The Copernican revolution is among the most significant events that marked changes in both the scientific and astronomic disciplines. It remains the most radical and most formidable model that explain the relationship of objects in the entire universe. This model has remained up to date, and only changed a bit, but the idea remained the same throughout Renaissance days up to now. That is why the Copernican is termed revolutionary (Gingerich, 2002).
As the Middle Ages came to an end and the Renaissance emerged, most people still believed that everything revolved around humankind. To them, the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, moon and other heavenly bodies revolved around the earth. The model formulated by Ptolemy was widely in use although it could not explain major events observed. These were the movement of some planets that appeared to reverse the direction of rotation also known as retrograde motion.
The model remained virtually unchallenged for three hundred years until in the early sixteenth century when Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer who studied at Bologna University developed the heliocentric model of planetary motion. The basic model suggested that the reason the sun appeared to be moving is that the earth rotated on its axis once every twenty-four hours. Also, the sun was stationary at the center of the universe and the planets revolved around the sun in a circular manner. These views attracted hostilities from the Vatican church which by then had more sway than the scientific community. Being a Christian and fear for his life, Copernicus kept his ideas to himself waiting until nearing his death to release them in a publication with only limited copies (Gingerich, 2002).
The papers remained ignored until Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer reviewed Copernicus model and accepted it. Tycho adjusted the model factoring in geocentricity after he observed a comet passing which was impossible if the orbits were perfect circles. After the death of Tycho, Johannes Kepler a German mathematician and assistant to Tycho took over the research benefiting from Tycho's various observation data. Kepler introduced the three laws of planetary motion that explained planetary movements much better than the geocentric model. His breakthrough came through the discovery that the movements of Mars and all another planet could be accounted for if their orbits were elliptic instead of circular. These three laws of planetary motion have been undisputed up to date (Dunne, 2006).
On around the same time, Galileo Galilei improved the design of a telescope to get over thirty times magnification. The telescope enabled him to make observations that proved Copernicus model. After publishing his finding, the Vatican placed him under house arrest until his death. Fifty years later Sir Isaac Newton realized that the same laws govern the universe. He derived the law of universal gravitation from Kepler's laws of planetary motion hence explaining inertia, acceleration, action, and reaction (Dunne, 2006).
Newton's contribution marked the end point of Copernican revolution and had laid the foundation of modern physics and astronomy.
Gingerich, O. (2002). The Copernican Revolution. Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, 95-104.
Dunne, K. (2006). A Copernican revolution. Perspectives on localization, 13, 1.
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