies
have a swift, steady movement of their own, though it is true
however that they obey impelling forces only with difficulty ;
they would be obliged to admit that the earth by its revolution
has a movement more rapid than the movements taking place
around it, since it would make so great a circuit in so short a
time. Thus the bodies which do not rest on it would appear
always to have a motion contrary to its own, and neither the
clouds, nor any missile or flying bird would appear to go to-
wards the east, for the earth would always outstrip them in
this direction, and would anticipate them by its own movement
towards the east, with the result that all the rest would appear
to move backwards towards the west.
If they should say that the atmosphere is carried along by
the earth with the same speed as the earth's own revolution, it
would be no less true that the bodies contained therein would
not have the same velocity. Or if they were swept along with
the air, no longer would anything seem to precede or to follow,
but all would always appear stationary, and neither in flight
nor in throwing would any- ever advance or retreat. That is,
however, what we see happening, since neither the retardation
nor the acceleration of anything is traceable to the movement
of the earth.
"To His HOLINESS, PAUL III, SUPREME PONTIFF,
PREFACE BY NICHOLAS COPERNICUS TO His BOOKS ON
(A translation of the Prafatio in Copernicus: De Revolution-
ibus; pp. 3-8.)
"I can certainly well believe, most holy Father, that, while
mayhap a few will accept this my book which I have written con-
cerning the revolutions of the spheres of the world, ascribing
certain motions to the sphere of the earth, people will clamor
that I ought to be cast out at once for such an opinion. Nor are
my ideas so pleasing to me that I will not carefully weigh what
others decide concerning them. And although I know that the
meditations of philosophers are remote from the opinions of the
unlearned, because it is their aim to seek truth in all things so
far as it is permitted by God to the human reason, nevertheless
I think that opinions wholly alien to the right ought to be driven
out. Thus when I considered with myself what an absurd fairy-
tale people brought up in the opinion, sanctioned by many ages,
that the earth is motionless in the midst of the heaven, as if it
were the center of it, would think it if I were to assert on the
contrary that the earth is moved ; I hesitated long whether I
would give to the light my commentaries composed in proof of
this motion, or whether it would indeed be more satisfactory to
follow the example of the Pythagoreans and various others who
were wont to pass down the mysteries of philosophy not by
books, but from hand to hand only to their friends and relatives,
as the letter of Lysis to Hipparchus proves. 1 But verily they
seemed to me not to have done this, as some think, from any dis-
'See Prowe: Nic. Cop.: Ill; 128-137.
like to spreading their teachings, but lest the most beautiful
things and those investigated with much earnestness by great
men, should be despised by those to whom spending good work
on any book is a trouble unless they make profit by it ; or if they
are incited to the liberal study of philosophy by the exhortations
and the example of others, yet because of the stupidity of their
wits they are no more busily engaged among philosophers than
drones among bees. When therefore I had pondered these mat-
ters, the scorn which was to be feared on account of the novelty
and the absurdity of the opinion impelled me for that reason to
set aside entirely the book already drawn up.
"But friends, in truth, have brought me forth into the light
again, though I long hesitated and am still reluctant; among
these the foremost was Nicholas Schonberg, Cardinal of Capua,
celebrated in all fields of scholarship. Njext to him is that
scholar, my very good friend, Tiedeman Giese, Bishop of Culm,
most learned in all sacred matters, (as he is), and in all good
sciences. He has repeatedly urged me and, sometimes even with
censure, implored me to publish this book and to suffer it to see
the light at last, as it has lain hidden by me not for nine years
alone, but also into the fourth 'novenium'. Not a few other
scholars of eminence also pleaded with me, exhorting me that I
should no longer refuse to contribute my book to the common
service of mathematicians on account of an imagined dread.
They said that however absurd in many ways this my doctrine
of the earth's motion might now appear, so much the greater
would be the admiration and goodwill after people had seen by
the publications of my commentaries the mists of absurdities
rolled away by the most lucid demonstrations. Brought to this
hope, therefore, by these pleaders, I at last permitted my
friends, as they had long besought me, to publish this work.
"But perhaps your Holiness will not be so shocked that I
have dared to bring forth into the light these my lucubrations,
having spent so much work in elaborating them, that I did not
hesitate even to commit to a book my conclusions about the
earth's motion, but that you will particularly wish to hear from
me how it came into my mind to dare to imagine any motion of
the earth, contrary to the accepted opinion of mathematicians
and in like manner contrary to common sense. So I do not wish
to conceal from your Holiness that nothing else moved me to
consider some other explanation for the motions of the spheres of
the universe than what I knew, namely that mathematicians did
not agree among themselves in their examinations of these things.
For in the first place, they are so completely undecided concern-
ing the motion of the sun and of the moon that they could not
observe and prove the constant length of the great year. 1 Next,
in determining the motions of both these and the five other plan-
ets, they did not use the same principles and assumptions or even
the same demonstrations of the appearances of revolutions and
motions. For some used only homocentric circles ; others, eccen-
trics and epicycles, which on being questioned about, they them-
selves did not fully comprehend. For those who put their trust
in homocentrics, although they proved that other diverse motions
could be derived from these, nevertheless they could by no
means decide on any thing certain which in the least correspond-
ed to the phenomena. But these who devised eccentrics, even
though they seem for the most part to have represented appar-
ent motions by a number [of eccentrics] suitable to them, yet
in the meantime they have admitted quite a few which appear
to contravene the first principles of equality of motion. An-
other notable thing, that there is a definite symmetry between
the form of the universe and its parts, they could not devise or
construct from these; but it is with them as if a man should
take from different places, hands, feet, a head and other mem-
bers, in the best way possible indeed, but in no way comparable
to a single body, and in no respect corresponding to each other,
so that a monster rather than a man would be constructed from
them. Thus in the process of proof, which they call a system,
they are found to have passed over some essential, or to have
admitted some thing both strange and scarcely relevant. This
would have been least likely to have happened to them if they
had followed definite principles. For if the hypotheses they
assumed were not fallacious, everything which followed out of
them would have been verified beyond a doubt. However ob-
scure may be what I now say, nevertheless in its own place it
will be made more clear.
