A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

by Dava Sobel
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A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel

By 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of observations, while compiling in secret a book-length manuscript that tantalized mathematicians and scientists throughout Europe. For fear of ridicule, he refused to publish.

In 1539, a young German mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, drawn by rumors of a revolution to rival the religious upheaval of Martin Luther's Reformation, traveled to Poland to seek out Copernicus. Two years later, the Protestant youth took leave of his aging Catholic mentor and arranged to have Copernicus's manuscript published, in 1543, as De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres)-the book that forever changed humankind's place in the universe.

In her elegant, compelling style, Dava Sobel chronicles, as nobody has, the conflicting personalities and extraordinary discoveries that shaped the Copernican Revolution. At the heart of the book is her play And the Sun Stood Still, imagining Rheticus's struggle to convince Copernicus to let his manuscript see the light of day. As she achieved with her bestsellers Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Sobel expands the bounds of narration, giving us an unforgettable portrait of scientific achievement, and of the ever-present tensions between science and faith.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802717931
Publisher: Walker & Company
Publication date: 09/27/2011
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 8.56(w) x 5.76(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Dava Sobel is the acclaimed author of the internationally bestselling titles Longitude, Galileo's Daughter, The Illustrated Longitude, and The Planets. She lives in East Hampton, New York.

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More Perfect Heaven 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book; I bought it during my tour of Poland, including Torun. I just could not stop reading it! Dava Sobel did a fantastic job in the research of historical facts. This book also helped me understand the different fates between Copernicus and Galilei. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the historical detail and the way that the characters were brought to life. Dava writes beautifully.
ken57 More than 1 year ago
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.
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
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&