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          Copernicus: The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies

          Copernicus began to believe that the earth orbits the sun around 1507, but he delayed publication of his theory until he was about to die due to his fear of being accused of heresy. Here are 50 words from an excerpt from "The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies," published in 1543.
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          definitions & notes only words
          1. universe
            everything that exists anywhere
            FIRST WE must remark that the universe is spherical in form, partly because this form being a perfect whole requiring no joints, is the most complete of all, partly because it makes the most capacious form, which is best suited to contain and preserve everything; or again because all the constituent parts of the universe, that is the sun, moon and the planets appear in this form; or because everything strives to attain this form, as appears in the case of drops of water and other fluid bodies if
          2. spherical
            relating to a round, three-dimensional closed surface
            FIRST WE must remark that the universe is spherical in form, partly because this form being a perfect whole requiring no joints, is the most complete of all, partly because it makes the most capacious form, which is best suited to contain and preserve everything; or again because all the constituent parts of the universe, that is the sun, moon and the planets appear in this form; or because everything strives to attain this form, as appears in the case of drops of water and other fluid bodies if
          3. capacious
            large in the amount that can be contained
            FIRST WE must remark that the universe is spherical in form, partly because this form being a perfect whole requiring no joints, is the most complete of all, partly because it makes the most capacious form, which is best suited to contain and preserve everything; or again because all the constituent parts of the universe, that is the sun, moon and the planets appear in this form; or because everything strives to attain this form, as appears in the case of drops of water and other fluid bodies if
          4. constituent
            one of the individual parts making up a composite entity
            FIRST WE must remark that the universe is spherical in form, partly because this form being a perfect whole requiring no joints, is the most complete of all, partly because it makes the most capacious form, which is best suited to contain and preserve everything; or again because all the constituent parts of the universe, that is the sun, moon and the planets appear in this form; or because everything strives to attain this form, as appears in the case of drops of water and other fluid bodies if
          5. planet
            a celestial body that revolves around the sun
            FIRST WE must remark that the universe is spherical in form, partly because this form being a perfect whole requiring no joints, is the most complete of all, partly because it makes the most capacious form, which is best suited to contain and preserve everything; or again because all the constituent parts of the universe, that is the sun, moon and the planets appear in this form; or because everything strives to attain this form, as appears in the case of drops of water and other fluid bodies if
          6. elevation
            distance of something above a reference point
            Although by reason of the elevations of the mountains and the depressions of the valleys a perfect circle cannot be understood, yet this does not affect the general spherical nature of the earth.
          7. depression
            a sunken or lowered geological formation
            Although by reason of the elevations of the mountains and the depressions of the valleys a perfect circle cannot be understood, yet this does not affect the general spherical nature of the earth.
          8. revolution
            a single complete turn
            To those who journey towards the North the North pole of the daily revolution of the heavenly sphere seems gradually to rise, while the opposite seems to sink.
          9. region
            the extended spatial location of something
            Most of the stars in the region of the Bear seem not to set, while some of the Southern stars seem not to rise at all.
          10. visible
            capable of being seen or open to easy view
            So Italy does not see Canopus which is visible to the Egyptians.
          11. zone
            an area or region distinguished from adjacent parts
            And Italy sees the outermost star of the Stream, which our region of a colder zone does not know.
          12. inhabitant
            a person who lives in a particular place
            Let us add that the inhabitants of the East do not observe the eclipse of the sun or of the moon which occurs in the evening, and the inhabitants of the West those which occur in the morning, while those who dwell between see those later and these earlier.
          13. eclipse
            the phenomenon when one celestial body obscures another
            Let us add that the inhabitants of the East do not observe the eclipse of the sun or of the moon which occurs in the evening, and the inhabitants of the West those which occur in the morning, while those who dwell between see those later and these earlier.
          14. dwell
            inhabit or live in
            Let us add that the inhabitants of the East do not observe the eclipse of the sun or of the moon which occurs in the evening, and the inhabitants of the West those which occur in the morning, while those who dwell between see those later and these earlier.