"When therefore I had long considered this uncertainty of
traditional mathematics, it began to weary me that no more def-
inite explanation of the movement of the world machine estab-
lished 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 had thought the earth was moved. Then later
^discovered according to Plutarch that certain others had held
*. e. f the 15,000 solar years in which all the heavenly bodies complete
their circuits and return to their original positions.
the same opinion; and in order that this passage may be avail-
able to all, I wish to write it down here :
"But while some say the earth stands still, Philolaus
the Pythagorean held that it is moved about the element
of fire in an oblique circle, after the same manner of
motion that the sun and moon have. Heraclides of
Pontus and Ecphantus the Pythagorean assign a mo-
tion to the earth, not progressive, but after the man-
ner of a wheel being carried on its own axis. Thus
the earth, they say, turns itself upon its own center
from west to east." 1
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 obser-
vation, 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, so that in the
first book I describe all the positions of the spheres together with
the motions I attribute to the earth ; thus this book contains a
kind of general disposition of the universe. Then in the re-
maining books, I bring together the motions of the other plan-
ets and all the spheres with the mobility of the earth, so that it
can thence be inferred to what extent the motions and appear-
ances of the other planets and spheres can be solved by attribu-
ting motion to the earth. Nor do I doubt that skilled and schol-
arly 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. In order that learned and unlearned may
alike see that in no way whatsoever I evade judgment, I prefer
"Plutarch: Moralia: De Phcitis Philosophorum, Lib. Ill, c. 13 (V. 326).
P R XL I A T I O A V T H O R IS.
rent circuios ad demonftrandum phenomena aftrorum . Exilti-
mavi mihi quoquc facile p<f nnitti, ut cxpenrem, an pofito terra; ali-
quo menu firmiorcs dcmonftrationes, quam iilorum client, invem-
n in rcvolutione orhium cxlefhum poflent.
Atquc ica ego policis motibus, quos terra: mfhx m opere tribuo,
inuka & longa obfcrvationc tandem rcpcn, quod li reliquorum ly-
dcrum err annum motus, ad terra; circulanoncm conferantur, &:
ftipputenturpro cujiifqucrydcnsrcvoliitionc, non modo iilorum
phenomena indeiequantur.fcd Scrydcrum atqueorbium omnium
ordines, magmtudincs, & ca^lum ipfum ita conncctat , ut m nulla
fin partc poiTit tranfpom aliquid, fine rcliquarum partuim, ac totius
umvcrfhatis confulione. Promdc quoquc & in progreflu opens
hunc fccutus fum ordinem utin primo libro defcribam omncs pofi-
tiones orbium, cum terra?, quos ci tribuo, motibus* ut is liber con-
tineat communcm quafi cenftitutionem umverfi. In rcliquis vcro
libris poftea conf'cro reliquorum fydcrum atque omnium orbium,
motus, cum terra: mobilitate, ut inde colligi poffit, quatenus reli-
quorum fyderum atque orbium motus & apparently fal van pofBnt,
fi ad terra; motus conferantur. Ncque dubito, qumingcnioli atque
c'odli Mathematici mihi aftipularun lint, fi quod haec philofopliia la
primisexigit, noflo'biter,Icdpenitus,caqua; ad harum rerum dc-
monftrationem a me mhacoperc, adferuntur, cognofcercatqtfc
cxpendere voluennt. Vt vcro printer doviti atque mdo&ividerenr,
me nullius omnmo fubterfugere judicium , malui mx -Saftitati,
quamcutquamaltcnhas.mcas lucubrationes dedicate, proptcrea
quod &m hoc remotiirangul(3 torrac,m quo ego ago,ordims digrii-
tare, & htcrarum omnium atque Atathcmatices etiam aiftore, cmi-
ncnnfs. habeans,ut facile tua authontate i<cjudicio calumniantium
morfusrepnmcrcpoflis,ctfi m.proverbiout, non efle remctlium
adycrfiis S'ycophanra- morfiim.
Sifort^le en*nt ^taTaioAax^acii cun^mniiynMathc
rriinfJ&me,tfi Jc iljis judicuim iibi (uinunc 5yropjer_
' luum ryopofitum detomtm , au
A photographic facsimile (reduced) of a page from Mulier's edition
(1617) as "coi-rected" according to the Monitum of the Congregations
in 1620. The first writer merely underlined the passage with marginal
comment that this was to he deleted by ecclesiastical order. The sec-
ond writer scratched out the passage and refered to the second volume of
Riccioli's Aluunicstum Novum for the text of the order. The earlier
writer was probably the librarian of the Florentine convent from which
this book came, and wrote this soon after 1620. The later writer did
his work after 1651, when Riccioli's book was published. This copy of
the f)e Revolutionibus is now in the Dartmouth College Library.
to dedicate these my lucubrations to your Holiness rather than
to any one else; especially because even in this very remote
corner of the earth in which I live, you are held so very eminent
by reason of the dignity of your position and also for your love
of all letters and of mathematics that, by your authority and
your decision, you can easily suppress the malicious attacks of
calumniators, even though proverbially there is no remedy
against the attacks of sycophants.
If perchance there should be foolish speakers who, together
with those ignorant of all mathematics, will take it upon them-
selves 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. 1 So it ought not to surprise stu-
dents 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. For it
is not so long ago under Leo X when the question arose in the
Lateran Council about correcting the Ecclesiastical Calendar. It
was left unsettled then for this reason alone, that the length of
the year and of the months and the movements of the sun and
moon had not been satisfactorily determined. From that time
on, I have turned my attention to the more accurate observation
of these, at the suggestion of that most celebrated scholar, Fath-
er Paul, a bishop from Rome, who was the leader then in that
matter. What, however, I may have achieved in this, I leave to
the decision of your Holiness especially, and to all other learned
mathematicians. And lest I seem to your Holiness to promise
more about the value of this work than I can perform, I now
pass on to the undertaking.
