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(Toruń, today Poland, 1473 - Frauenburg, ID., 1543) Polish astronomer. The importance of Copernicus is not limited to your first formulator of a heliocentric theory of coherent condition: Copernicus was, first and foremost, the initiator of the scientific revolution that accompanied the European Renaissance and that, through Galileo, would a century later, through the work of Newton, the systematization of physics and a profound change in the philosophical and religious convictions. Rightly, therefore, called Copernican revolution to this rupture, of significance that reached beyond the field of astronomy and science to mark a milestone in the history of ideas and culture.
Illustration of the heliocentric model in on the revolutions of the celestial orbs (1543)
Born in a rich family of merchants, Nicolás Copérnico was orphaned at age ten and took charge of his maternal uncle, Canon of the Cathedral of Frauenburg and Bishop of Warmia. In 1491 Copernicus joined the University of Krakow, following the directions of his uncle and tutor. In 1496 he switched to Italy to complete his education at Bologna, where he studied Canon law and received the influence of Italian humanism; the study of the classics, revived by this cultural movement, proved later decisive in the development of the astronomical work of Copernicus.
There is no evidence, however, that by then is felt especially interested in astronomy; in fact, after studying medicine in Padua, Nicolás Copérnico holds a PhD in Canon law by the University of Ferrara in 1503. That same year he returned to his country, which had been granted in the meantime a canonry by influence of his uncle, and he joined the episcopal Court at Lidzbark Castle, as their trusted advisor.
The Bishop died in 1512, Copernicus settled in Frauenburg and was dedicated to the stewardship of the Council during the remainder of his days; It always maintained ecclesiastical employment of Canon, but without receiving Holy orders. He became interested in economic theory, focusing in particular of the monetary reform, a subject on which he published a treatise in 1528. He also practiced medicine and cultivated interests humanists.
To 1507, Copernicus developed his first exhibition of a heliocentric astronomical system in which the Earth orbited around the Sun, as opposed to the traditional Ptolemaic system, in which the movements of all the celestial bodies had as our planet. A limited series of handwritten copies of the outline was circulated among scholars of astronomy, and as a result, Copernicus began to be regarded as a notable astronomer; However, its investigations were mainly based on the study of texts and data established by its predecessors, since they hardly exceed the fifty observations that has made throughout his life.
In 1513, Copernicus was invited to participate in the reform of the Julian calendar, and in 1533 his teachings were exposed to Pope Clement VII by his Secretary; in 1536, the cardinal Schönberg wrote to Copernicus from Rome urging him to make public their findings. By then Copernicus had already completed the writing of his great work, on the revolutions of the celestial orbs, an astronomical treatise defending the heliocentric hypothesis.
Illustration of the heliocentric model in on the revolutions of the celestial orbs (1543)
The text articulated according to the formal model of the Almagest of Ptolemy, which retained the traditional idea of a finite and spherical universe, as well as the principle that the circular movements were the only ones appropriate to the nature of the celestial bodies; but it contained a series of thesis that came into contradiction with the ancient conception of the universe, whose Center, Copernicus, ceased to be coincident with the Earth, as well as not existed, in your system, a single common to all Celestial movements Center.
Aware of the novelty of his ideas and fearful of criticism that could arise by becoming public, Copernicus did not give work to the printing press. Its publication occurred thanks to the intervention of a Protestant astronomer, Georg Joachim von Lauchen, known as Rheticus, who visited Copernicus from 1539 to 1541 and convinced him of the need to print the Treaty, which he dealt. The work appeared a few weeks before the death of its author; It was preceded by an anonymous preface, the editor Andreas Osiander, which the Copernican system was presented as a hypothesis, a precautionary measure and contrary to what was the conviction of Copernicus's work.
The heliocentric model of Nicolás Copérnico was a decisive contribution to the science of the Renaissance. The geocentric conception of the universe, theorized by Ptolemy, had reigned for fourteen centuries: the Almagest of Ptolemy was a detailed and systematic development of the methods of Greek Astronomy, establishing a geocentric cosmos with the Moon, the Sun and the planets fixed spheres rotating around the Earth. With Copernicus, Sun became the still Center of the universe, and the Earth was subjected to two movements: the rotation on itself and travel around the Sun. However, the Copernican universe was still finite and limited the sphere of the fixed stars of traditional astronomy.
