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3 A Natural History of the Heavens: Francis Bacon’s Anti-Copernicanism

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Chapter Summary

Francis Bacon's anti-Copernicanism was one of the embarrassing stories of the history of science. The major promoter of the new science denied the movement of the earth, promoted a semi-Paracelsian and vitalistic cosmology, and argued against the use of mathematics in cosmology. Quite the contrary: he tried to integrate all the new astronomical discoveries into a properly constructed and properly organised natural history of the heavens. This chapter proposes a clarification of the seemingly paradoxical situation described. It first discusses the major criticisms formulated by Bacon with respect to astronomy in general and Copernican astronomy in particular. The chapter shows that they are motivated by more general concerns regarding the relation between disciplines and by a challenging and quite novel view regarding the role of mathematics in physics. It discusses Bacon's proposal for a new natural history of the heavens suitable to ground a 'proper' theory of the heavens.

Keywords: anti-Copernicanism; Copernican astronomy; Francis Bacon; natural history of heavens



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