Monday, October 19, 2009

Columbus and Copernicus: The Hidden Relationship

Most people know of Galileo and his death related to the heliocentric argument. Many, but not all, are further aware that Nicolaus Copernicus who first came out with the theory that the sun is the center of the universe. That revelation is typically given as the start of modern astronomy and its divorce from geography.

Few relize that it was Christopher Columbus' opening up of the New World that helped fuel Copernicus' discovery. The Boston Globe has a great article which discusses just that. Columbus' discovery shattered the Christian idea that there could be no lands that had not heard the Gospel and Greek-thought that the Earth sphere floated on water. The realization that these ideas were false and that the model of a balanced Earth medieval scholars made was also wrong allowed Copernicus to rethink the universe.

The relationship between Columbus and Copernicus is proof once again that geography is a key competent with understanding not only the Earth but its place in the universe.

1 comment:

Jerod Poore said...

And even fewer are aware that some Greek astronomers, philosophers, mathematicians, etc. espoused a heliocentric universe a little while before Copernicus. Aristarchus and Seleucus are two who backed it up with math that came fairly close to determining the correct distances and sizes of the Moon and the Sun.

Copernicus used the same models as Seleucus, although Copernicus may have derived that model independently.