Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi


  • Pietro Daniel OmodeoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_67-1


“Geocentrism” refers to a cosmological and planetary theory, in which the Earth occupies the central position of the world system. In antiquity and in the Middle Ages, geocentrism was the most common cosmological view, although some astronomers and philosophical schools embraced alternative visions about worldly order. During the Renaissance, debates following Nicolaus Copernicus’s proposal of a heliocentric planetary theory prompted a reexamination of traditional geocentric (and geostatic) arguments (see “Copernicanism” and “Astronomy”). This also led to their reworking and expansion. Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s arguments were attentively reconsidered. Many scholars deemed them conclusive and therefore stuck to terrestrial centrality even after parallax computation (in the 1580s, especially Tycho Brahe) and telescopic evidence (after 1610, especially Galileo Galilei) demonstrated the impossibility of geocentric paths for Mars and the inferior planets. Geo-heliocentrism thus emerged as the only viable solution. It was a planetary theory according to which all or some of the planets rotate around the Sun, while the Sun remained Earth centered along with the Moon and the fixed stars. The Inquisition prohibition of Copernican astronomy in 1616 gave new impetus to geocentrism, in its geoheliocentric form, among Catholics.


Planetary Theory Daily Rotation Stellar Parallax Jesuit College Copernican Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


Primary Literature

  1. Aristotle. 1986. On the heavens, 217. London/Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  2. Brahe, Tycho. 1972. Apologia de cometis. In Opera omnia, ed. John Louis Emil Dreyer (Havniae: Libraria Gyldendaliana, 1913–1929, repr. 1972), Vol. 4, pp. 415–476.Google Scholar
  3. Brahe to Kepler (Benatek, 9. December 1599). In Gesammelte Werke, Johannes Kepler, Vol. 14 (München: Beck, 2001), pp. 89–98.Google Scholar
  4. Copernicus, Nicolaus. 1978. On the revolutions, ed. Jerzy Dobrzycki, transl. and comm. by Edward Rosen. Baltimore/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Toomer, G.J. 1984. Ptolemy’s Almagest, 41. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. On Ancient cosmological models, see Michel-Pierre Lerner, Le monde des sphères (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2008) and Otto Neugebauer, A history of ancient mathematical astronomy (Berlin: Springer, 1975).Google Scholar
  2. On Aristotle’s geocentric arguments, see Pietro-Daniel Omodeo and Irina Tupikova, Aristotle and Ptolemy on geocentrism: diverging argumentative strategies and epistemologies (Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2012), Preprint 422.Google Scholar
  3. On the impact of the idea of an earthly-watery globe and its meaning for Copernican astronomy, see Klaus Vogel, “Das Problem der relativen Lage von Erd- und Wassersphäre im Mittelalter und die kosmographische Revolution,” Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsgeschichte 13 (1993): pp. 103–143 and, by the same author, “Cosmography,” in The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3, Early Modern Science, ed. by Karin Park and Lorraine Daston (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 469–96.Google Scholar
  4. On Sacrobosco and his commentators in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, see Lynn Thorndike, The Sphere of Sacrobosco and Its Commentators (Chicago: UP, 1949), James M. Lattis, Between Copernicus and Galileo. Christoph Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology (Chicago: UP, 1994) and Isabelle Pantin, “Francesco Giuntini et les nouveautés célestes,” in Dario Tessicini and Patrick Boner, Celestial Novelties on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution, 1540–1630 (Florence: Olschki, 2013), pp. 85104.Google Scholar