THE DRAMA OF UNIVERSAL NATURE: in which are considered
the efficient causes and the ends of all things, discussed in a
connected series of five books, by JEAN BODIN, (Frankfort,
Book V : On the Celestial Bodies : their number, movement, size,
harmony and distances compared with themselves and with
the earth. Sections 1 and 10 (in part) and 12 (entire).
'These two sentences the Congregations in 1620 ordered struck out, as
part of their "corrections." 115
(BODIN, JEAN: Universes Natures Theatrum in quo rerum om-
nium effectrices causa et fines contemplantur, et continue? se-
ries quinque libris discutiuntur. Frankfort, 1597. Book V
translated into English by the writer and compared with the
French translation by Frangois de Fougerolles, (Lyons, 1597).
Section 1: On the definition and the number of the spheres.
MYSTAGOGUE:. . .Now to prove that the heavens have a na-
ture endowed with intelligence I need no other argument than
that by which Theophrastus and Alexander prove they are liv-
ing, for, they say, if the heavens did not have intelligence, they
would be greatly inferior in dignity and excellence to men.
That is why Aben-Ezra, 1 having interpreted the Hebrew of these
two words of the Psalm : "The heavens declare," has written that
the phrase Sapperim (declare) in the judgment of all Hebrews
is appropriate to such great intelligence. Also he who said
"When the morning stars sang together and shouted for joy," 2
indicated a power endowed with intelligence, as did the Master
of Wisdom 3 also when he said that God created the heavens
THEODORE. I have learned in the schools that the spheres are
not moved of themselves but that they have separate intelli-
gences who incite them to movement.
MYST. That is the doctrine of Aristotle. But Theophrastus
and Alexander, 4 (when they teach that the spheres are animated
bodies) explain adequately that the spheres are agitated by their
own coessential soul. For if the sky were turned by an intelli-
gence external to it, its movement would be accidental with the
result that it, and the stars with it, would not be moved other-
wise, than as a body without soul. But accidental motion is vio-
lent. And nothing violent in nature can be of long duration.
On the contrary there is nothing of longer duration, nor more
constant, than the movement of the heavens.
THEO. What do you call fixed stars?
MYST. Celestial beings who are gifted with intelligence and
with light, and who are in continual motion. This is sufficiently
indicated by the words of Daniel 5 when he wrote, that the souls
of those who have walked justly in this life, and who have
brought men back to the path of virtue, all have their seat and
*As Rabbi David testified on the 19th Psalm [these footnotes are by
2 Job: 38. "Proverbs.
4 Metaphysics : II. c. 6, de Coelo. I. c. 6.
5 In his last chapter.
dwelling (like the gleaming stars) among the heavens. By these
words one can plainly understand the essence and figure of the
angels as well as of the celestial beings ; for while other beings
have their places in this universe assigned to them for their hab-
itation, as the fish the sea, the cattle the fields, and the wild
beasts the mountains and forests, even as Origen, 1 Eusebius, and
Diodorus say, so the stars are assigned positions in the heavens.
This can also be understood by the curtains of the tabernacle
which Moses, the great Lawgiver, had ornamented with the im-
ages of cherubim showing that the heavens were indicated by
the angelic faces of the stars. While St. Augustine, 2 Jerome, 3
Thomas Aquinas 4 and Scotus most fitly called this universe a
being, nevertheless Albertus, Damascenus, and Thomas Aquinas
deny that the heavenly bodies are animated. But Thomas Aquin-
as shows himself in this inconsistent and contradictory, for he
confesses that spiritual substances are united with the heavenly
bodies, which could not be unless they were united in the same
hypostasis of an animated body. If this body is animated, it
must necessarily be living and either rational or irrational. If,
on the other hand, this spiritual substance does not make the
same hypostasis with the celestial body, it will necessarily be that
the movement of the sky is accidental, as coming from the mover
outside to the thing moved, no more nor less than the movement
of a wheel conies from the one who turns it : As this is ab-
surd, what follows from it is necessarily absurd also.
THEO. How many spheres are there?
MYST. It is difficult to determine their number because of the
variety of opinions among the authorities, each differing from
the other, and because of the inadequacy of the proofs of such
things. For Eudoxus has stated that the spheres with their
deferents are not more than three and twenty in number. Calip-
pus has put it at thirty, and Aristotle 5 at forty-seven, which
Alexander Aphrodisiensis 6 has amended by adding to it two more
on the advice of Sosigenes. Ptolemy holds that there are 31
celestial spheres not including the bodies of the planets. Johan
Reg-iomontanus says 33, an opinion which is followed by nearly
all, because in the time of Ptolemy they did not yet know that
the eighth sphere and all the succeeding ones are carried around
by the movement of the trepidation. Thus he held that the moon
is confirmed by Pico of Mirandola: Heptaplus : Bk. V.
'Enchiridion : cap. 43; Gen.: 2 and 18.
'On Psalm: Audite cceli. 4 Summa: pt. 1, art. 3, ques. 70.
'In his commentaries on Book XII of Metaph. where he gives the
opinion of Calippus and Eudoxus.
has five orbits, Mercury six, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn
each four, aside from the bodies of the planets themselves, for
beyond these are still the spheres and deferents of the eighth
and ninth spheres. But Copernicus, reviving Eudoxus' idea,
held that the earth moved around the motionless sun ; and he has
also removed the epicycles with the result that he has greatly
reduced their number, so that one can scarcely find eight spheres
THEO. What should one do with such a variety of opinions?
MYST. Have recourse to the sacred fountain of the Hebrews
tQ search out the mysteries of a thing so deeply hidden from
man ; for from them we may obtain an absolutely certain de-
cision. The Tabernacle which the great Lawgiver Moses or-
dered to be made 1 was like the Archetype of the universe, with
its ten curtains placed around it each decorated with the figures
of cherubim thus representing the ten heavens with the beauty
of their resplendent stars. And even though Aben-Ezra did not
know of the movement of trepidation, nevertheless he inter-
preted this passage, "The heavens are the work of Thy fingers"
as indicating the number of the ten celestial spheres. The Py-
thagoreans seem also to have agreed upon the same number
since, besides the earth and the eight heavens, they imagine a
sphere Anticthon because they did not then clearly understand
the celestial movements. They thought however, all should be
embraced in the tenth.
