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.
Read more...

Activities for this list:

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.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.