Although it is le Copernicus the merit of initiating the work of destruction of the Ptolemaic astronomy, in reality his objective was very limited and tended only to a simplification of the traditional system, which had already reached a State of unbearable complexity. In the evolution of the Ptolemaic system, the progress of observations had done eighty circles (epicycles, eccentrics and ecuantes) necessary to explain the movement of seven wandering planets, without providing, in spite of this, the sufficiently accurate forecasts. Given this situation, Copernicus realized that the heliocentric hypothesis would eliminate many difficulties and would make it more economical to the system; It was enough to replace the Earth by the Sun as Center of the universe, keeping intact the rest of the schema.
Not everything was original in the work of Copernicus. Ancient Pythagoreans as Aristarchus of Samos had been made on a metaphysical basis a first heliocentric formulation. Throughout the 14th century, Nicolás of Oresme (1325-1382), Jean Buridan (died 1366), or Alberto of Saxony (1316-1390) raised the possibility that the Earth moved. In any case, Copernicus first developed a heliocentric system in a consistent way, although his theory was less the result of observation of empirical data that the formulation of new hypotheses from a previous worldview that had a metaphysical basis.
This metaphysical component manifests itself in at least three aspects. First, Copernicus connected with tradition neoplatonic root Pythagorean, beloved by Ficino school, giving the Sun a motionless in the center of the cosmos. This was the place that really was by its nature and importance as the Supreme source of light and life.
Secondly, the Copernican motion of planets was based on a geometrical imperative. Copernicus still thought that the planets move around the Sun, described uniform circular orbits. This circular movement was naturally of the sphericity of the planets, because the simplest geometric form and perfect era in itself causes sufficient to engender it.
Finally, the metaphysical Copernican paradigm was based on the intimate conviction that the ontological truth of your system perfectly expressed the true harmony of the universe. It is remarkable that Copernicus would justify his revolutionary heliocentrism with the need to safeguard the divine perfection (and beauty) of the movement of the stars. By any other way, he said, "I could find so admirable symmetry, a harmonious union between the celestial bodies". In the center of the cosmos, at the exact midpoint of the Crystal spheres (whose existence never questioned Copernicus), it must be necessarily the Sun, because he is the Lucerne mundi, that governs light source and illuminates the great family of the stars. And just as a lamp should be placed in the middle of a room, "in this splendid Temple, the universe, not could have put that [the Sun] lamp at a better point or best suited".
The Copernican revolution
After Copernicus, Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) Danish proposed a third way that combined systems of Ptolemy and Copernicus: spun the planets around the Sun and this around the Earth, which is still occupying the center of the universe. Although Brahe not adopted a heliocentric cosmology, he bequeathed his observational data to Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German astronomer handed over entirely to the belief that the Copernican cosmological system revealed the simplicity and harmony of the universe.
Kepler, who presented his theories in his book New Astronomy (1609), conceived the structure and relationships of the planetary orbits in terms of mathematical relations and musical harmonies. He also calculated that planetary motion was not circular but elliptical, and that its speed varied in relation to its proximity to the Sun.
At the same time, the telescopic observations of Galileo (1564-1642) led to the discovery of the phases of Venus, confirming that this planet revolving around the Sun; the defense of the Copernican system would lead to Galileo before the Holy Office. And before the end of the century, Isaac Newton (1642-1727) published the principles of mathematical natural philosophy (1687), with its fourth law of motion, law of universal gravitation: the Copernican heliocentrism had led to the Foundation of classical physics, which was accomplished explanation of terrestrial and celestial phenomena.
But the importance of the contribution of Copernicus is not exhausted in a more or less successful contribution to astronomical science. The structure of the cosmos proposed by Copernicus, to standardize the land with the rest of the planets moving around the Sun, clashed head-on with Scholastic and philosophical postulates of the time, defending the traditional opposition between a unchanging celestial world and a sublunary world subject to change and the movement. Thus, the thesis of Copernicus were the first step in the progressive secularization of the Renaissance conceptions, which began looking for a natural and rational interpretation of the relationship between the universe, the Earth and man. Opened the first gap between science and magic, astronomy and astrology, mathematics and mysticism of numbers.
The deep implications of the new system thus reached to the methodology of science as a whole, and also to the mentality and the religious and philosophical convictions of an era. As modern science historian summarizes what Thomas Kuhn (the Copernican revolution, 1957), at the end of this process, men, "convinced that their terrestrial residence was not rather than blindly a planet spinning around one of billions of stars, they valued their position in the scheme of cosmic very differently from their predecessors who instead saw the Earth as the sole focal point of the divine creation." Hence, five centuries later, the language follow retaining the expression Copernican turn to indicate a change of drastic magnitudes in a situation or mindset.