The Rationality of Simplicity: Copernicus on Planetary Motion

  • David R. Topper


Astronomical Unit Planetary Motion Summer Solstice Retrograde Motion Autumnal Equinox 


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Notes and References

  1. I have used G.J. Toomer’s translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest (New York & Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1984). The correlation of the epicycle periods of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn with the sun is found on pp. 424–425 and 480–484, although Ptolemy’s “formula” is in a different format than mine. I wish to thank Dennis Duke (Physics, Florida State University) for these references in Ptolemy. His superb Web site displays animated versions of various astronomical systems: Scholar
  2. I have used Edward Rosen’s translation of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), quotations from pages 4 and 22. Copernicus’s Commentariolus is in Three Copernican Treatises, translated by Edward Rosen (New York; Dover, 1959), quotations from pp. 57–58.Google Scholar
  3. The myth of the equivalence of Ptolemy and Copernicus is clearly presented in, Keith Hutchison, “Sunspots, Galileo, and the Orbit of the Earth,” Isis, 81 (1990), pp. 68–74.Google Scholar
  4. On the nonanomalous view of the motion of the planets before Copernicus, as well as an insightful discussion of anomaly itself, see Alan Lightman and Owen Gingerich, “When Do Anomalies Begin?,” Science, 255 (Feb. 7, 1991), pp. 690–695.Google Scholar
  5. Years ago I noticed the striking similarly between Copernicus’s concept of astronomical aesthetics and Alberti’s definition of beauty and decided to explore it someday; and there it sat on the backburner of my research endeavors. In the meantime someone else (Jeroen Stumpel) also spotted the similarity and, I am pleased to say, pursued the research, producing the article from which I have drawn most of my information; see his, “On Painting and Planets: A Note on Art Theory and the Copernican Revolution,” in Three Cultures: Fifteen Lectures on the Confrontation of Academic Cultures (The Hague: Universitaire Pers Rotterdam, 1989), pp. 177–202. Quotations of Alberti and Vasari are in Elizabeth Gilmore Holt (ed.), A Documentary History of Art (New York: Doubleday, 1957), vol. I, pp. 212 and 230 (Alberti), vol. II, p. 26 (Vasari).Google Scholar
  6. On Michelangelo and Copernicus, see Valerie Shrimplin-Evangelidis, “Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment,” Sixteenth Century Journal, 21, No. 4 (1990), pp. 607–644, and Valerie Shrimplin, “Michelangelo and Copernicus: A Note on the Sistine ‘Last Judgment,”’ Journal for the History of Astronomy, 31 (2000), pp. 156–160, which she expanded in her book, Sun Symbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” (Missouri: Truman State University Press, 2000). See Edward Rosen, Copernicus and the Scientific Revolution (Malabar, FL: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1984), pp. 66–69 on the myth the influence of neoplatonism.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Topper
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada R3B2E9

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