The Thin Tweed Line
Navigation Bar Home Faculty Administration Students Trustees Government Tuition

The ancient Greek mathematician Artistarchus of Samos first presented the concept of a sun-centered universe between 310 BCE and 230 BCE. Unfortunately his work was over shadowed by Aristotle’s earth-centered theory and never flourished despite being mainstream today. It wasn’t until 1543 when the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus presented the concept once again and shattered Aristotle’s conventional principle (Bartusiak, 2004). The most influential contribution of Copernicus’s theory to the world, however, was not the rediscovery of a heliocentric solar system, but instead the revolution of scientific advancement that followed. As Fred Hoyle acknowledged “the new theory was crucially important, however, just because of the intense emotional reaction to it. Emotional opposition was so strong that astronomers and astronomy came very much into the popular eye, whether favorable or adversely is not relevant. The essentials were that astronomers became impelled to observe the planets with increasingly accuracy, and funds to enable them to do so were forthcoming” (Hoyle, 1973). And so spurred into doubt and fascination society developed a swell of interest in science establishing a progression from mystical to logical thinking. In this way Copernicus’s work advanced science by drastically changing the standard conception of how nature and its mechanisms worked, which eventually led to the strengthening of the use of scientific deduction in universities and the world.

Copernicus was a well-off Polish citizen of the Royal Prussian Empire between the 15th and 16th centuries. Raised and financially sustained by his uncle, Copernicus was able to afford university life in which he stayed several years, first at the University of Cracow from 1491 to 1494 and then University of Bologna in Italy from 1496 to 1506 as well as several other universities for shorter periods. Although he studied a range of topic’s Copernicus especially developed an interest in mathematics and astronomy. After his university years he accomplished secretarial work for his uncle and was highly regarded in this powerful position. Eventually he took up residence in his chapter of Frombork as canon in 1510 and stayed there the rest of his life. It is regarded that during his days of education his model for a heliocentric universe was first developed. However he spent most of the rest of his life compiling evidence and hesitantly writing his book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres on the concept. Dreading the reception of his scientific altering theory Copernicus waited until the year of his death to publicize this book and died before he could sense the full impression it had on society. And his decision might have been for the best because Copernicus’s theory received a great deal of criticism and skepticism. However reception in the form of interest and approval was also present and it was attributed to both reactions that Copernicus’s theory is today known as a revolution (Alder, 1990). The large quantity of responses progressed the need to either support or discredit the heliocentric concept. This necessity eventually led to the studies of other topics, which the methods of scientific experimentation and theory were found to support. The success of such processes popularized them and over time introduced them into universities.

Before the Copernicus Revolution, the movements of the universe were thought to model after the theories of Aristotle and Claudius Ptolemy, which set the planets and the Sun orbiting around the Earth (Crowe, 1990). Aristotle’s method was a metaphysical system with spheres and stars composed of the four elements, and with the planets associating with divinities. Ptolemy’s theory was marginally more mathematical but still similarly placed the Earth at the center of the solar system (Dreyer, 1953). This structure reflected religious philosophy especially that of the Christian and Catholic theology, which held the belief that the creation of Earth by God was for Mankind’s sake. Because God focused solely on human life, everything created secondly by God would therefore have to center on Earth as well. All other entities existed entirely to benefit humankind. Fittingly the Earth would thus fill the most significant position of the universe, the center. Copernicus’s heliocentric concept devastated this perception, finding fault in the bible and degrading the importance of Mankind (Beer and Strand, 1975). As Ariel Durant is quoted as saying “the heliocentric astronomy compelled men to conceive God in less provincial, less anthropomorphic terms; it gave theology the strongest challenge in the history of religion. The Copernican revolution was far profounder than the reformation” (Beer and Strand, 1975). From this point on the bible began to lose it’s distinguished standing within society and was no longer entirely relied upon for accurate information. Instead knowledge was searched for not within the pages of religious texts, but through scientific explanation when mystic reasoning no longer satisfied challenging inquiries.

