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The story of how we came to understand that the Earth was not the center of the Universe is one of the most fascinating stories in the whole of the history of science. The debate over Copernicus' heliocentric model lasted for centuries, and was carried out by mathematicians, theologians, philosophers and scientists. Observational evidence initially favored a geocentric model, and definitive proof did not appear until long after the first precise data (captured by Tycho Brahe and compiled by Kepler) had persuaded most scientists of their truth.
Independent scholar Thony Christie takes us through the debate on this episode of Startup Geometry.
Show Notes, Links and Outline:
[0.0.16] How did you get into the study of the History of Science? Eric Temple Bell Men of Mathematics. History of Mathematics and Logic: Church’s list of formal logicians, Boole, Jevons, and others.
[0.3.50] Renaissance Mathematicus and Whewell’s Gazette/Whewell’s Ghost (Whewell pronounced “Hewell”). John Wilkins, historian of biology.
[0.6.30] What was a “mathematicus”? Fields of study: astrology, astronomy, mathematics, cartography, design of engines of war, (sun)dialing, volumetrics.
"DaVinci's Resume": Leonardo DaVinci once sent a letter describing his skills in some of these areas.
[0.14.46] Christoff Clavius. The Galileo Affair. Heliocentricity. Cardinal Barberini. Who can interpret the Bible? Cardinal Bellarmine. The difference between proof and speculation.
[0.27.00] Giordano Bruno. Miguel Serveto (Servetus).
[0.28.14] Newton. Newton & alchemy. Newton & religion. Kepler. Prisca Theologia.
[0.35.44] Interpreting Early Modern systems of thought. Lawrence Principe and William R Newman’s modern alchemical experiments. Phlogiston. Problems with turning lead into gold. (Not a problem for us, but requires a huge particle accelerator.) Roger Bacon.
[0.44.23] Newton predicted the end of the world (not before 2060). Other predictions of the end of the world. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Millerites.
[0.47.47] Discussion of the various Renaissance world systems or models of the universe. Why it’s obvious that the Earth doesn’t move. Tycho Brahe. Johannes Kepler. Gilbert, On the Magnet. How it was finally proved that the Earth does move. Chris Graney on star sizes, Setting Aside All Authority. Torricelli.
[1.00.00] The Rudolphine Tables. Not proof, but Kepler’s system fits the data, so Kepler’s model is probably right. Heliometers and elliptical orbits. Bradley, 1725, finds elliptical movement of stars due to Earth’s movement. Christiaan Huygens. The Earth bulges at the Equator and is flattened at the poles. Later confirmed by stellar parallax, Bessel, 1838.
[1.08.18] Book recommendations. Richard Westfall, Life of Isaac Newton. John Heilbron, Galileo. Chris Graney, Setting Aside All Authority. Eric Scerri, The Periodic Table. My recs: Deborah Harkness, The Jewel House. (she also rediscovered The Book of Soyga, which was part of John Dee’s library, and is a really good fiction writer.) Lost Enlightenment S. Frederick Starr.