THEO. The authority of such writers has indeed so great
weight with me that I place their statements far in advance of
the arguments of all others. Nevertheless if it can be done, I
should wish to have this illustrated and confirmed by argument
in order to satisfy those who believe nothing except on absolute
MYST. It can indeed be proved that there are ten mobile
spheres in which the fiery bodies accomplish their regular
courses. Yet by these arguments that ultimate, motionless
sphere which embraces and encircles all from our terrestial abode
to its circumference within its crystalline self, encompassing
plainly the utmost shores and limits of the universe, cannot be
proved. For as it has been shown before [in Book I] the
elemental world was inundated by celestial waters from above.
Nor can it apparently be included in the number of the spheres
since (as we will point out later) as great a distance exists be-
tween it and the nearest sphere as between the ocean and the
starry heaven. Furthermore it has been said before that the es-
*Ex. XVIII and following. Philo Judaeus in the Allegories.
sence of the spheres consists of fire and water which is not fitting
for the celestial waters above.
THEO. By what arguments then can it be proved there are ten
MYST. The ancients knew well that there were the seven
spheres of the planets, and an eighth sphere of the fixed stars
which, down to the time of Eudoxus and Meto, they thought had
but one simple movement. These men were the first who per-
ceived by observation that the fixed stars were carried back-
ward quite contrary to the movement of the Primum Mobile.
After them came Timochares, Hipparchus, and Menelaus, and
later Ptolemy, who confirmed these observations perceiving that
the fixed stars (which people had hitherto thought were fixed in
their places) had been separated from their station. For this
reason they thought best to add a ninth sphere to the eight in-
ferior ones. Much later an Arabian and a Spanish king, Men-
sor and Alphonse, great students of the celestial sciences, in their
observations noticed that the eighth sphere with the seven fol-
lowing moved in turning from the north to the east, then
towards the south, and so to the west, finally returning to the
north, and that such a movement was completed in 7000 years.
This Johannus Regiomontanus, a Franconian, has proved, with
a skill hitherto equalled only by that of those who proved the
ninth sphere, which travels from west to east. From this it is
necessarily concluded that there are ten spheres.
THEO. Why so?
MYST. Because every natural body 1 has but one movement
which is its own by nature; all others are either voluntary or
through violence, contrary to the nature of a mobile object; for
just as a stone cannot of its own impulse ascend and descend,
so one and the same sphere cannot of itself turn from the east
to the west and from the west to the east and still less from the
north to the south and south to north.
THEO. What then?
MYST. It follows from this that the extremely rapid move-
ment by which all the spheres are revolved in twenty- four hours,
belongs to the Primum Mobile, which we call the tenth sphere,
and which carries with it all the nine lesser spheres ; that the
second or planetary movement, that is, from west to east, is
communicated to the lesser spheres and belongs to the ninth
sphere ; that the third movement, resembling a person stagger-
ing, belongs to the eighth sphere with which it affects the other
lesser spheres and makes them stagger in a measure outside of
the poles, axes and centres of the greater spheres.
"Aristotle: Metaph. II and XII and de Coelo I.
Section 10: On the position of the universe according to its
* * * *
THEO. Does it not also concern Physics to discuss those
things that lie outside the universe?
MYST. If there were any natural body beyond the heavens,
most assuredly it would concern Physics, that is, the observer
and student of nature. But in the book of Origins, 1 the Master
workman is said to have separated the waters and placed the
firmament in between them. The Hebrew philosophers declare
that the crystalline sphere which Ezekiel 2 called the great crystal
and upon which he saw God seated, as he wrote, is as far be-
yond the farthermost heaven as our ocean is far from that heav-
en, and that this orb is motionless and therefore is called God's
throne. For "seat" implies quiet and tranquility which could
be proper for none other than the one immobile and immu-
table God. This is far more probable and likely than Aristotle's
absurd idea, unworthy the name of a philosopher, by which he
placed the eternal God in a moving heaven as if He were its
source of motion and in such fashion that He was constrained
of necessity to move it. We have already refuted this idea. It
has also been shown that these celestial waters full of fertility
and productiveness sometimes are spread abroad more widely
and sometimes less so, as though obviously restrained, whence
the heavens are said to be closed 3 and roofed 4 , with clouds or that
floods burst forth out of the heaven to inundate the earth. Final-
ly we read in the Holy Scriptures that the eternal God is seated
upon the flood.
THEO. Why then are not eleven spheres counted?
MYST. Because the crystalline sphere is said to have been
separated from the inferior waters by the firmament, and it
therefore cannot be -called a heaven. Furthermore motion is
proper to all the heavens, but the crystalline one is stationary.
That is why Rabi Akiba called 5 it a marble counterpart of the
universe. This also is signified in the construction of the altar
which was covered with a pavilion in addition to its ten curtains
for, as it is stated elsewhere, 6 God covers the heavens with
clouds, and the Scriptures often make mention of the waters be-
yond the heavens. 7 There are those, however, who teach that
the Hebrew word Scamajim may be applied only to a dual num-
*Gen. : 1. 2 Chap. 1 and 10. Exod.: 24.
'I Kings : 8. Deut. : 28. 4 Psalm 146.
'According to Maymon: Perplexorum, III. "Psalm 147.
7 Psalm 148. Gen. 1 and 7.
her, so that they take it to mean the crystalline sphere and the
starry one. But I think those words in Solomon's speech 1 "the
heaven of heaven, and the heavens of the heavens" refer in the
singular to the crystalline sphere, in the plural to the ten lesser
THEO. It does not seem so marvelous to me that an aqueous
or crystalline sphere exists beyond the ten spheres, as that it is
as far beyond the furthermost sphere as the ocean is far this side
of it, that is, as astrologists teach, 1040 terrestrial diameters.
