If there is anything that can bind the heavenly mind of man to this dreary exile of our earthly home and can reconcile us with our fate so that one can enjoy living--then it is verily the enjoyment of . . . the mathematical sciences and astronomy.
12-1 Introduction. The first fruits of the Renaissance were produced by writers and artists. But the response of the scientists was not too far behind, and in our next few chapters we shall see how the problems of the new era became clear and what the mathematicians and scientists did to solve them.
The creation we are about to examine, known as the heliocentric theory, that is, an astronomical theory in which the sun rather than the earth is the center of the solar system, played a double role in the transition from medieval to modern culture. It was itself a consequence of the new influences and ideas flooding Europe. It in turn revolutionized European thought. Moreover, the heliocentric theory affords the most impressive illustration of the enormous influence mathematics has exerted on the formation of our modern culture. Mathematical arguments led, as we shall see, to a totally new conception of the universe and to the reopening of the most fundamental questions man can raise.
In the fifteenth century the only sound and useful astronomical theory was the geocentric system of Hipparchus and Ptolemy which we examined in Chapter 8. This was the theory accepted by professional astronomers and applied to calendar reckoning and navigation. It was, however, a rather sophisticated creation in that its strength lay entirely in the mathematical effectiveness of the scheme. The deferents and epicycles had no physical significance in themselves nor did the theory give any physical or intuitive reasons that the planets should move on epicycles attached to deferents. More acceptable therefore to the people at large was Aristotle's modification of Eudoxus' astronomical system. The details of this modification and further modifications made by medievalists do not matter here. The principal idea was that each planet was attached to a sphere and each such sphere was moved by a series of other spheres which transmitted their motion to one another. The prime mover of the several series of spheres was an outer one powered and regulated by intelligences and spirits controlled by God who dwelt in the empyrean, the outermost sphere.
12-2 The work of Copernicus. The author of the next great celestial drama, Nicolaus Copernicus, who lived about 1400 years after Ptolemy, was
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Publication information: Book title: Mathematics:A Cultural Approach. Contributors: Morris Kline - Author. Publisher: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.. Place of publication: Reading, MA. Publication year: 1962. Page number: 250.
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