In May, 1539, a young, German mathematician named Georg Joachim Rheticus traveled hundreds of miles across Europe in the hopes of meeting and spending a few days with the legendary astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus, in Frombork, Poland. Two and a half years later, Rheticus was still there, fascinated by what he was discovering, but largely engaged in trying to convince Copernicus to publish his masterwork--De revolutionibus (On the Revolutions of the Heavens), the first book to posit that the sun was the center of the universe. That he was finally able to do so just as Copernicus was dying became a turning point for science and civilization. That he then went on to a legendary career of his own--he founded the field of trigonometry, for example--will be one of the many surprises in this eye-opening book, which will restore Rheticus to his rightful place in the history of science.
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Dennis Danielson is a professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He has served as a member of the History-of-Astonomy Committee for the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago, and is a member of the Historical Astronomy division of the American Astronomical Society. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Physics and the Journal for the History of Astronomy. He is the editor of the acclaimed anthology of cosmological writings, The Book of the Cosmos. He lives in Vancouver, BC.From Publishers Weekly :
The publication of Copernicus's theories on the structure of the solar system is a touchstone of the scientific revolution. But as Danielson shows in this fascinating account, Copernicus's work might have been lost without the assistance of a passionate young scholar named Georg Joachim Rheticus. Born in 1514, Rheticus, a German doctor's son, became a protégé of the mathematician Melanchthon, who said the youth was "born to study mathematics." Made a professor at the University of Wittenberg at the age of 22, Rheticus took a leave of absence in 1538 to track down Copernicus in Poland. Rheticus had seen a copy of a narrowly circulated short paper by Copernicus about a solar system with a stationary Sun and moving Earth, and had become obsessed with the idea. Although in his twilight years, the elder scientist welcomed the younger man, who persuaded him to pull his notes together to create his paradigm-breaking work, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. Drawing on academic records and papers, Danielson, a professor of English at the University of British Columbia, gracefully recounts the compelling story of a scientist whose "sole interest was in reflecting, not deflecting, the light that shone from the mind of his teacher." B&w illus. (Nov.)
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