MYST. It is written most plainly that the firmament holds the
middle place between the two waters. Therefore God is called 2
in Hebrew Helion, the Sun, that is, the Most High, and under
His feet the heaven is spread like a crystal, 3 although He is
neither excluded nor included in any part of the universe, it is
however consistent with His Majesty to be above all the spheres
and to fill heaven and earth with His infinite power as Isaiah 4
indicated when he writes : "His train filled the temple ;" it is the
purest and simplest act, the others are brought about by forces
and powers. He alone is incorporeal, others are corporeal or
joined to bodies. He alone is eternal, others according to their
nature are transitory and fleeting unless they are strengthened
by the Creator's might; wherefore the Chaldean interpreter is
seen everywhere to have used the words, Majesty, Glory or
Power in place of the presence of God.
THEO. Nevertheless so vast and limitless a space must be
filled with air or fire, since there are no spheres there, nor will
nature suffer any vacuum.
MYST. If then the firmament occupies the middle position be-
tween the two waters, then by this hypothesis you must admit
that the space beyond the spheres is empty of elemental and
celestial bodies ; otherwise you would have to admit that the last
sphere extends on even to the crystalline orb, which can in no
way be reconciled with the Holy Scriptures and still less with
reason because of the incredible velocity of this sphere. There-
fore it is far more probable that this space is filled with angels.
THEO. Is there some medium between God and the angels
which shares in the nature of both ?
MYST. What is incorporeal and indivisible cannot communi-
cate any part of its essence to another ; for if a creature had any
part of the divine essence, it would be all God, since God neither
has parts nor can be divided, therefore He must be separated
from all corporeal contact or intermixture.
'Also in Psalm 67 and 123.
2 Psalm 92. "Exod. 24. Ezek. 1, 10. 4 Isa. 6.
Section 12: On guardian angels.
THEO. What then in corporeal nature is closest to God ?
MYST. The two Seraphim, who stand near the eternal Cre-
ator, 1 and who are said to have six wings, two wherewith to fly,
the others to cover head and feet. By this is signified the ad-
mirable swiftness with which they fulfill His commands, yet head
and feet are veiled for so the purpose of their origin and its
earliest beginning are not known to us. Also they have eyes scat-
tered in all parts of their bodies to indicate that nothing is hid-
den from them. And they also pour oil for lighting through a
funnel into the seven-branched candlestick; that is, strength and
power are poured forth by the Creator to the seven planets, so
that we should turn from created things to the worship and
love of the Creator.
THEO. Since nothing is more fitting for the Divine goodness
than to create, to generate, and to pile up good things for all,
whence comes the destruction of the world and the ruin of all
MYST. It is true Plato and Aristotle attributed the cause of
all ills to the imperfection of matter in which they thought was
some kakopoion* but that is absurd since it is distinctly writ-
ten: All that God had made was good, or as the Hebrews ex-
press it, beautiful, so evil is nothing else than the absence 2 or
privation of good.
THEO. Can not wicked angels be defined without privation
since they are corporeal essences?
MYST. Anything that exists is said to be good and to be a
participant by its existence in the divine goodness ; and even
as in a well regulated Republic, executioners, lictors, and
corpse-bearers are no less necessary than magistrates, judges
and overseers; so in the Republic of this world, for the gen-
eration, management and guardianship of things God has gath-
ered together angels as leaders and directors for all the celes-
tial places, for the elements, for living beings, for plants, for
minerals, for states, provinces, families and individuals. And not
only has He done this, but He has also assigned His servants,
lictors, avengers and others to places where they may do noth-
ing without His order, nor inflict any punishment upon wicked
men unless the affair has been known fully and so decided.
'Isa. 6. Ezek. 1 and 10. Zach. 4. Exod. 24, 25.
*Maleficium quidam, *. e., some evil-power. Job 5.
2 Augustine against Faustus wrote that vanity is not produced from the
dust, nor evil from the earth.
Thus God is said 1 to have made Leviathan, which is the out-
flow of Himself, that is, the natural rise and fall of all things.
"I have created a killer," 2 He said, "to destroy," and so also
Behemoth, and the demons cleaving to him, which are often
called ravens, eagles and lions, and which are said to beg their
food of God, that is, the taking of vengeance upon the wicked
whose punishment and death they feed upon as upon ordinary
fare. From these, therefore, or rather from ourselves, come
death, pestilence, famine, war and those things we call ills, and
not from the Author of all good things except by accident.
For so God says of Himself : 3 "I am the God making good and
creating evil, making light and creating darkness." For when
He withdraws His spirit, evil follows the good; when He
takes the light away, darkness is created; as when one removes
the pillars of a building, the ruin of a house follows. If He
takes the vital spark away, death follows; nor can He be said
to do evil* to anyone in taking back what is His own.
THEO. When the Legislator asked Him to disclose His face
to his gaze, why did the Architect of the universe and the
Author of all things reply : "My face is to be seen by no mortal
man, but only my back?"
MYST. This fine allegory signifies that God cannot be known
from superior or antecedent causes but from behind His back,
that is, from results, for a little later He adds, "I will cover
thine eyes with My hand." Thus the hand signifies those works
which He has placed before anyone's eyes, and it indicates that
He places man not in an obscure corner but in the center of the
universe so that He might better and more easily than in heaven
contemplate the universe and all His works through the sight of
which, as through spectacles, the Sun, that is, God Himself, may
be disclosed. And therefore we undertook this disputation con-
cerning nature and natural things, so that even if they are but
slightly explained, nevertheless we may attain from this dis-
quisition an imperfect knowledge of the Creator and may break
forth in His praises with all our might, that at length by degrees
we may be borne on high and be blessed by the Divine reward ;
for this is indeed the supreme and final good for a man.
Here endeth the Drama of Nature which
Jean Bodin wrote while all France was
aflame with civil war.
'Job 41 and 49. Isa. 54. Ezek. 31. 2 Isa. 54. 3 Isa. 45. "Job 34.
A TRANSLATION OF A LETTER BY THOMAS FEYENS
ON THE QUESTION: Is IT TRUE THAT THE HEAVENS ARE
MOVED AND THE EARTH Is AT REST? (FEBRUARY, 1619)
(Thoma Fieni Epistolica Qucestio: An verum sit, coelum
moveri et terram quiescere? Londini, 1655.)
