Armitage, Angus. The World of Copernicus. New York: Mentor, 1951 (Originally, entitled Sun,

 

Armitage, Angus. The World of Copernicus. New York: Mentor, 1951 (Originally, entitled Sun,
Stand Thou Still. New York: Henry Schuman, Inc., 1947).

Perhaps the most telling portion of this "biography" is at the very beginning of the portion of the
book which pertains to his bio: "We know scarcely antyhing about the ancestors of Copernicus.
Even the story of his life has had to bve pieced together from all sorts of scraps of information
which have somehow survived. There are sill many gaps in our knowledge. The people who
lived all round the astronomer could have found out and written down much that would have ben
of great interest to us today. But because of their indifference, of because of the obscurity in
which the astronomer lived and died, his contemporaries allowed these precious memories to
fade. It was not until Copenicus had been in his grave a hundred years and more that the first
reasobably good biography of him was written. And that was the work of a Frenchman,
Gassendi, who was hopelessly out of touch with the cirecle in which the astronomer had lived
and labored." (P. 50-51) So, here is a recreation of the life of a "genius." We know him only
indirectly.

Of course there is evidence that he was a genius: his mastery of language (Polish, German,
Italian, Latin and Greek) and his degree in canon law, his degree and success in medicine, his
administrative skills as a rector of the church and all the rest of it. Then, there is the evidence of
his book (now called the Revolutions though he never provided a title for it.) So there is evidence
and we wish we knew more, but we don't.

Note: the first drafts of the book were written in about 1514 and the book was finally published
(with that damn Preface added by Andrew Osiander which really disfigures the work as it came
to be understood - a revolution) in the spring of 1543. By the time the printed book reached him,
Copernicus was a dying old man who had had several strokes and was unable to appreciate the
book. As Armitage explains it: Copernicus delayed publication because he feared BOTH camps:
the religious believers who could not tolerate contradictions to the Bible (mainly Protestant) and
the astronomers (and Aristotleans) of the day, who could not tolerate the novelty of breaking with
philosophy.

Armitage enlarges this book by including the presumptive influence Copernicus had with Kepler,
Galieo and Newton. And this is, frankly, a retrospective without basis. If one realizes that the
initial portion of this book is a statement of philosophy and astronomy in the age of Copernicus
rather than a book about Copernicus, then one can understand that this is hardly a biography of a
successful heretic in science but is, as the title suggests, "The World of..." rather than an effort at
describing him.