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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/125

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COPERNICUS.

scientific criteria. Calvin's words fell within one universe of discourse, Kepler's in another. There was no conflict between religion and science as such. Calvin sat as judge of a conflict between religion and a possible heresy. Kepler asked himself if this new assertion was substantial truth or merely error masquerading in a scientific form. Phenomena can not be judged by criteria belonging to a world to which they are foreign. It is in a light like this that we must examine the relations of such men as Copernicus and Galileo to their times.

The Lateran council (1512–17) appointed a committee to consider the much needed reform of the Church calendar, and in 1514 the help of Copernicus was asked—a proof that he was not only remembered in Rome, but that his reputation had grown since his residence there. He declined to give advice, for the reason that the motions of the sun and moon were, as yet, too imperfectly known. At the request of the chief of the committee, Copernicus continued his researches on the length of the tropical year—a fundamental datum.

In November, 1516, the quiet life of Copernicus at Frauenburg was broken up by his appointment as Administrator bonorum communium at Allenstein. The appointment was for one year, but the administration of Copernicus was so successful that he occupied the post during the years 1516–19 and again in 1520–21. His manifold duties in this place brought him again into conflict with the Teutonic knights. The interests of the order and of the church in Ermeland were totally antagonistic. At times open hostilities occurred and towns were besieged, taken and plundered. It is not necessary to follow this harassing strife into the details of Prussian and Polish politics. It is recounted in history as the Fränkischer Reiterkrieg. In 1521 Copernicus, then the recognized head of his chapter, was selected to draw up a statement of grievances against the order to be laid before the estates of Prussia. The lands of the chapter of Frauenburg had been overrun, the towns and villages plundered, the peasants had fled or had been killed. The castle of Allenstein, the residence of Copernicus, was itself in danger until it was saved by a four years' truce concluded at Thorn. In such stormy times astronomy was not to be thought of.

It was at this period that Copernicus composed, at the request of the Prussian estates, a memorial on the debasement of the coinage of the country and on the remedies to be adopted. "Money," he says, "is a measure, and like all measures it must be constant in value. What would one say to a yard or a pound whose values could be changed at the will of the measure-makers? The value of money depends not on the stamp it bears, but on the value of the fine metal it contains." Nothing could be clearer than this. His conclusions on the effects of a debased currency on the interests of landlord and tenant are not so