To the eminent and noble scholars, Tobias Matthias and
IT is proved that the heavens are moved and the earth is sta-
tionary: First; by authority; for besides the fact that this is
asserted by Aristotle and Ptolemy whom wellnigh all Philos-
ophers and Mathematicians have followed by unanimous con-
sent, except for Copernicus, Bernardus Patricius 1 and a very few
others, the Holy Scriptures plainly attest it in at least two places
which I have seen. In Joshua, 2 are the words : Steteruntque
sol et luna donee ulcisceretur gens de inimicis suis. And a little
further on: Stetit itaque sol in medio coeli, et non festinavit
occumbere spatio unius diei, et non fuit antea et postea tarn
longa dies. The Scriptures obviously refer by these words to
the motion of the primum mobile by which the sun and the
moon are borne along in their diurnal course and the day is de-
fined; and it indicates that the heavens are moved as well as
the primum mobile. Then Ecclesiastes, chapter I, 3 reads: Gen-
eratio praeterit, et generatio advenit, terra autem semper stat,
oritur sol et occidit, et ad locum suum revertitur.
Secondly, it is proved by reason. All the heavens and stars
were made in man's behalf and, with other terrestrial bodies,
are the servants of man to warm, light, and vivify him.
This they could not do unless in moving they applied them-
selves by turns to different parts of the world. And it is more
likely that they would apply themselves by their own move-
ment to man and the place in which man lives, than that man
should come to them by the movement of his own seat or hab-
itation. For they are the servants of man; man is not their
Teyens probably refers here to Francesco Patrizzi, who was an enemy
of the peripatetics and a great supporter of platonism. He died in 1597
at Rome, where Clement VIII had conferred on him the chair of philos-
"Joshua X: 13-14. 'Ecclesiastes I: 4.
servant; therefore it is more probable that the heavens are
moved and the earth is at rest than that the reverse is true.
Thirdly; no probable argument can be thought out from phi-
losophy to prove that the earth is moved and the heavens are at
rest. Nor can it be done by mathematics. By saying that the
heavens are moved and the earth is at rest, all phenomena of
the heavenly bodies can be solved. Just as in the same way in
optics all can be solved by saying either that sight comes from
the thing to the eye, or that rays go from the eye to the thing
seen; so is it in astronomy. Therefore one ought rather to
abide in the ancient and general opinion than in one received
recently without justification.
Fourthly; the earth is the center of the universe; all the
heavenly bodies are observed to be moved around it; therefore
it itself ought to be motionless, for anything that moves, it
seems, should move around or above something that is motion-
Fifthly; if the earth is moved in a circle, either it moves that
way naturally or by force, either by its own nature or by the
nature of another. It is not by its own nature, for straight
motion from above downward is natural to it; therefore circu-
lar motion could not be natural to it. Further, the earth is a
simple body; and a simple body can not have two natural mo-
tions of distinct kinds or classes. Nor is it moved by another
body; for by what is it moved? One has to say it is moved
either by the sun or by some other celestial body ; and this cannot
be said, since either the sun or that body is said to be at rest or in
motion. If it is said to be at rest, then it cannot impart movement
to another. If it is said to be in motion, then it can not move the
earth, because it ought to move either by a motion similar to its
own or the opposite of it. It is not similar, since thus it would
be observed to move neutrally as when two boats moving in
the same direction, appear not to move but to be at rest. It is
not the opposite motion, since nothing could give motion con-
trary to its own. And because Galileo seems to say, in so far
as I have learned from your lordships, that the earth was
moved by the sun ; I prove anyway that this is not true since
the movement of the sun and of the earth ought to be
from contrary and, distinct poles. The sun, however, can not
be the cause of the other's movement because it is moved above
different poles. Lastly, the earth follows the motion of no
other celestial body; since if it is moved, it moves in 24 hours,
and all the other celestial bodies require the space of many
days, months and years. Ergo. Finally, if the earth is moved
by another, its motion would be violent; but this is absurd, for
no violence can be regular and perpetual.
Sixthly ; even so it is declared that the earth is moved. Nev-
ertheless, it must be admitted to this that either the planets
themselves or their spheres are moved, for in no other way can
the diversities of aspects among themselves be solved; nor can
a reason be given why the sun does not leave the Ecliptic and
the moon does; and how a planet can be stationary or retro-
grade, high or low, and many other phenomena. For this
reason those who said the earth moved, as Bernardus Patricius
and the others said, claimed that the primum mobile, forsooth,
was stationary and that the earth was moved in its place; yet
they could not in the least deny that the planets themselves were
moved, but admitted it. That is the reason why both ancient
and modern mathematicians, aside from the motion of the
primum mobile, were forced to admit and consider the peculiar
movements of the planets themselves. If therefore it must be
acknowledged, and it is certain, that the stars and the celestial
bodies are moved; then it is more probable that all movement
perceived in the universe belongs rather to the heavenly bodies
than to the earth. For if movement were ascribed to all the rest,
why for that same reason is not diurnal rotation ascribed rather
to the primum mobile than to the earth, particularly when our
senses seem to decide thus? Although one may well be mis-
taken, sometimes, concerning other similar movements; yet it
is not probable that all ages could be at fault, or should be,
about the movements of its most important objects, of course
the celestial luminaries.
Seventhly; it is proved by experience. For if the earth is
moved, then an arrow shot straight up on high could never fall
back to the place whence it was shot, but should fall some-
where many miles away. But this is not so. Ergo.
This can be answered and is so customarily in this way: this
does not follow because the air is swept along with the earth,
and so, since the air which carries the arrow is turning in the
same way with the earth, the arrow also is borne along equally
with it, and thus returns to the same spot. This in truth is a
pure evasion and a worthless answer for many reasons.
It is falsely observed that the air is moved and by the same
motion as the earth. For what should move the earth? Truly,
if the air is moved by the same motion as the earth, either it
ought to be moved by the earth itself, or by that other
which moves the earth, or by itself. It is not moved by itself ;
since it has another motion, the straight one of course natural
to itself, and also since it has a nature, an essence and qualities
all different from the nature and the essence of the earth ; there-
fore it could not by its own nature have the same motion as that
other, but of necessity ought to have a different one.
