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8 Cosmology after Copernicus: Decentralisation of the Sun and the Plurality of Worlds in French Engravings

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers the period from the colonization of heliocentrism by the Sun King to the consolidation of the new system, i.e., the plurality of worlds model. Some steps in the unfolding of this process are considered, especially the influence of Descartes in shaping the modern complex structure of the cosmos. The idea of a plurality of worlds succeeds as the main general cosmic model after Copernicus', which is indispensable for understanding the further development of astronomy. In the frontispiece of a Dutch re-edition of the Éloges des académiciens de l' Académie Royale des Sciences, the French artist Bernard Picart gave a visual overview of the state of the sciences in the Paris of Louis XIV. The enlightened engraver and designer depicted Minerva driving the search for knowledge and truth that should encourage the scientific endeavours. She emanates her wisdom from the sun-head at her chest, which illuminates the entire scene.

Keywords: Copernicus; French artist Bernard Picart; Louis xiv; plurality-of-worlds model; Sun King



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