Some discoveries add a little to our understanding of the world around us and the greater universe. Then there are some that turn the world completely on it’s head. That change the way we see and understand the world completely. That disrupt, cause chaos and rattle cages. Heliocentric Theory was amongst the latter. It changed everything about how we perceived the Earth and it’s place in the bigger picture. It caused chaos and resistance from scientific and religious leaders, and major conflict between them. So what is the Heliocentric Theory? When and where did it come from?
One of the first illustrations of the heliocentric theory was created by the Greek philosopher Aristarchus. He proposed that the Earth rotated around the sun, not the other way around. His ideas were not accepted by other philosophers, so he was not accepted by the public. However, his theory was eventually proven correct.
The concept called the geocentric theory, was first proposed by ancient Greek philosophers including Aristotle and Ptolemy. It was widely accepted as the correct explanation for the motion of heavenly bodies until the early 1600s when Nicolaus Copernicus followed by other scientists proposed the heliocentric theory instead. The heliocentric theory, which states that the sun is the center of our solar system, revolutionized the way we think about our universe and the world around us.
Champions Of Heliocentric Theory
The most important scientific discovery of the 16th century was the theory of Nicolaus Copernicus. It’s common knowledge today that the earth revolves around the sun. But in the 16th century this idea was considered heresy. Copernicus was a Catholic priest, mathematician and astronomer, who argued that the earth was just one of many planets in our solar system. That the planets revolved around the Sun, which was at the center of the Universe. His theory was a major step towards today’s modern understanding of the solar system, and the Universe, but it didn’t become accepted until long after his death.
The Copernican Revolution
This is the term given to the paradigm shifting change from the geocentric/Ptolemaic universe to heliocentric solar system. This revolution began with the mathematical work of Copernicus, and was further reinforced with the observations of Galileo and the work of Kepler over the next century. The advent of the telescope, meant that scientists had access to view the solar system and confirm the data of these theories for themselves. It was the work of Isaac Newton toward the end of the 17th Century that spurred on a modernised heliocentrism to become the standard accepted model.
In 1612, the astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler was working at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Regensburg, Germany. The Emperor was an avid astronomer, and he had commissioned Kepler to find out which of the many planets in the sky was the most distant. At the time, most astronomers believed that the planets orbits were circular, like the orbit of the Earth. That planets moved in circles around the Earth.
Kepler realized that the planets moved in ellipses, not circles. This discovery later led to the discovery of the laws of planetary motion. These are still used to determine the positions of the planets today.
Galileo was the first person to observe that the Earth goes around the Sun, rather than the other way around. This wasn’t through theory; it was from observation with the telescope, and it contradicted the prevailing belief of the time. The geocentric idea had been accepted by scholars for centuries, and was the official position of the Catholic Church. His work was forsaken at by the Catholic Church, which forbade its scientists from supporting his theory.
Galileo argued that his theories did not conflict with those of the church, that there was room for both scientific theory and biblical scripture if taken in light of the form in which they were written. That biblical works should not be taken literally when concerning matters of scientific theory.
In the late 1600’s with the enlightenment and the age of reason in full swing, Isaac Newton brought new and vital life to the heliocentric theory. Newton expanded on the work of Kepler in his works on the laws of motion, to explain the concept of gravity, and its effect on orbits and the position of objects in the solar system. His model updated the heliocentric ideas with new science, providing indisputable truth to the argument. The long transition and the journey to shift the accepted paradigm could no longer be suppressed by the establishment and momentum started to grow.
Resistance To The Heliocentric Theory
Heliocentrism was fiercely opposed by the Catholic Church. The church declared that the Earth was the center of the universe and that anyone who thought otherwise was heretical. Galileo was forced to withdraw his findings, and banned from discussing or teaching his theories.
There was also resistance in the scientific community, as the Ptolemaic, geocentric theory was still the accepted theory. While many would argue that a ‘revolution’ is something quick and defining, this paradigm shift spanned three centuries. Indeed heliocentrism was proposed as far back as Aristarchus in greek antiquity, but never accepted. While this shift spanned centuries, the change touched on core beliefs about the nature of life, and our place in the bigger picture. While maybe slow, it was nothing short of revolutionary.