          15. conversely
            with the terms of the relation reversed
            And conversely if a light be placed at the masthead it seems to those who remain on the shores gradually to sink and at last still sinking to disappear.
          16. coincide
            happen simultaneously
            As it has been already shown that the earth has the form of a sphere, we must consider whether a movement also coincides with this form, and what place the earth holds in the universe.
          17. phenomenon
            any state or process known through the senses
            Without this there will be no secure results to be obtained in regard to the heavenly phenomena.
          18. majority
            more than half of the votes in an election
            The great majority of authors of course agree that the earth stands still in the center of the universe, and consider it inconceivable and ridiculous to suppose the opposite.
          19. inconceivable
            totally unlikely
            The great majority of authors of course agree that the earth stands still in the center of the universe, and consider it inconceivable and ridiculous to suppose the opposite.
          20. peculiar
            beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
            So it appears from all these considerations that the movement of the earth is more probable than its fixity, especially in regard to the daily revolution, which is most peculiar to the earth.
          21. supposition
            the cognitive process of conjecturing
            From this supposition follows another question of no less importance, concerning the place of the earth, although it has been accepted and believed by almost all, that the earth occupies the middle of the universe.
          22. orbit
            the path of a celestial body in its revolution about another
            But if one should suppose that the earth is not at the center of the universe, that, however, the distance between the two is not great enough to be measured on the orbits of the fixed stars, but would be noticeable and perceptible on the orbit of the sun or of the planets: and if one was further of the opinion that the movements of the planets appeared to be irregular as if they were governed by a center other than the earth, then such an one could perhaps have given the true reasons for the ap
          23. perceptible
            capable of being grasped by the mind or senses
            But if one should suppose that the earth is not at the center of the universe, that, however, the distance between the two is not great enough to be measured on the orbits of the fixed stars, but would be noticeable and perceptible on the orbit of the sun or of the planets: and if one was further of the opinion that the movements of the planets appeared to be irregular as if they were governed by a center other than the earth, then such an one could perhaps have given the true reasons for the ap
          24. govern
            direct or strongly influence the behavior of
            But if one should suppose that the earth is not at the center of the universe, that, however, the distance between the two is not great enough to be measured on the orbits of the fixed stars, but would be noticeable and perceptible on the orbit of the sun or of the planets: and if one was further of the opinion that the movements of the planets appeared to be irregular as if they were governed by a center other than the earth, then such an one could perhaps have given the true reasons for the ap
          25. refutation
            the act of determining that something is false
            Refutation of the arguments of the ancients that the earth remains still in the middle of the universe, as if it were its center.
          26. ancient
            a person who lived in bygone times
            Refutation of the arguments of the ancients that the earth remains still in the middle of the universe, as if it were its center.
          27. arbitrary
            based on or subject to individual discretion or preference
            But if one believed that the earth revolved, he would certainly be of the opinion that this movement was natural and not arbitrary.
          28. endure
            undergo or be subjected to
            Things upon which force or an outside power has acted, must be injured and cannot long endure: what happens by nature, however, preserves itself well and exists in the best condition.
          29. latter
            the second of two or the second mentioned of two
            So Ptolemy feared without good reason that the earth and all earthly objects subject to the revolution would be destroyed by the act of nature, since this latter is opposed to artificial acts, or to what is produced by the human spirit.
          30. rapid
            characterized by speed
            But why did he not fear the same, and in a much higher degree, of the universe, whose motion must be as much more rapid as the heavens are greater than the earth?
          31. immense
            unusually great in size or amount or extent or scope
            Or has the heaven become so immense because it has been driven outward from the center by the inconceivable power of the revolution; while if it stood still, on the contrary, it would collapse and fall together?
          32. contrary
            exact opposition
            Or has the heaven become so immense because it has been driven outward from the center by the inconceivable power of the revolution; while if it stood still, on the contrary, it would collapse and fall together?
          33. immensity
            unusual largeness in size or extent or number
            For the more it is driven higher by the outward force of the movement, so much the more rapid will the movement become, because of the ever increasing circle which must be traversed in twenty-four hours; and conversely if the movement grows the immensity of the heavens grows.
          34. velocity
            distance travelled per unit time
            So the velocity would increase the size and the size would increase the velocity unendingly.
          35. vacant
            without an occupant or incumbent
            But it is said that beyond the sky no body, no place, no vacant space, in fact nothing at all exists; then it is strange that some thing should be enclosed by nothing.
          36. enclose
            surround completely
            But it is said that beyond the sky no body, no place, no vacant space, in fact nothing at all exists; then it is strange that some thing should be enclosed by nothing.
          37. finite
            bounded in magnitude or spatial or temporal extent
            The highest proof on which one supports the finite character of the universe is its movement.
          38. retreat
            the act of withdrawing or going backward
            And why will we not recognize that the appearance of a daily revolution belongs to the heavens, but the actuality to the earth; and that the relation is similar to that of which one says: "We run out of the harbor, the lands and cities retreat from us."
          39. atmosphere
            the envelope of gases surrounding any celestial body
            What shall we say, however, of the clouds and other things floating, falling or rising in the air--except that not only does the earth move with the watery elements belonging with it, but also a large part of the atmosphere, and whatever else is in any way connected with the earth; whether it is because the air immediately touching the earth has the same nature as the earth, or that the motion has become imparted to the atmosphere.
          40. nourish
            provide with sustenance
            Earthly fire is nourished with earthly stuff, and it is said that the flame is only burning smoke.
          41. ignite
            cause to start burning
            The expanding motion, however, is directed from the center outward; therefore if any earthly material is ignited it moves upward.
          42. evince
            give expression to
            So to each single body belongs a single motion, and this is evinced preferably in a circular direction as long as the single body remains in its natural place and its entirety.
          43. unity
            an undivided or unbroken completeness with nothing wanting
            Rectilinear motion takes place only when objects are not properly related, and are not complete according to their nature because they have separated from their whole and have lost their unity.
          44. intermittent
            stopping and starting at irregular intervals
            The circular motion, on the other hand, is always regular, because it is not subject to an intermittent cause.
          45. cease
            have an end, in a temporal, spatial, or quantitative sense
            Those other objects, however, would cease to be either light or heavy in respect to their natural movement if they reached their own place, and thus they would fit into that movement.
          46. convenience
            the quality of being useful
            That Aristotle divided motion into three sorts, that from the center out, that inward toward center, and that around about the center, appears to be merely a logical convenience, just as we distinguish point, line and surface, although one cannot exist without the others, and none of them are found apart from bodies.
          47. inconstancy
            the quality of being changeable and variable
            This fact is also to be considered, that the condition of immovability is held to be more noble and divine than that of change and inconstancy, which latter therefore should be ascribed rather to the earth than to the universe, and I would add also that it seems inconsistent to attribute motion to the containing and locating clement rather than to the contained and located object, which the earth is.
          48. inconsistent
            displaying a lack of regularity
            This fact is also to be considered, that the condition of immovability is held to be more noble and divine than that of change and inconstancy, which latter therefore should be ascribed rather to the earth than to the universe, and I would add also that it seems inconsistent to attribute motion to the containing and locating clement rather than to the contained and located object, which the earth is.
          49. attribute
            explain or regard as resulting from a particular cause
            This fact is also to be considered, that the condition of immovability is held to be more noble and divine than that of change and inconstancy, which latter therefore should be ascribed rather to the earth than to the universe, and I would add also that it seems inconsistent to attribute motion to the containing and locating clement rather than to the contained and located object, which the earth is.
          50. probable
            likely but not certain to be or become true or real
            So it appears from all these considerations that the movement of the earth is more probable than its fixity, especially in regard to the daily revolution, which is most peculiar to the earth.
          Created on April 28, 2014 (updated April 28, 2014)

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