Quotes about Nicolaus Copernicus
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Yet in this my stars were not Mercury as morning star in the angle of the seventh house, in quartile with Mars, but they were Copernicus, they were Tycho Brahe, without whose books of observations everything which has now been brought by me into the brightest daylight would lie buried in darkness.
I esteem myself happy to have as great an ally as you in my search for truth. I will read your work … all the more willingly because I have for many years been a partisan of the Copernican view because it reveals to me the causes of many natural phenomena that are entirely incomprehensible in the light of the generally accepted hypothesis. To refute the latter I have collected many proofs, but I do not publish them, because I am deterred by the fate of our teacher Copernicus who, although he had won immortal fame with a few, was ridiculed and condemned by countless people (for very great is the number of the stupid).
Since Copernicus, man seems to have got himself on an inclined plane-now he is slipping faster and faster away from the center into-what? into nothingness? into a 'penetrating sense of his nothingness?'... all science, natural as well as unnatural-which is what I call the self-critique of knowledge-has at present the object of dissuading man from his former respect for himself, as if this had been but a piece of bizarre conceit.
I cannot sufficiently admire the eminence of those men's wits, that have received and held it to be true, and with the sprightliness of their judgments offered such violence to their own senses, as that they have been able to prefer that which their reason dictated to them, to that which sensible experiments represented most manifestly to the contrary.... I cannot find any bounds for my admiration, how that reason was able in Aristarchus and Copernicus, to commit such a rape on their senses, as in despite thereof to make herself mistress of their credulity.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
The astronomer of to-day may look back upon Hipparchus and Ptolemy as the earliest ancestors of whom he has positive knowledge. He can trace his scientific descent from generation to generation, through the periods of Arabian and mediaeval science, through Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, La Place and Herschel, down to the present time.
Just as the line of astronomical thinkers from Copernicus to Newton had destroyed the old astronomy, in which the earth was the center, and the Almighty sitting above the firmament the agent in moving the heavenly bodies about it with his own hands, so now a race of biological thinkers had destroyed the old idea of a Creator minutely contriving and fashioning all animals to suit the needs and purposes of man.
It is no matter of chance that the greatest scientists of all time, Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Linnaeus, Faraday, Darwin, and Maxwell, were men of noble character, modest, straightforward, and full of human sympathy. The great French mathematician, Henri Poincare, stated that the chief end of life is contemplation, not action.
It became clear that our Galaxy is only one system among many, and that the universe is far vaster than the particular stellar system to which the Sun and planets belong. Since then developments have been more rapid than at any time since the days of Copernicus, Digges and Bruno when the geocentric hypothesis of the cosmos received its death-blow.
Might a worldview suggested by quantum mechanics have relevance beyond science? Consider earlier discoveries that did have such relevance: Copernicus's realization that Earth was not the center of the cosmos, or Darwin's theory of evolution. The relevance of quantum mechanics is, in a sense, more immediate than Copernican or Darwinian ideas, which deal with the far away or long ago. Quantum theory is about the here and now. It even encounters the essence of our humanity, our consciousness.
Joseph Ratzinger has stood still because as a Bavarian Catholic in the Hellenistic tradition, interpreted in Roman terms, he wanted to stand still. To this degree he represented and represents a different basic model of theology and church, as different from mine as in astronomy Ptolemy's geocentric picture of the world is different from Copernicus' heliocentric picture.
In the history of thought... objectivity was sometimes on the side of one man against the rest of humankind. For example, in Copernicus' time the objective astronomical reality existed only for him, while hundreds of millions of people were mistaken in this regard... Copernicus alone embraced the accumulated astronomical experience up to that time in its entirety and was able to organize it harmoniously with the methods which corresponded to the level achieved by the collective efforts of humankind; other people possessed other people possessed only parts and fragments of this experience, so that it remained unorganized in all its fullness.