Nor is it moved by any other that may move the earth ; as that
which moves the earth could not at the same time and with
like motion move the air. For since the air is different from
the earth in essence, in both active and passive qualities, and in
kind of substance, it can not receive the impelling force of the
acting body, or that force applied in the same way as the earth,
and so could not be moved in the same way. The virtues [of
bodies] acting and of moving diversely are received by the
recipients according to the diversity of their dispositions. Also
it can not be moved by the earth ; since if it were moved by the
earth, it must be said to be moved by force, but such motion
appears to be impossible. Ergo. The minor premise is
proved: for if air is thus moved by the earth by force the air
ought to be moved more rapidly than the earth, because air is
larger [than the earth].
For what is outside is larger than what is inside. When,
however, what is larger and what is outside is driven around
equally rapidly with what is less\ and what is inside, then the
former is moved much more rapidly. Thus it is true that the
sphere of Saturn in its daily course is moved far faster than the
sphere of the moon. But it is impossible that the one driven
should move more rapidly than the one driving; therefore the
air is not moved by the earth's violence. Thus would it be if
the air were moved with the earth, or by itself, or by force.
Thus far, then, the force of the original argument remains;
since of its own motion, indeed, it could not be in every way
conformable to the motion of the earth as I have shown; and
this because the air differs from the earth in consistency of
substance, in qualities and in essence. But the air ought at all
events to move more sluggishly than the earth. It follows
from this that an arrow shot straight up could not return to its
starting point ; for the earth, moving like the air, on account of
the other's slower rate leaves it behind, and the arrow also
which is carried away from it.
Besides, if the air does not move so rapidly as the earth, a
man living in a very high tower, however quiet the air, ought
then always to feel the strongest wind and the greatest disturb-
ance of the air.
Since mountains and towers are moved with the earth, and
the air would not be accompanying them at an equal speed, it
would necessarily follow that they would precede the air by
cleaving and cutting and ploughing through it which ought to
make a great wind perceptible.
Eighthly ; if a person stood in some very high tower or other
high place and aimed from that tower at some spot of earth per-
pendicularly below his eye, and allowed a very heavy stone to
fall following that perpendicular line, it is absolutely certain that
that stone would land upon the spot aimed at perpendicularly
underneath. But if the earth is moved, it would be impossible for
the stone to strike that spot.
This I prove first: because either the air moves at an un-
equal rate with the earth; or it moves equally rapidly. If not
equally, then it is certain the stone could not land at that spot,
since the earth's movement would outstrip the stone borne by
the air. If equally rapidly, then again the stone could not land
at that spot, since although the air was moving in itself at an
equal speed, yet on that account it could not carry the stone
thus rapidly with itself and carrying it downward falling by
its own weight, for the stone tending by gravity towards the
center resists the carrying of the air.
You will say: if the earth is moved in a circle, so are all its
parts; wherefore that stone in falling not only moves in a circle
by the carrying of the air, but also in a circle because of its
own nature as being part of the earth and having the same
motion with it.
Verily this answer is worthless. For although the stone is
turned in a circle by its own nature like the earth, yet its own
natural gravity impeded it so that it is borne along that much
the less swiftly, unlike the air or the earth, both of which are
in their natural places and which in consequence have no grav-
ity as a stone falling from on high has.
Lastly; because although the stone is moved in the world
by its own nature like the whole earth, yet it is not borne along
as swiftly as the whole earth. For as one stone by its own
weight falls from the heaven following its own direct motion
straight to the center just as a part of the earth, so also the
whole earth itself would fall; and yet it would not fall so
swiftly as the whole earth, for although the stone would be
borne along in its sphere like the whole earth just as a part of
it, yet it would not be borne along as swiftly as the whole earth ;
and so, in whatever way it is said, the motion of the earth ought
always to outstrip the stone and leave it a long distance behind.
Thus a stone could never fall at the point selected or a point
perpendicularly beneath it. This is false. Ergo.
Ninthly: If the earth is moved in a circular orbit, it ought to
pass from the west through the meridian to the east; conse-
quently the air ought to move by the same path. But if this
were so, then if an archer shot toward the east, his arrow ought
to fly much farther than if he shot toward the west. For when
he shot toward the east, the arrow would fly with the natural
movement of the air and would have that supporting it. But
when he shot toward the west, he would have the motion of the
air against him and then the arrow would struggle against it.
But it is certain the arrow ought to go much farther and faster
when the movement of the air is favorable to it then when
against it, as is obvious in darts sent out with a favoring wind.
Similarly not a few other arguments can be worked out, but
there are none as valuable for proof as the foregoing ones.
Though these were written by me with a flying pen far from
books and sick in bed with a broken leg, yet they seem to me to
have so much value that I do not see any way by which they
could rightly be refuted. These I have written for your gracious
lordships in gratitude for your goodwill on the occasion of our
conversation at your dinner four days ago; and I ask for them
that you meditate on them justly and well.
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Compendium of Natural Philosophy. 3 vol. in 2. 2nd edit.
Whiston, William : A New Theory of the Earth. 4th edit. Lon-
Wilkins, G. : The First Book: The Discovery of a Nezv World.
3rd edit. London, 1640.
: The Second Book: Discourse concerning a New
Planet, that 'tis probable our Earth is one of the planets. Lon-
don, 1640. (Bound with First Book.)
"W. R." : The New Astronomer, or Astronomy made easy by
such instruments that readily sheiv by Observation the Stars
. . . London, 1735.
Addison, J., 91-92.
Agricola, G. L., 77.
Allaben, F., 103.
Alphonse X of Castile, 15, 119.
Arabian astronomers, 15, 16, 20,
Aristarchus ot Samos, ll-12n., 13,
27n., 43, 46.
Aristotle, 10, 18, 72, 81, 116, 117,
120, 122, 124.
Augustine, 16, 17, 18.
Bacon, Francis, 50, 72-73.
Bacon, Roger, 20.
Bayle, Pierre, 95-96.
