The Beginning of Physics: The Astronomical Revolution – Nicolaus Copernicus (Part-6)

(Last Updated On: October 9, 2019)


In the next few articles, we will explore the scientific boom that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this particular article, we’ll talk about Nicolaus Copernicus and his predecessors.

This is the 6th part or article of The Beginning of Physics series. If you didn’t read the previous part then you should read it first – The Beginning of Physics: The Islamic World (Part-5)

If you are new then I will suggest you to read this series from the first part: The Beginning of Physics: The Presocratics (Part-1)

Before Nicolaus Copernicus

You probably learned at school thatNicolaus Copernicus revolutionized astronomy in general with his Heliocentric model. Also, before Nicolaus Copernicus, the only model that existed was the Geocentric Model (By Ptolemy). But, like all science, this was not a one mans’ work. Before Copernicus ‘many’ others had proposed a Heliocentric Model of the Universe, such as Nicole Oresme.

Nicole Oresme

Nicole Oresme
Nicole Oresme

Oresme was born around 1320 in France and probably came from humble origins. In his book published in 1377 called “Livre du Ciel et du Monde” or “Book of the sky and earth” he argued rationally for and against rotating earth. He noted that it made more sense for a rotating Earth than a rotating sky around the Earth. He also argued for heliocentrism 166 years before Copernicus. Smart guy!

He was the active critic of Astrology, noting that farmers predict the weather better than astrologers! But he also made very important contributions to math and physics: Was a pioneer in the use of mathematical graphs and he made big contributions to the physics of falling objects (the stuff Galileo worked a century later).

So why didn’t the scientific revolution ‘began’ here? Well, his colleagues didn’t see his ideas has revolutionary, and he didn’t really “pushed them” through. Copernicus kind of makes these ideas ‘understandable’ to the people in general.

Aristarchus of Samos

Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus of Samos

There was an even ancient proposer of the Heliocentric Model (in fact the first one). His name was Aristarchus of Samos, and he was an ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician (310–230 BC). And he was kind of out of his time. Really: He put the sun was the center of the Solar System, the planets on their correct order around it and he guessed the other shiny points in the shy should be other stars like the Sun! Also, he deduced the Earth rotates daily on its axis. Of course, his ideas were rejected until, well, Copernicus.

Nicolaus Copernicus – The Revolution Guy

Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in 1473, in a small city in what is now Poland to a family of merchants. Somewhere around 1500, he went to school with the purpose of being a humanist. He spoke Latin, German and Polish fluently and also spoke Greek, Italian and a sniff of Hebrew. He also studied arts, math, and astronomy at the University of Krakow.

Yes, he was an impressive guy, but we are here to talk about his work in astronomy. While working in astronomy he called the “Retrograde Motion” (the same thing that puzzled Plato some century’s back)  an “astronomical monstrosity” due to its impossibility, if the Earth was the center of the Universe.

retrograde motion
Typically we see planets move eastward, but sometimes they’ll head west before turning back around and resuming their easterly course. This’s is called “retrograde motion” , which is caused by the movement of the Earth and the planet you’re looking at.

So he thought that in order for this to happen, the Sun must be the center of the Universe (he also came to the conclusion that the Solar System must be 20 times bigger than what Ptolemy first thought).

He wrote his ideas in the book  “Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestiumin 1532, but he only published it when he was in his death bed, due to the fear that his work would be ridiculed by others.

But his theory wasn’t perfect, especially in math: The planets didn’t revolve around Sun in his theory, but a point next to the Sun. Also, planets still were involved in crystalline spheres (if you don’t remember then read Aristotle – The Philosopher)

Still his work was ‘the foundation’ for the rest of the revolution that would occur.

We will explore more of the evolution of physics in the next part and the persons who made it possible! Please tell me what did you think of this article in the comments!

Here is the next part of this series: The Beginnings of Physics: Tycho and Kepler (Part-7)

Baltas Cruz

Baltas Cruz

A 15-year-old Portuguese who at such a young age has the ambitions of becoming a theoretical physicist. Whilst maintaining his passion of becoming a physicist, he is also a chess player where he has won some local competitors alongside being a runner up in the local team also.

2 thoughts on “The Beginning of Physics: The Astronomical Revolution – Nicolaus Copernicus (Part-6)

  • December 2, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Nice content!!!
    One of the great scientist and father of scientific world.

    • Baltas Cruz
      December 12, 2019 at 1:38 am

      Thank you so much! He surely is


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