A Proliferation of Readings

Robert S. Westman

in The Copernican Question

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520254817
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948167 | DOI:
A Proliferation of Readings

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In the 1580s, second-generation interpreters of De Revolutionibus, mostly Nullists, rapidly produced a spate of new readings. These readings opened up issues that Nicolaus Copernicus himself had tersely bounded off (such as the universe's infinitude), merely used as a piece of his main argument (the Capellan arrangement of Venus and Mercury), altogether neglected to develop (heliocentric and geocentric transformations), or treated ambiguously (the ontology of the spheres). Planetary order, left out of consideration by the Wittenbergers, now moved from liminal to central consideration, making it at times a matter of aggressive advocacy and defense of priority. By 1588, a via media had become the site of a highly contentious priority struggle within which Tycho Brahe's geoheliocentric scheme emerged as the most visible and, ultimately, the most influential alternative. Brahe's encounter with Paul Wittich nicely frames the problematic of the via media. More likely, Christopher Rothmann followed a path somewhat like that of Wittich and the early Tycho. Giordano Bruno, an immediate contemporary of Wittich, Rothmann, and Brahe, was a second-generation advocate of Copernicus's theory.

Keywords: De Revolutionibus; via media; Tycho Brahe; Christopher Rothmann; Nicolaus Copernicus; Giordano Bruno; spheres; ontology; Paul Wittich

Chapter.  15613 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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