  5. On Ptolemy’s astronomy and its the Renaissance reception, see Olaf Pedersen, A Survey of the Almagest (Odense: Odense Press, 1974), Liba Chaia Taub, Ptolemy’s Universe: the Natural, Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Ptolemy’s Astronomy (Chicago: Open Court, 1993), and Pietro Daniel Omodeo and Irina Tupikova, “Post-Copernican Reception of Ptolemy: Erasmus Reinhold’s Commented Edition of the Almagest, Book One (Wittenberg, 1549)”, Journal for the History of Astronomy (2013): pp. 235–256.Google Scholar
  6. On ancient and medieval cosmological views alternative to geocentrism, see Giovanni Virginio Schiaperelli, I precursori di Copernico nell’antichità (Milano: U. Hoepli, 1873), Thomas Little Heath, Aristarchus of Samos, the Ancient Copernicus: a History of Greek Astronomy to Aristarchus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), D’Alverny, Marie-Thérèse: “Survivances du ‘système d’Héraclide’ au Moyen Age,” in Semaine de Synthèse, Avant, avec, après Copernic (Paris: Blanchard, 1975), pp. 39–50 and Bruce S. Eastwood, Ordering the Heavens: Roman Astronomy and Cosmology in the Carolingian Renaissance (Leiden: Brill, 2007).Google Scholar
  7. The Wittenberg School of astronomy has been studied by Robert S. Westman, “The Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus and the Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory,” Isis 66 (1975): pp. 163–93 and idem, “Three Responses to the Copernican Theory: Johannes Praetorius, Tycho Brahe and Michael Maestlin,” in The Copernican Achievement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975) pp. 285–345); Owen Gingerich, “Erasmus Reinhold and the Dissemination of Copernican Theory,” in The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler (New York: American Inst. of Physics, 1993), pp. 221–251, and idem, “Reinhold, Erasmus,” Dictionary of Scientific Biography 11 (1975): pp. 365–367; and Walter Thüringer, “Paul Eber (1511–1569): Meanchthons Physik und seine Stellung zu Copernicus,” in Melanchthon in seinen Schülern, ed. Heinz Scheible (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1997), pp. 285–321. Reinhold manuscript commentary of Copernicus has been published in Nicolaus Copernicus, Gesamtausgabe, vol. VIII/1, Receptio Copernicana (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2002), pp. 189–358. On Puecer and Dasypodius, see Peter Barker, “The Hypotyposes orbium coelestium (Strasbourg, 1568),” in Nouveau ciel nouvelle terre: La révolution copernicienne dans l’Allemagne de la Réforme (1530–1630), ed. Miguel Angel Granada and Edouard Mehl (Paris: Les Belles Lettre, 2009), pp. 85–108.Google Scholar
  8. For Wittich, cfr. Owen Gingerich and Robert S. Westman, “The Wittich Connection: Conflict and Priority in Late Sixteenth-Century Cosmology,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 78/7 (1988). On the controversies over the priority of the geo-heliocentric system, see Nicholas Jardine, The Birth of the History and Philosophy of Science: Kepler’s A Defence of Tycho against Ursus with Essays on its Provenance and Significance (Cambridge: UP, 1984); Edward Rosen, Three Imperial Mathematicians: Kepler Trapped between Tycho Brahe and Ursus (New York: Abaris Books, 1986); Miguel Angel Granada, El debate cosmológico en 1588: Bruno, Brahe, Rothmann, Ursus, Röslin (Naples: Bibiopolis, 1996); and Nicholas Jardine and Alain Segonds, La guerre des astronomes: La querelle au sujet de l’origine du système géo-héliocentrique à la fin du XVIe siècle (Paris, 2008), 2. vol. On the triangulation Brahe-Liddel-Craig, see Adam Mosley, “Tycho Brahe and John Craig: The Dynamic of a Dispute,” in Tycho Brahe and Prague: Crossroads of European Science, ed. John Robert et al. (Frankfurt am Main: Deutsch, 2002), pp. 70–83 and Pietro Daniel Omodeo, “L’iter europeo del matematico e medico scozzese Duncan Liddel,” (Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2013), Preprint 438 (2013).Google Scholar
  9. On the reasons for the Jesuit adhesion to geoheliocentrism, see “L’entrée de Tycho Brahe chez les jésuites ou le chant du cygne de Clavius,” in Luce Giard, Les jésuites à la Renaissance: Système éducative et production du savoir (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1995), pp. 145–186.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History of astronomy and philosophyMax Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany