- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted September 2, 2011
Creative and Readable History of Copernicus and Theory of Sun-Centered Universe
Dava Sobels' "A More Perfect Heaven" is a biography of Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, a history of the development of his theory of a sun-centric solar system, and an engaging look into a Europe on the cusp of transitioning from a dark and paranoid medieval society to an enlightened and brighter renaissance future.
While the focus of Sobels' work is her history of Copernicus the man, his science and mathematics, Sobels' biggest victory is her fictionalized drama of how Copernicus' only student, Rheticus, eventually convinced Copernicus to complete his work and share his theory and proofs of a sun-centric universe with the world.
Surrounding the drama, Sobel serves heaping spoonfuls of a heavily religious dark ages Poland, and medieval astronomy.
There are two elements of Copernicus' being that particularly impressed me. First, he was an extraordinarily literate man. Some of the quotes that Sobel includes in her book paint him in a uniquely poetic light. He wrote, for example, "Among the many various literary and artistic pursuits upon which the natural talents of man are nourished, I think the ones above all to be embraced and pursued with the most loving care concern the most beautiful and worthy objects, most deserving to be known. This is the nature of the discipline that deal with the god-like circular movement of the world and the course of the stars."
Second, Copernicus was an extremely detail-oriented individual. If the devil is in the details, then Copernicus, who was schooled in religion and lived in a very religiously oriented society, took that term to heart. Documentation still exists with the exhaustive notations he made while tracking and diagnosing the heavens, as well as his more earth-bound pursuits as an administrator for the Polish government/church. I've read about Galileo before and have always been utterly amazed at the patience and discipline it requires to track the course of the stars and heavenly bodies over the course of years. To remain doggedly at watch every single day, through wars, illness and weather, to gather such a wealth of detailed data reflects tremendous patience, focus and perhaps more than a little obsession.
Sobel concludes that, "He held off publishing his theory for so long that when his great book, 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres', finally appeared in print, its author breathed his last. Copernicus never heard any of the criticism, or acclaim, that attended 'On the Revolutions.' Decades after his death, when the first telescopic discoveries lent credence to his intuitions, the Holy Office of the Inquisition condemned his efforts...The philosophical conflict and change in perception that his ideas engendered are sometimes referred to as the Copernican Revolution."
Sobels' book is enjoyable. Her narrative approach to writing history addresses the nuanced details important in a serious work, while maintaining readability throughout. There are stretches of dry writing where Copernicus orbits the political, religious and military intrigue of Middle Ages Poland. This is a relatively minor complaint of Sobels' tightly written history. And don't fear the authors' fiction. It reads terrifically well while incorporating humor, history and believability.
This book was provided to me through Amazon's Vine program.
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2011
While expecting a detailed review of how Copernicus discovered the sun was indeed the center of our universe I was presented with his huge challenges in providing scientific proof in an age of strict adherence to the Bible. Makes on wonder what humans could have accomplished with a more open mind.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2012
Very enjoyable reading..couldn't put it down
Enjoyed the historical detail and the way that the characters were brought to life. Dava writes beautifully.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2011
A Terrific Image of Copernicus
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel is part fiction part non-fiction book. The book includes a play in two acts in the middle.
It is 1514 and Polish monk Nicolaus Copernicus has the initial outline for his heliocentric theory in which he defies the norms of society and church by placing the sun in the center of the universe. Copernicus¿ book is long and detailed, yet unpublished.
A young German mathematician named Georg Joachim Rheticus comes to study under Copernicus hearing about his genius. Several years later the young man leaves his mentor and tries to arrange the manuscript to be published.
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel is a very readable book about reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus. The historical narrative and introduction (for me) to the Poland Copernicus lived in were very interesting.
I am fascinated by writings about these super-geniuses which have changed the world we live in, stood up to norms and the effects of their discoveries still affect our daily lives. Part of me knows that I will never understand their actual writings, most of it looks like Greek to me and, of course, some of it is in actual Greek.
"[T]he counter-revolution that sprang up in immediate reaction to Copernicus's ideas also continues to make waves. State and local governments still claim the right to control what can be taught of scientific theories in classrooms and textbooks. A so-called museum in the south-eastern United States compresses the Earth's geological record from 4.5 billion to a biblical few thousand years, and pretends that dinosaurs coexisted with human beings".
The author was also having fun with this book, smack in the middle is a two-act play called And the Sun Stood Still which captures the interaction between Copernicus and hi student, the mathematician Johann Joachim Rheticus. Before the play the author writes about Copernicus¿ life before meeting Rheticus; after the play the author writes about the decline on Copernicus after Rheticus has left.
When I started reading the play I thought of skipping it ¿ I¿m not much for plays ¿ but Sobel¿s writing managed to pull it off. The interaction between Copernicus and Rheticus, along with the historical background provided, actually added to the book even though the author said she wanted to publish the play alone. I think the author¿s editor made a wise choice by including the historical background.
You won¿t learn much about the science and mathematics of astrology in this book. However you will get a terrific image of the man we know as Coperni&
1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 2013
No text was provided for this review.