Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/126

This page has been validated.
122
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sound. Copernicus also proposed to coin all the money of Prussia at a single mint, forbidding the towns to use their ancient privileges, which had been abused. This proposal, as well as others made in the years 1521-30, failed chiefly because Dantzig and other towns were not Mailing to relinquish vested rights. It is interesting to note that in his memorial of 1526 he sets the ratio of gold and silver as 1 to 12.

Bishop Fabian died in 1523. During the ensuing vacancy Copernicus was chosen administrator of the diocese. His duties were harassing. The troops of the order encroached more and more on the church holdings. The Lutheran heresy was also a source of anxiety. The steps taken by the administrator were marked by great tolerance. Before the preaching of the new faith was forbidden outright it was enjoined that it should be refuted by argument. A new bishop, Mauritius Ferber, was chosen in 1523, and a word must be said of the bishop's nephew and coadjutor, Tiedemann Giese. Born in 1480, he became canon of Frauenburg about 1504, and was the intimate and affectionate friend of Copernicus during the whole of his life. It was to Mm that Copernicus confided the manuscript of his great work in 1542. Bishop Ferber died in 1537, and Bishop Dantiscus of Culm was chosen in his place, while Giese by a compromise became bishop of Culm.

The last observation recorded by Copernicus in the 'De Revolutionibus' is dated 1529. From this we may infer that his great work was essentially completed at that time, though it was repeatedly revised afterwards. It had been begun twenty-three years earlier. It was not published until 1543, though its doctrines had been freely communicated to scholars and friends. In 1531 a set of strolling players, set on, it is said, by bis enemies among the Teutonic knights and among the Lutherans, gave a little show at Elbing ridiculing the notion that the earth moved round the sun. The play was devised by a certain Dutchman who afterwards became rector of the gymnasium at Elbing. That its satire was understood by the common people proves the opinions of Copernicus to have been fairly well known by his neighbors even at that epoch when absolutely nothing had been printed concerning them. About 1530 a manuscript commentary on the hypotheses of the celestial motions had been prepared by Copernicus for private circulation among men of science in advance of the publication of 'De Revolutionibus.' Two copies of this manuscript still exist, one at Vienna, one at Upsala. At the end of it a resume of his new doctrine is given in seven axioms. (I.) There is only one center to the motions of the heavenly bodies; (II.) this is not the earth about which the moon moves, but (III.) it is the sun; (IV.) the sphere of the fixed stars is indefinitely more distant than the planets; (V.) the diurnal motion of the sun is a consequence of the earth's rotation;