Nicholas Copernicus (1473 – 1543) was a prominent Polish Renaissance scientist and astronomer to whom we owe many contributions in this discipline.
Among his most outstanding achievements we find the formulation of the heliocentric theory, which explained that the center of the universe is not the Earth, as it used to be thought, but the Sun.
Great sentences by Nicolás Copérnico
He studied in Krakow and Rome until he was considered one of the most brilliant thinkers of his time.
In today’s article we will learn about the theories, thoughts and phrases of Copernicus , one of the most relevant thinkers of our millennium.
1. Nature never does anything superfluous, nothing useless, and knows how to draw multiple effects from a single cause.
About the majestic complexity of the natural world.
2. I am not so in love with my own opinions that I ignore what others may think about them.
His humble and dialoguing personality is captured in this phrase.
3. If, by chance, there are charlatans who, although ignorant of all mathematics, boasting of a judgment on them by some passage of the scriptures, malignantly distorted in its meaning, dare to reject and attack this structure of mine, I do not at all pay attention to them, to the extent that I condemn their judgment as reckless.
Dotting the i’s to his detractors.
4. To know that we know what we know and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
Great reflection on what is known and what is known that is not known.
5. First, we must know that the universe is spherical.
A maxim that was not known at the time.
6. The ocean envelops the Earth and fills its deepest abysses.
7. As if sitting on a royal throne, the Sun governs the family of planets that revolve around it.
A great metaphor for understanding the role of the Sun in our solar system.
8. In the middle of it all is the Sun. Who in this beautiful temple would put this lamp in a better place, from which everything could be illuminated?
Another ode to the star king.
9. The movement of the Earth alone is sufficient to explain so many apparent inequalities in the heavens.
The speed at which the Earth moves is absolutely incredible.
10. Math is written for mathematicians.
To reflect on this exact science.
11. The earth together with its surrounding waters must, in fact, have such a shape as to reveal its shadow, for it eclipses the moon with the arc of a perfect circle.
Poetic astronomical phrase.
12. Furthermore, since the sun remains stationary, what appears as the movement of the sun is actually due more to the movement of the earth.
About the movement of each of the planets and stars.
13. That no one expects anything certain from astronomy, for it offers nothing certain; if, by abandoning this discipline, someone takes for granted what was made for another use, he will end up crazier than by entering into it.
A phrase from Copernicus about the science of astronomy.
14. Near the sun is the center of the universe.
Over the years, it seems that Copernicus was wrong in this statement.
15. Of all visible things, the highest is the sky of the fixed stars.
Light years away from our eyes.
16. It is possible that the things I am saying now are dark, but they will become clear in their rightful place.
Certainly, in the later centuries many of Copernicus’ teachings were confirmed.
17. To know the mighty works of God, to understand His wisdom, majesty, and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful working of His laws, surely all this must be a mode of worship pleasing and acceptable to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.
About his believing side.
18. Every light has its shadow, and every shadow has a morning after.
Philosophical sentence of the great Nicholas Copernicus.
19. The Universe has been forged for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.
Another reflection on God.
20. Trismegistus calls him a “visible God”; Sophocles’ Electra, “that which contemplates all things”. And so the sun, as if resting on a royal throne, governs the family of stars that revolve around it.
About the sun.
21. Nations are not ruined by a single act of violence, but gradually and almost imperceptibly by the depreciation of their circulating currency, through its excessive amount.
22. The mass mass of the earth is actually reduced to insignificance in comparison with the size of the heavens.
All enormity is in some way relative.
23. Among the authorities, it is generally agreed that the Earth is at rest in the middle of the universe, and they consider it inconceivable and even ridiculous to have the opposite opinion. However, if we consider it more closely, the question will still be seen to be unresolved, and so decidedly that we should not disregard it. For every apparent change with respect to position is due to the movement of the observed object, or the observer, or even an unequal change of both.
Another sentence about relativity.
24. Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the center of the heavens as its center, would consider, as I consider it to be a pronounced dementia, if I made the opposite claim that the earth moves.
To think about the strength of social consensus.
25. For what could be more beautiful than the heavens that contain all beautiful things.
About the majesty of the universe.
26. I am aware that the ideas of a philosopher are not subject to the judgment of ordinary people, for his effort is to seek the truth in all things, insofar as human reason permits.
On the epistemology of his time.
27. Moreover, since the sun remains stationary, everything that appears as a movement of the sun is rather due to the movement of the earth.
Another of the discoveries about the research on the relationship between the Earth and the Sun.
28. In so many and such important ways, then, the planets bear witness to the mobility of the earth.
Looking outward, one can get to know the Earth better.
