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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/123

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COPERNICUS.

The doctrines of Copernicus were spread by means of almanacs based upon Reinhold's tables rather than by his theoretical works; and they made their way quietly, surely and without any great opposition. Tycho proposed a new (and erroneous) system of the world in 1587. It also had its effect in weakening the authority of Ptolemy. The motions of comets began to be observed with care. It was clear that the doctrine of material crystal spheres would not allow room for their erratic courses. In one way and another the authority of the ancients was broken down and the way prepared for the eventual triumph of the theory of Copernicus.

It is interesting to note the opinions of Englishmen of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Francis Bacon rejected the new doctrines; Gilbert of Colchester, Robert Recorde, Thomas Digges and other Englishmen of the time of Queen Elizabeth, accepted them. Milton seems to hesitate in 'Paradise Lost' (book viii.), which was written after 1640, though he had visited Galileo in Florence in 1638, where, no doubt, Galileo proved the Copernican theory to him by word of mouth. At all events he thoroughly understood it as his description of the earth

. . . that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces even
And bears thee soft with the smooth air along,

abundantly proves, since in the last line one of the chief objections to the theory is answered.

The heliocentric theory gained powerful auxiliaries in Moestlin, professor of astronomy at Tübingen, and in his pupil Kepler. In 1588 Moestlin printed his 'Epitome,' in which the mobility of the earth is denied; but he accepted the new views probably as early as 1590. Kepler writes: "While I was at Tübingen, attending to Michael Moestlin, I was so delighted with Copernicus, of whom he made great mention in his lectures, that I not only defended his opinions in our disputations of the candidates, but wrote a thesis concerning the first motion which is produced by the revolution of the earth." In 1596 Moestlin, in a published epistle, expressly adhered to the heliocentric theory of the world.

Luther emphatically declared his opinion of the Copernican theory on several occasions. He calls Copernicus 'that fool' who is trying to upset the whole art of astronomy; and refers to Joshua's command that the sun should stand still as a proof that the earth could not possibly be the moving member of the system. Melanchthon, a far more learned man, declared that the authority of scripture was entirely against Copernicus. The attitude of the Roman Church was more indifferent at that time, not more tolerant. Tolerance comes with enlightenment; and both protestant and catholic doctors were, in gen-