Bellarmin, Cardinal, 56, 58-59, 66.
Benedict XIV, 69.
Bessel, 38, 106.
Bodin, Jean, 45-47, 104-105, 115-
Boscovich, 69, 97.
Bradley, 38, 98.
Browne, Thomas, 87-88.
Bruno, 32, 39, 47-52, 82, 87, 88,
Burton, Richard, 88.
Calvin, 41, 69, 99.
Cartesian-Copernicans, 85-86, 91,
95, 98, 106.
Cassini, G. D., 96-97.
Castelli, 56, 67.
Church Fathers, 17-18, 117.
Cicero, 11, 12, 27, 111.
Clement of Alexandria, 16.
Clement VIII, 124n.
Congregations of the Index, 52,
57-60, 65-71, 74, 79, 83, 101,
Copernicus, 12, 20, 21, 33, 35, 63,
81, 82-83, 88, 90, 99, 100, 102,
104, 109, 118, 124.
theory, 5, 27-28, 64, 66, 68, 97-
101, 104, 105-106.
opponents, 32, 35, 39-40, 41, 45-
48, 58-60, 69, 71-84, 94, 96,
supporters, 30, 31, 35-38, 39, 42-
43, 44-45, 48, 49-52, 53-55,
56, 60, 71-72, 74-77, 89-94,
Delambre, 80, 81.
de Maupertius, 96.
de Peyster, J. W., 103.
de Premontval, Mme., 95.
DC Revolutionibus, 26, 27, 42, 60,
70, 105-106, 109-115.
Descartes, 82, 85, 97.
Didacus a Stunica, 44, 60, 70, 82,
Digges, Thomas, 87n.
Diogenes Laertius, 10.
Dominicus Maria di Novara, 24,
Feyens, Thomas, 60, 74, 124-129.
Forbes, Duncan, 94.
Foscarini, 60, 70, 71-72, 82, 100.
Foucault, 38, 102.
Froidmont, see Fromundus.
Fromundus, 60, 69, 74-75, 82.
Galileo, 16, 37, 52-69, 70, 73, 74-75,
77, 79, 82, 83, 85, 86, 99, 100,
105, 106, 125.
Gassendi, 82, 91, 97.
Gilbert, Wm., 50, 82, 87.
Greek philosophers, 10-12, 27, 46,
Herbert, George, 88-89.
Hipparchos, 13, 34.
Hicetas, 11, 111.
Home, George, 94.
Hutchinson, John, 94.
Huygens, Christian, 88, 95.
Index, 52, 60, 69-70, 95, 97, 99, 100.
Inquisition, 51, 52, 56, 57-60, 64-67,
69, 84, 99.
Isidore of Seville, 18.
Jasper, Bro., 99.
Jesuits, 55, 56, 76, 77, 79, 85, 97-
Johnson, S., 87.
Justus-Lipsius, 74, 82.
Keble, J., 93.
Keill, J., 90-91.
Kepler, 29, 34, 35-37, 47, 48, 53, 55,
70, 82, 100, 105, 106.
Kromer, M., 47n.
Lactantius, 16, 115.
Lange, J. R., 103.
Lansberg, 74-75, 82.
Leo X, 115.
Liege, Univ. of, 76, 97-98.
Louvain, Univ. of, 60, 74, 75-77,
Luther, 31, 39, 69, 99.
Lutherans, 101, 103, 105.
Mzestlin, 36, 37, 48, 81.
Martianus Capella, 74.
Mather, Cotton, 92.
Melancthon, 31, 39-41, 99.
Milton, 43, 67, 89.
Narratio Prima, 31, 106.
Newton, 37, 67, 86, 87, 90.
Nicolas Cusanus, 22, 23.
Osiander, 29, 32.
Owen, J., 89n., 99.
Paul III, 109.
Paul V, 56-60, 63, 69, 83.
Peter Lombard, 18.
Peter the Great, 96.
Philo Judaeus, 16.
Philolaus, 11, 112.
Piegeon, J., 96.
Pike, S., 94.
Pius VII, 70.
Plato, 10, 122.
Plutarch, 10, 13, 27, 111.
Pope, Alexander, 91, 93.
Ptolemy, 9n., 13, 14, 81, 107-109,
117, 119, 124.
theory, 5, 16, 19, 27, 35, 53, 54,
66, 80, 83, 85, 96-100.
Pythagoras, 10, 11, 102.
Pythagoreans, 109, 112.
Recorde, R., 42-43.
Regiomontanus, 20, 21, 81, 117, 119.
Reinhold, Erasmus, 31.
Rheticus, 29-31, 39, 81, 106.
Riccioli, 5, 22, 79-84, 100, 113.
Sacrobosco, 16, 41, 77.
Salamanca, Univ. of, 16, 44.
Schoepffer, C, 102.
Settele, 99, 106.
Stephen, Leslie, 94.
Thomas Aquinas, 18.
Turrinus, J., 83.
Tycho Brahe, 14, 32-37, 47, 82, 105.
theory, 34, 48, 74, 77, 79, 80, 85,
96, 98, 102, 105.
Urban VIII, 63-69.
Van Welden, M., 76-77.
Voight, J. H., 77-78.
von Schonberg, N., 30, 39, 110.
Wesley, J., 93, 99.
Whewell, 16, 89.
Widmanstadt, 30, 39.
Wilkins, Bp., 89-90, 95.
Wren, Dean, 87-88.
Yale, Univ. of, 91.
Dorothy Stimson was born October 10, 1890, in St. Louis,
Mo. After nine years in Miss Spence's School in New York
City she entered Vassar College. She received there the degree
of A.B. with honors in 1912, and was elected to membership in
the Phi Beta Kappa Society. In June, 1913, she received the
degree of A.M. from Columbia University. She was a teacher
of history in the Tudor Hall School for girls in Indianapolis,
Ind., in 1913-1915; then as holder of a Curtis Scholarship for
the year 1915-1916, she continued her graduate study at Colum-
bia University during that winter and the following fall, work-
ing under the direction of Professor James Harvey Robinson.
In February, 1917, she became instructor in history at Vassar
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