Due to Copernicus’s theory logical thinking advanced from this dependence on religious support instead to scientific experimentation. From the time Ptolemy died in 174 AD more than a millennium passed before the popularity of his geocentric theory transitioned to Copernicus’s heliocentric concept (Bartusiak, 2004). As a result the society that was accustomed to the Ptolemaic (and Aristotle) system was knocked off its feet by Copernicus. As Hoyle stated “It is because Copernicus focused the attention of the world at precisely the right spot - the place where Nature simply had to give up her secrets – that today we judge his work to have been so important. In mountaineering jargon, Copernicus found the ‘point of attack’” (Hoyle, 1973). With such a shocking theory presented at a time when society was settled in its ways the people were in disarray. And this disorder led to shifts in the primary process of thought; Ptolemy’s mystical earth centered solar system to Copernicus’s scientific sun centered universe.

Had it not been for the change in thought process and scientific deduction due to the great heliocentric revolution today’s educational system’s teaching style may instead have followed a structure focused entirely on the significance of major religions and theologies to certain topics. Copernicus’s theory instigated an almost instantaneous transformation in the intellectual world, however it wasn’t until the 17th and 18th century, several centuries after Copernicus’s death, that the heliocentric system was accepted and incorporated into European education. The Catholic Church disapproved of the theory as blasphemy while the Christian Church adopted neutrality and defined its geocentric statement of the bible as a possible allegory. Nonetheless religion still held influence over logical hypotheses and their acceptance into society. And it was difficult for great discoveries to be in cooperated into society (Dobrzycki, 1973). However once heliocentricism found its way into education it then became a necessity for astrology. Time provided increased support and evidence for the theory as the amount of scientists studying Copernicus’s concept grew larger and their management of scientific deduction matured. With the heliocentric theory’s popularity cumulating scientific research opportunities increased along with it. Through both study of the concept itself and study of new experimentally supported interests Copernicus’s theory paved way for fresh ways of learning.

During this period, “schools were centers of cultural, scientific, and even social life of the region” (Dobrzycki, 1973). Introducing the Copernican theory into the educational system insured that the concept was spread throughout cultures and social groups through its students. And once people began engaging in this concept, reexaminations of once religiously supported information developed. With religion steadily losing its prestige, the acceptance of the scientific way of reasoning demonstrated to be more accurate and therefore increasingly beneficial. People began to experiment with Copernicus’s process of examination, discovering several groundbreaking new theories and scientific concepts with the process. This was a time when the earth was thought to be flat because the horizon appeared to drop off and the earth assumed to be still because its movement could not be felt. And the first sign that society was scientifically progressing was their comprehension of the deficiency in these judgments. Heliocentricism presented new ways of understanding old and mistaken concepts (Hoyle, 1973). As scientific experimentation became a legitimate and eventually superior method of support the world changed. Science as a process of explanation was soon the pillar of every strong concept. It became something culturally accepted and was integrated with a sense of normalcy into traditional routines; in education and in daily life.

Although it revolutionized deduction and created educational systems in which empirical reasoning was necessary for learning and acquiring new knowledge. Copernicus’s theory was but the first accepted for heliocentricism and had much to improve upon (Dobrzycki, 1973). As Thomas Kuhn agreed, “Copernican astronomy destroyed traditional answers to these questions [on the universe], but supplied no substitutes. A new physics and a new cosmology were required before astronomy could again participate plausibly in a unified pattern of thought” (Kuhn, 1957). Famous scientists such as Kelper, Galileo, and Newton all used this prospect to complete the heliocentric theory and produce the concept that is accepted today. And not only in the field of astronomy, but also in various other fields did the inspiration of Copernicus’s revolution cause a stir in scientific experimentation in place of religious domination (Dobrzycki, 1973). Therefore without Copernicus’s process universities today would be logically lacking and many modern scientific basics would not exist. Taking Issac Newton as an example, the man who discovered the well known Laws of Motion and Law of Gravitation in which every college student has come to know, would most likely be without his innovations had the Copernican revolution never happened. By uniting his gravitational law to the attraction and orbit of the planets to the sun, similar to the movement of the moon to the Earth, Newton was able to strengthen the heliocentric system as well as greatly support his own theories (Bartusiak, 2004). A vast amount of scientific advances depend, derive, or are somewhat connected to Copernicus’s heliocentric model. Without the concept, many developments would not exist at all and certainly new hypotheses would be difficult to prove with invalidated religious support alone. As steppingstones for students such theories provide evidence and inspiration for new hypotheses. Without scientific thinking schools today would be lacking their dynamic quality in learning. And scientific hypotheses would not be created and research to advance knowledge would halt. The heliocentric system affects such issues, as many important theories would not exist without the knowledge that the sun is in fact, at the center of the universe.

