Three Copernican Treatises

Three Copernican Treatises

Three Copernican Treatises

Three Copernican Treatises

Excerpt

It is a matter of amazement and regret to many persons interested in the history of civilization that the writings of Copernicus, universally regarded as the rounder of modern astronomy, have not yet been made available in the English language. When Professor Frederick Barry suggested that I might attempt to satisfy this need, he pointed out that the Commentariolus and the Narratio prima are better suited to convey Copernicus's ideas to the general reader than is his classic work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium. For these treatises are briefer, and they are relatively free from the extensive calculations necessarily included in the volume that established the heliocentric system. There is, moreover, a historical reason for reproducing the Commentariolus and the Narratio prima; for it was by these papers from the hands of the rebel cosmic architect and his first disciple that the learned world was first apprised of the revolution in the conceptual structure of the universe.

The Letter against Werner possesses intrinsic interest of its own. It throws light on the development of Copernicus's thought. The letter and the Commentariolus constitute his minor astronomical works. For these reasons it was included in this book.

I desire to record my gratitude to Professor Austin P. Evans for his editorial guidance. To the many friends and colleagues who have cheerfully given me of their special knowledge I express heartfelt thanks. For the errors that nevertheless appear--and it is rash to hope that a book of this sort can be entirely free from error--full and sole responsibility rests upon the author.

It would be a fitting tribute to the memory of Copernicus if the approaching quatercentenary of the publication (1543) of his epoch-making work, De revolutionibus orbium caelestium . . .

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