heliocentric theory

Johannes Kepler - Platonic Solid Model of the Solar System, “Mysterium Cosmographicum” (The Cosmographic Mystery), 1600.

Kepler’s Cosmological theory, based on the Copernican system, states that five Pythagorean regular Polyhedra dictate the structure of the Universe and reflect God’s plan through Geometry. This was the first attempt since Copernicus to say that the theory of Heliocentrism is physically true.

Kepler claimed to have had an epiphany on July 19, 1595, demonstrating the periodic conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the Zodiac: he realized that regular Polygons bound one inscribed and one circumscribed Circle at definite Ratios, which might be the Geometrical basis of the Universe. After failing to find a unique arrangement of Polygons that fit known Astronomical observations, Kepler began experimenting with 3-dimensional Polyhedra. He found that each of the five Platonic Solids could be uniquely inscribed and circumscribed by Spherical Orbs; nesting these Solids, each encased in a Sphere, within one another would produce six layers, corresponding to the six known Planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. By ordering the Solids correctly - Octahedron, Icosahedron, Dodecahedron, Tetrahedron, Cube - Kepler found that the Spheres could be placed at intervals corresponding to the relative sizes of each Planet’s path, assuming the Planets circle the Sun. Kepler also found a formula relating the size of each Planet’s orb to the length of its orbital period: from inner to outer Planets, the ratio of increase in orbital period is twice the difference in orb radius. 

Nicolaus Copernicus - the first person to come up with the mathematics for a heliocentric theory of the universe (technically, the Greek astronomer Aristarchus proposed a sun centered universe back in ancient times, but Copernicus developed it further and jumpstarted the scientific revolution in Europe). In addition to his work and astronomy, he practiced medicine and had a doctorate in canon law.

And just look at him :D

A note on the Church and science

Here’s a letter from a certain Catholic I love:

Believe it or not, I learned all about Copernicus in school, and not ONE WORD was said about his being a Catholic priest. Just found that out this week. Turns out Nicholas Copernicus was asked by the Pope to fix the calendar, which the educated clergy knew was wrong due to incorrect astronomical calculations. Same pope who excommunicated Martin Luther. Copernicus was afraid of ridicule for his heliocentric theory, but his uncle, Bishop of Heilsberg, encouraged him. It was the Church that taught Copernicus- he went to five different universities, all founded by the Church, and excelled. One of his students presented the theory to another pope, Clement VII, who rewarded him with a rare Greek manuscript. Same pope who put his foot down with Henry VIII.

The article goes on to say:

“These were not flat-footed peasants staring at the ground to watch it move. Nor were they Lutherans, who disparaged philosophy and said that Scripture alone, in its most obvious sense, teaches men all they need to know….”

“Ridicule? What deserves ridicule is the idea the Church was ever afraid of learning. She invented the universities, preserved the works of the great pagans, and built schools in every diocese, many providing instruction gratis for the poor. She inspired and commissioned the greatest artists the world has known- Michelangelo was among thousands. Her monks turned northern Europe into a garden of grain and fruit, making agricultural, medical, architectural, and mechanical innovations for more than a millennium. Her main purpose was to lead men to God, not to teach them farming, arts, and letters, statesmanship, and astronomy, but she could hardly have done more if she had been established solely for those purposes; and no institution in history has done more.”

Much blame has been directed at [Pope] Urban for the Inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo and the prohibition of his ‘Dialogue on the Great World Systems’. In fact he cannot reasonably be reproached for his attitude toward the affair, which was always one of studious moderation. When, in 1615, Galileo first got into trouble for his advocacy of the Copernican system, we find Matteo Barberini, at that time a Cardinal, declaring his admiration for the great mathematician but warning him not to fall foul of the theologians. It was partly owing to his intervention with Paul V that the Holy Office’s decree of 1616 denouncing the heliocentric theory was followed, so far as Galileo was concerned, by a new admonition from Cardinal Bellarmine. Otherwise he was not punished. 
There was never any danger of his being sent to the stake like that earlier victim of Bellarmine, Giordano Bruno. But Bruno, the apostate Dominican whose free-thinking philosophy cut at the roots of Catholic doctrine, was in a very different category from the astronomer who, in Barberini’s view, was doing no worse than propounding a brilliant hypothesis. 
Urban’s friendship with Galileo survived the admonition. In 1633, when Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition for the second time, the Pope took the utmost care to ensure that he was leniently treated, that he was not put in prison and that his trial and abjuration were so managed as to allow him to stay unharassed and in comfortable retirement for the remaining nine years of his life.

Sir Nicholas Cheetham, Keepers of the Keys: A History of the Popes from St. Peter to John Paul II (1982)

There are some additional points to make about Giordano Bruno, with whom Tumblr has a bizarre fascination. He was ordained a Catholic priest when he was a young man, but his heresy became evident a few years later. After  fleeing from his Dominican Order and his charges of heresy, he was (in no particular order):

  • excommunicated by the Catholic Church
  • and by the Calvinists 
  • and by the Lutherans 
  • and denied from lecturing at Oxford

When he was denounced to the Venetian Inquisition and later extradited to the Roman Inquisition, his charges were not about his science and heliocentrism (which was terrible), but about his faith (which was openly heretical). The Catholic Church didn’t even have a position on heliocentrism yet. That would come about 30 years later, with Galileo - who got in trouble because he argued heliocentrism was truth, rather than hypothesis. 

Bruno was kept in prison before his trial for roughly 6 years - it is hypothesized that Church and state officials spent that time encouraging him to recant. After a trial in 1599, he was condemned to death for heresy against the Catholic Church, since he was a Catholic priest who had actively and knowingly preached anti-Catholic teaching
It is critical to note that inquisition tribunals were an interesting mix of Church and state power. The Church did not retain the right to put people to death. Parties condemned to death were turned over to the appropriate secular power, who could decide to carry out the judgment. Before the French Revolution, religion and politics were knit closely together - heretics of the national religion were typically seen as enemies of the state as well. 

It has been remarked that he was a poor theologian and an even poorer scientist - it is nearly impossible to make sense his his pseudo-scientific works. Bruno should be found offensive not only by Catholics, but by Calvinists, Lutherans, scholars, and scientists. 
(via byjoveimbeinghumble)