Had it not been for the discovery of a heliocentric system correct and supported ways of deduction would not be taught in education and many basic scientific principals that govern “science class” would not be found in the curriculum. Copernicus’s period was governed by a millennium old geocentric system which favored theologically deduced evidence in place of rationalized scientific evidence. Disrupting this style of mystic deduction with his heliocentric theory, Copernicus set the world up for new concepts of scientific thinking and experimentation. As Marcia Bartusiak states, “Copernicus initiated this chain of events in 1543 by daring to assert that Earth, for so long singled out as the center of the universe, was orbiting the Sun with all other planets. He threw Earth into motion, which inspired others to examine new rules of mechanics” (Bartusiak, 2004). Original favoring religious support society eventually succumbed to the notion of scientific experimentation with the help of Copernicus’s theory. The popularity of his scientific method of support invaded especially schools, which had formerly focused on a scholarly rather than dynamic style of learning. Without the influence of Copernicus scientific reasoning in universities may have never became normality. And the modern societal thought process would not focus on the scientific analysis of things, but instead the relativity of them to religion.





Copernicus’s Disruption of Mystic Deduction in Universities


Page Author: Amanda L. Wiant

Saturday, 11-Feb-2012 14:19


Armitage, Angus. Sun, Stand Thou Still: The Life and Work of Copernicus the Astronomer. U.S.A.: Henry Schuman, Inc., 1947. Print.

Bartusiak, Marcia. Archives of the Universe: A Treasury of Astronomy’s Historical Works of Discovery. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. Print.

“Copernicus”. Vistas in Astronomy. Eds. Beer, Arthur, and K. AA. Strand. Vol. 17. Oxford: Pergamon Press Ltd., 1975. Print.

Crowe, Michael J. Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1990. Print.

Dobrzycki, Jerzy, ed. The Reception of Copernicus’ Heliocentric Theory. Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1972. Print.

Dreyer, J. L. E. A History of Astronomy from Thales to Kelper. U.S.A.: Dover Publications Inc., 1953. Print. Hoyle, Fred. Nicolaus Copernicus: An Essay on His Life and Work. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1973. Print.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957. Print.

“Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kelper”. Great Books of the Western World. Eds. Adler, Mortimer J., Clifton Fadiman, and Philip W. Goetz. Vol. 15. U.S.A.: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990. Print.

Schilesser, Eric. “Copernican Revolutions Revisited in Adam Smith by way of David Hume”. Empresa y Humanismo Vol. 13 (2010): 213-248. Print.


Editorial Policy

Correspondence to the student authors of this website may be sent to this e-mail address. Make sure your subject includes the name of the author and the article you are referring to along with it's URL. Article copyright is held by their author.

Submissions of original new materials may be made electronically by PDF as long as significant authorship is by undergraduates enrolled in a non-profit educational institution. All materials are peer reviewed by a group of undergraduates.

Editorial articles, lecture presentations, and basic FAQs are marked as such on this website. These articles generally have open copyright and may be used in academic, non-profit settings as long as the author is given full attribution.

The Thin Tweed Line, ©2012 by Steve N. Jackson