Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473 in Torun, Poland. Circa 1508, Copernicus developed his own celestial model of a heliocentric planetary system. Around 1514, he shared his findings in theCommentariolus. His second book on the topic, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was banned by the Roman Catholic Church not long after his May 24, 1543 death in Frauenburg, Poland.
His written work, set forth seven axioms, each describing an aspect of the heliocentric solar system: 1) Planets don't revolve around one fixed point; 2) the earth is at the center of the moon's orbit; 3) The sun is at the center of the universe, and all celestial bodies rotate around it; 4) The distance between the earth and sun is only a tiny fraction of stars' distance from the earth and sun; 5) Stars do not move, and if they appear to, it is only because the earth itself is moving; 6) Earth moves in a sphere around the sun, causing the sun's perceived yearly movement; and 7) Earth's orbit around the sun causes the planets to orbit in the opposite direction.
Copernicus became a symbol of the brave scientist standing alone, defending his theories against the common beliefs of his time.
Born on January 4, 1643, in Woolsthorpe, England, Isaac Newton was an established physicist and mathematician, and is credited as one of the great minds of the 17th century Scientific Revolution. With discoveries in optics, motion and mathematics, Newton developed the principles of modern physics. In 1687, he published his most acclaimed work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), which has been called the single most influential book on physics. Newton died in London on March 31, 1727.
Galileo Galilei was a mathematics professor who made pioneering observations of nature with long-lasting implications for the study of physics. He also constructed a telescope and supported the Copernican theory, which supports a sun-centered solar system. Galileo was accused twice of heresy by the church for his beliefs, and wrote books on his ideas.
Galileo refined his theories on motion and falling objects, and developed the universal law of acceleration, which all objects in the universe obeyed. Galileo began to express openly his support of the Copernican theory that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. This challenged the doctrine of Aristotle and the established order set by the Catholic Church.
Galileo wrote a letter to a student to explain how Copernican theory did not contradict Biblical passages. The letter was made public and Church Inquisition consultants pronounced Copernican theory heretical. In 1616, Galileo was ordered not to “hold, teach, or defend in any manner” the Copernican theory regarding the motion of the earth. Galileo obeyed the order for seven years, partly to make life easier and partly because he was a devoted Catholic.
In 1632, Galileo published a discussion among three people: one who supports Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the universe, one who argues against it, and one who is impartial. Though Galileo claimed Dialogues was neutral, it was clearly not. Church reaction against the book was swift, and Galileo was summoned to Rome. The Inquisition proceedings lasted from September 1632 to July 1633. In a final attempt to break him, Galileo was threatened with torture, and he finally admitted he had supported Copernican theory, but privately held that his statements were correct. He was convicted of heresy and spent his remaining years under house arrest.
But in time, the Church couldn’t deny the truth in science. In 1758, it lifted the ban on most works supporting Copernican theory, and by 1835 dropped its opposition to heliocentrism altogether. Galileo's contribution to our understanding of the universe was significant not only in his discoveries, but in the methods he developed and the use of mathematics to prove them. He played a major role in the scientific revolution and, deservedly so, earned the moniker "The Father of Modern Science."
From MTT p. 192-193
The Scientific Revolution
Many Enlightenment ideas were rooted in the Scientific Revolution of the 1500s and 1600s. The Scientific Revolution was a time when scientists began to rely on what they could observe for themselves. It was the birth of modern science.
One of these scientists was Nicolaus Copernicus, who put forth the idea that Earth moved around the sun. He published his findings in 1543. At that time, people believed that Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun revolved around it. Both ancient Greek science and the Church supported that view. Many experts rejected Copernicus’s theory.
In the late 1500s, howerever, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe provided evidence to support Copernicus. In the early 1600s, Johannes Kepler used Brahe’s data to accurately calculate the orbits of the planets around the sun. Galileo also studied the planets. Using a new scientific tool – the telescope – he was able to observe four moons orbiting around Jupiter.
In England, Isaac Newton developed a theory about why the planets move the way they do. You have probably heard how Newton observed an apple falling from a tree. This observation led him to wonder whether the force that made the apple fall might be the same force that kept the moon in its orbit around Earth. He called that force gravity. He found that gravity also holds Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the sun. In 1687, Newton published a book about the workings of the universe. He said that the natural world follows “natural laws”, or rules that can be measured and described mathematically.
The Scientific Method
Scientists were developing a new way of learning about the world. This scientific method involves careful observation of nature and, in some sciences, controlled experiments. To use the scientific method, scientists make predictions and develop theories based on their observations. Then they test their predictions by doing experiments and by careful observations. Logic and mathematics are used to analyze observations and compare them to the results expected from their theories. As scientists observe and learn more, they replace old theories with new ones that explain the facts better.