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The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order

By: Robert S Westman

704 pages, illustrations

University of California Press

Hardback | Aug 2011 | #194264 | ISBN-13: 9780520254817
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £76.99 $100/€87 approx

About this book

In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus publicly defended his hypothesis that the earth is a planet and the sun a body resting near the center of a finite universe. But why did Copernicus make this bold proposal? And why did it matter? "The Copernican Question" reframes this pivotal moment in the history of science, centering the story on a conflict over the credibility of astrology that erupted in Italy just as Copernicus arrived in 1496. Copernicus engendered enormous resistance when he sought to protect astrology by reconstituting its astronomical foundations.

Robert S. Westman shows that efforts to answer the astrological skeptics became a crucial unifying theme of the early modern scientific movement. His interpretation of this 'long sixteenth century', from the 1490s to the 1610s, offers a new framework for understanding the great transformations in natural philosophy in the century that followed.


List of Figures
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments


Part I. Copernicus's Space of Possibilities
1. The Literature of the Heavens and the Science of the Stars
2. Constructing the Future
3. Copernicus and the Crisis of the Bologna Prognosticators, 1496-1500

Part II. Confessional and Interconfessional Spaces of Prophecy and Prognostication
4. Between Wittenberg and Rome: The New System, Astrology, and the End of the World
5. The Wittenberg Interpretation of Copernicus's Theory
6. Varieties of Astrological Credibility
7. Foreknowledge, Skepticism, and Celestial Order in Rome

Part III. Accommodating Unanticipated, Singular Novelties
8. Planetary Order, Astronomical Reform, and the Extraordinary Course of Nature
9. The Second-Generation Copernicans: Maestlin and Digges
10. A Proliferation of Readings

Part IV. Securing the Divine Plan
11. The Emergence of Kepler's Copernican Representation
12. Kepler's Early Audiences, 1596-1600

Part V. Conflicted Modernizers at the Turn of the Century
13. The Third-Generation Copernicans: Galileo and Kepler
14. The Naturalist Turn and Celestial Order: Constructing the Nova of 1604
15. How Kepler's New Star Traveled to England

Part VI. The Modernizers, Recurrent Novelties, and Celestial Order
16. The Struggle for Order
17. Modernizing Theoretical Knowledge: Patronage, Reputation, Learned Sociability, Gentlemanly Veracity
18. How Galileo's Recurrent Novelties Traveled

Conclusion. The Great Controversy


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Robert S. Westman is Professor of History and Director of the Science Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego.

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