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10 “Copernicus Found a Treasure the True Value of Which He Did Not Know at All”. The Life of Copernicus by Pierre Gassendi

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Chapter Summary

In 1654, Pierre Gassendi published a collection of astronomers' lives, which also contains a vita of Copernicus. Gassendi's own Mercury observations were geared to Brahe's premises of exactness. On a second glance one notices that only Brahe and Kepler are praised openly; Gassendi extols 'Brahe's superhuman and heroic endeavour' as well as his 'excellent observations'. He and Kepler with his Rudolphine Tables, which he drew up 'with nearly unbelievable toil', have only accomplished wherefore Copernicus had prompted Rheticus with 'numerous admonitions, remarks and instructions'. After all, he had stimulated them: Gilbert's magnet philosophy, Galilei's explanation of the tides, that planets move on elliptic orbits, and Tycho's subversion of his world system. Gassendi's conclusion, which one can subscribe to, reads: 'Therefore it seems rather advisable if we seize on a word by Kepler who said, Copernicus had found a treasure the true value of which he did not know at all'.

Keywords: Brahe; Copernicus; Gilbert's magnet philosophy; Kepler; Pierre Gassendi



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