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Georg Joachim Rheticus – Pressing the Copernican shift

February 2, 2015

“Ptolemy was able to harmonize satisfactorily most of the hypotheses of the ancients… [And] he quite rightly and wisely – a praiseworthy action – selected those hypotheses which seemed to be in better agreement with reason and our senses… Nevertheless, the observations of all scholars and heaven itself and mathematical reasoning convince us that Ptolemy’s hypotheses and those commonly accepted do not suffice to establish the perpetual and consistent connection and harmony of celestial phenomena and to formulate that harmony in tables and rules. … Surely students hereafter will see the value of Ptolemy and the other ancient writers, so that they will recall these men… and restore them, like returned exiles, to their ancient place of honor. The poet [Ovid] says: ‘No one desires the unknown.’”

(from Narratio Prima [1540])

“Many ships sail from Prussia to England and Portugal, and not only do they generally use no measurement of latitude, but they also heed neither chart nor proper compass. The sailors boast that they carry all this know-how in their heads. Which is just fine, as long as things go well. But unfortunately, they often lose that know-how somewhere in their heads and cannot find it when they need it most – so that they with their goods and passengers go nowhere. In my opinion, it would not hurt for these fellows to learn just a bit more about such matters.”

(from Chorography [1541])

“There are those who, knowing nothing, will turn away in stupidity; others, through their exceeding knowledge, will rashly carp at some bit they have seized upon; still others will ridicule our entire work on account of its novelty. However, there is nothing one can write by way of defense against all these. Only a bulwark of support will suffice. What will convince them is not disputation but refutation.”

(from letter to Georg von Komerstadt, November 1550)

These are all drawn from Dennis Danielson, The First Copernican.


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