Cosmic Order, the Movement of the Earth, and the Scientific Revolution
Chapter I. Uniform Circular Motion of Celestial Bodies
← 36 | 37 → CHAPTER ONE
UNIFORM CIRCULAR MOTION OF CELESTIAL BODIES
In the Proemium or Introduction, Copernicus is not so much interested in disagreements among astronomers regarding the “principles and assumptions” of astronomy as he is in the incompatibility of astronomical data with actual observed celestial phenomena. These included the exact length of the tropical year and the related issue of determining the sun’s motion, which has always been “subject to different opinions.”
In fact, Copernicus has very specific reasons for emphasizing the problem of the determination of the exact length of the tropical year, some of which cropped up only after his completion of the Commentariolus. He does not mention the issue of the tropical year but only until after around 1514, when Paul of Middelburg (1446–1534) asked him to help with reform of the Julian calendar.13 Copernicus did not take part in it formally, but at the end of the Preface, he ← 37 | 38 → justifies De revolutionibus as his own contribution to calendar reform. This serves to further legitimize his introduction of the “absurd concept” of the earth’s motion in astronomy. In other words, Copernicus incorporated the issue of the length of the tropic year, and its necessity to the solution of calendrical reform, as part of a strategy to persuade the reader of his Introduction (and particularly the Preface) of the rationality of introducing the concept of the earth’s motion in astronomy. There is, in my opinion, one additional, and perhaps...
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