Heliocentrism: Hypothesis or Truth?
In 1543, Copernicus published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In this treatise, dedicated to Pope Paul III, Copernicus presented his heliocentric model of the world. To be sure, Copernicus was not the first to argue that the earth was itself moving in a circle around the center of the world; the Pythagoreans had famously done so many years before Ptolemy and Aristotle offered their strident defense of geocentrism. So what set Copernicus apart from the Pythagoreans?
The reading selections in the next few chapters of this volume are from an English translation of Copernicus’ latin text, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, by Charles GlennWallis. In the first selection, contained in the present chapter, Copernicus begins by presenting the overall thesis of the work. He then proceeds to make assertions regarding the nature of astronomy as a discipline. This introduction is quite controversial (as mentioned in a footnote below) since it was probably not written by Copernicus, and since it propounds a philosophy of science which differs quite remarkably from that of Copernicus himself, judging from subsequent chapters of the text.