29. In the first book I will describe all the positions of the spheres, together with the movements that I attribute to the Earth, so that the book contains, so to speak, the general structure of the universe. In the remaining books I relate the movements of the remaining stars, and all the spheres, to the mobility of the Earth, so that it can be established to what extent the movements and appearances of the remaining stars and spheres can be kept, if they refer to the movements of the Earth.
Advancing the structure of his scientific writings.
30. Now I will remember that the movement of the heavenly bodies is circular, since the proper movement for a sphere is rotation in a circle.
Another conclusion reached by previous findings.
31. First of all, we should note that the universe is spherical.
Another starting point used by this scientist.
32. The contempt for novelty and unconventionality of my opinion almost led me to abandon completely the work I had undertaken.
Copernicus, confessing the psychological impact on him of opinions against his work.
33. Astronomy is written for astronomers. To them my work will also seem, unless I am mistaken, to make some contribution.
A joint effort to learn more about the reality of the stars.
34. However, the generalized planetary theories advanced by Ptolemy and most other astronomers, while consistent with numerical data, also seemed to present no small difficulty. For these theories were not adequate unless they also conceived of certain equalizing circles, which made the planet appear to move at all times with uniform speed neither in its deferential sphere nor in the center of its own epicycle.
A critical look at the work of previous researchers.
35. In the midst of all this the sun dwells.
Another of this scientist’s main conclusions about the solar system.
36. It is the duty of an astronomer to compose the history of celestial movements through careful and expert study
An opinion about the role of the astronomer.
37. Because when a ship floats quietly, sailors see their movement reflected on the outside, while, on the other hand, they assume that they are motionless, along with everything else on board. In the same way, the movement of the earth can undoubtedly produce the impression that the whole universe is turning.
About a subjective impression that does not reflect reality.
38. Although all good arts serve to keep man’s mind away from vices and to lead him to better things, this function can be performed more fully by this art, which also provides extraordinary intellectual pleasure.
Art can channel fundamental needs.
39. Not only did the phenomena of others follow from this, but they also united both the order and magnitude of all the planets and spheres and the heaven itself, which nowhere could one thing be altered without confusion among the other parts and in the whole universe.
A logical chain that compromises several scientific conclusions.
40. Therefore, having obtained the opportunity from these sources, I also began to consider the mobility of the earth.
More explanations about the beginnings of Copernicus’ research on planetary motion.
41. Consequently, since nothing prevents the earth from moving, I suggest that we should now also consider whether various movements satisfy it, so that it can be regarded as one of the planets. Because, it is not the center of all revolutions.
42. We are taught all this by the movement of the earth on its axis and around the sun by the order of succession, in which those phenomena (various planetary events) follow one another, and by the harmony of the world, if we only, as the saying goes, look at the matter with both eyes.
43. When, therefore, I had considered this uncertainty of traditional mathematics, I began to tire that there was no more definite explanation of the motion of the world-machine established in our name by the best and most systematic builder of all, among the philosophers who had studied so exactly in other respects the smallest details with respect to the sphere.
Another one of Copernicus’ phrases in which he talks about his motivations.
44. For a traveler going from anywhere to the north, that pole of the daily rotation gradually rises higher, while the opposite pole falls an equal amount.
Another reflection based on mathematical logic.
45. Then, influenced by these advisors and by this hope, I finally allowed my friends to publish the work, as they had been asking me for a long time.
More considerations about the pitfalls of publishing certain findings.
46. We consider it a certainty that the earth, enclosed between poles, is limited by a spherical surface.
The description of a widespread belief.
47. Therefore, it would not be unknown to His Holiness, the only thing that induced me to look for another way to calculate the movements of the celestial bodies was that I knew that mathematicians in no way agree in their investigation of them.
The lack of consensus drives the investigation.
48. The two revolutions, that is, the annual revolutions of the declination and of the center of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is, the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the center. Therefore, it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their synchronization, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves eastward, but because the equatorial circle moves westward, at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the globe.
Appreciation of the axes of movement.
49. The strongest affection and the greatest zeal should, I think, promote studies related to the most beautiful objects. This is the discipline that deals with the divine revolutions of the universe, the movements of the stars, sizes, distances, rises and stages. . because what is more beautiful than the sky?
In defense of the aesthetic component of astronomy.
- Since, then, there is no objection to the Earth’s mobility, I think that consideration must now be given to whether various movements are appropriate to it, so that it can be regarded as one of the wandering stars.
One more step in the line of reasoning this researcher took.
51. So if the value of the arts is measured by the matter with which they deal, this art – which some call astronomy, others astrology, and many of the ancient ones the consummation of mathematics – would be by far the most outstanding. This art which is like the head of all liberal arts and the most worthy of a free man is supported by almost all other branches of mathematics. Arithmetic, geometry, optics, geodesy, mechanics, and everything else offers itself to their service.
