The poetry and art of Nicholas Copernicus

Bill Dennison ·
16 January 2014
Science Communication | 

'Scientists Who Made a Difference' series

This blog accompanying the biographical sketch of Nicholas Copernicus looks at a selection of his writing as poetry and a selection of his scientific sketches as art. The 'Poetry' uses Copernicus' exact words (translated into English) in prose form, using the title 'The Earth Moves' to focus on the cadence and word choice. The 'Art' uses an illustration that Copernicus used to convey the heliocentric solar system with the sun at the center and orbits of the known planets. Both the 'Poetry' and 'Art' of Copernicus are found in his 1543 book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres).

nicolaus copernicus tornaeus borussus mathemat source: wikipedia. alt=

The Earth Moves

by Nicholas Copernicus

The consensus of many centuries
has sanctioned the conception
that the earth remains at rest
in the middle of the heaven
as its center would,
I reflected,
regard it as an insane pronouncement
if I made the opposite assertion
that the earth moves.

By long and intense study
I finally found
that if the motions
of the other planets
are correlated
with the orbiting of the earth,
and are computed
for the revolution of each planet,
not only do their phenomena
follow therefrom
but also the order and size
of all the planets and spheres,
and heaven itself
is so linked together
that in no portion of it
can anything be shifted
without disrupting
the remaining parts
and the universe as a whole.

Astronomy is written for astronomers.
To them my work too will seem,
unless I am mistaken,
to make some contribution.


Arrangement of the Sun and Planets

By Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)

Copernicus' vision of the universe
Copernicus' vision of the universe in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Source: Wikipedia.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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