Nicolaus Copernicus and the Copernican Revolution Term Paper

Nicolaus Copernicus and the Copernican Revolution
An assessment of the contribution of Nicolaus Copernicus to the history and development of Western thought.
# 153928 | 0 words | 0 sources | 2014 | CA
Published by on Jun 17, 2014 in Philosophy (Science) , Astronomy (The Solar System) , History (General)

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From the Paper:

"In the history of science--and of Western thought in general--no figure stands out more prominently than Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). A measure of his perceived greatness might be seen in the fact that his name has lent itself to the creation of a generic term, "Copernican Revolution," to refer to any event in the history of ideas that introduces a fundamental changein the way humans think(a "paragidm shift" in Thomas Kuhn's terminology), so that today people speak of "Kant's Copernican Revolution" or "Wittgenstein's Copernican Revolution."In fact, the history of ideas is often informally divided into "before Copernicus" and "after Copernicus" in much the same way as the Western calendar formally divides history in general into the eras before and after Christ. However, Copernicus's claim to fame has not been without controversy. He has been equally praised and condemned, acclaimed as a hero and denounced as a fool (Adamczewski 147), and fought over by nations--the Germans and the Poles--wishing to claim him as their own (Mizwa 33-34; Rosen 4). For the student of Western intellectual history, however, the most significant aspect of the controversy is the disagreement among scholars as to the extent to which Copernicus himself was personally responsible for the "Copernican Revolution"and how much credit he should be given for it.
"To understand the man Copernicus and his contribution to intellectual history, it is necessary to examine the forces and influences that shaped his personality, his thinking, and his worldview. He was born in an age of intellectual ferment in Europe (Sharrock & Read 75-76). The Renaissance had just been inaugurated and the new philosophy of humanism was spreading rapidly throughout the Continent. The medieval worldview was gradually crumbling as scientific and geographical discoveries were challenging the teachings of the Church. Copernicus was just 19 years old when Columbus, in 1492, arrived in the "New World"(Kuhn 124),thereby providing a degree of confirmation that the Earth was not flat, but a sphere. In 1522, one of Ferdinand Magellan's ships became the first vessel to complete the circumnavigation of the globe, putting to rest all doubts about the earth's sphericity. Navigation at the time depended largely on astronomy, and the increase in exploration by sea increased the demand for better knowledge of the heavens (Kuhn 124). There was also a growing demand for calendar reform, dating back to the thirteenth century,as the inadequacies of the Julian calendar became increasingly obvious (Kuhn 124). This demand reached a peak towards the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century as territorial expansion through voyages of exploration and the subsequent rise of colonialism made it imperative to have an accurate system of measuring time."

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