An appreciation of the value of the scientific field covered by Copernicus.
52. It is seen that no more stars are established in the north, while in the south no more stars are seen to rise.
An observation of the celestial vault.
53. I have no doubt that certain learned men, now that the novelty of the hypotheses in this work has been widely divulged – for it states that the earth moves, and that the sun is motionless in the midst of the universe – are extremely shocked, and think that the academic disciplines, correctly established once and for all, should not be disturbed. But if you are prepared to judge the matter thoroughly you will find that the author of this work has committed nothing worthy of censure.
About the impact their discoveries had on their historical context.
54. True laws cannot be reached by the use of reason; and from these assumptions, motions can be correctly calculated, both for the future and for the past.
55. Nor is it necessary for these hypotheses to be true, or even probable, but it is sufficient if they simply produce calculations that agree with the observations.
A reflection on the process of creating knowledge scientifically.
56. I myself consider that gravity is nothing more than a certain natural inclination with which the architect of all things imbibes the parts to come together in a unity and totality, meeting in the form of a globe.
A curious explanation of how gravity works, based on the concept of God.
57. The apparent retrograde and direct movement of the planets does not arise from their motion, but from the earth.
Another of Copernicus’ phrases that show how he expressed his greatest discovery.
58. It is easy to believe that the Sun, the Moon, and other luminaries among the wandering stars also have this tendency, so that, by their action, they retain the rounded shape in which they reveal themselves, but nevertheless travel their orbits in various ways. If then the Earth also makes other movements, such as that of the centre, they must necessarily be similar to those observed in a similar way in many external bodies in which we find an annual orbit.
Considerations about the movements of the stars and their relationship with those of the Earth.
59. Consequently, since nothing prevents the earth from moving, I suggest that we should now also consider whether various movements satisfy it, so that it can be regarded as one of the planets.
60. What appears to us as movements of the sun does not arise from its movement, but from the movement of the earth and our sphere, with which we revolve around the sun like any other planet. The earth, then, has more than one movement.
The description of the rotation and translation movements
61. Some think that the earth remains at rest. But Philo the Pythagorean believes that, like the sun and the moon, it revolves around the fire forming an oblique circle. Heraclid of Pontus, and Ephantus the Pythagorean make the earth move, not in a progressive motion, but as a wheel in a rotation from west to east around its own centre.
A review of the different perspectives on the nature of planet Earth.
62. I therefore set myself the task of re-reading the books of all the philosophers who were available to me to find out whether anyone had ever believed that the movements of the spheres of the universe were different from those taught in schools.
Explaining their motivations and starting point.
63. I doubted for a long time whether to bring to light my treatise, written to demonstrate the movement of the earth, or whether it would not be better to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and some others, who used to transmit the mysteries of their philosophy simply to their relatives and friends, not in writing, but by personal contact, as the letter of Lysias to Hippocrates testifies.
This researcher feared reprisals for his findings.
64. Through constant observation and meaningful contact with the divine order of the structure of the world, arranged by the wisdom of God, who would not be led to admire the Builder who creates everything!
A mixture of Christian faith and use of the principles of science.
65. After addressing this very difficult and almost unsolvable problem, I came to the conclusion of how it could be solved with fewer and much simpler constructions than previously used, if I were granted some assumptions (which are called axioms).
On the need for assumptions.
66. The center of the Earth is not the center of the universe, but only of gravity and the lunar sphere.
About the relative importance of our planet.
67. The ratio of the Earth’s distance from the Sun to the height of the firmament is much smaller than the ratio of the Earth’s radius to its distance from the Sun, that the distance from the Earth to the Sun is imperceptible in comparison with the height of the firmament.
68. Any movement that appears in the firmament does not arise from any movement of the firmament, but from the movement of the earth. The earth, together with its surrounding elements, makes a complete rotation at its fixed poles in a daily motion, while the firmament and the highest heaven remain unchanged.
A clear summary of Copernicus’ main discovery.
69. All these phenomena come from the same course, which is found in the movement of the Earth. But the fact that none of these phenomena appear in the fixed stars shows their immense elevation, which makes even the circle of their annual motion or apparent movement disappear from our eyes.
An estimation of the great distance at which the heavenly bodies are.
70. Not a few other very eminent and learned men made the same request, urging that I should no longer, for fear of refusal, give my work for the common benefit of the students of mathematics.
About the dissemination of this scientist’s discoveries.
71. I can easily conceive, Holy Father, that as soon as some people learn that in this book which I have written on the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, I attribute certain movements to the earth, they will immediately claim that I and I must reject the theory.
Copernicus’ ideas were considered dangerous to Christian doctrine.