Monday, December the 20th, 2004

Or I’m broken beyond repair – Part I of II.
Take your pick of post title, choice is good.

— Circa 1543, a then partially paralyzed Polish priest and mathematician, Nicolaus Copernicus published “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres). It was the birth of modern astronomy, and the first bold work which presented the hypothesis that the earth (and we) needn’t be at the centre of the universe, and everything else did not revolve around us. That we were, in fact, not particularly special in any way. He did this at a time when such statements would be decreed heretical, and the church would burn people at the stake making them.

— Circa 1623, a then blind Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei published “Dialogo sopra li due massimi sistemi del mondo: Ttolemaico, e Ccopernicono” (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican). It was a work that forcefully asserted that the (above) Copernican view on things was not just a hypothesis, but showed it to be the truth. He was “vehemently suspected of heresy” for proving and teaching these ideas, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was also forced to renounce his beliefs publicly, on his knees with his hands on the Bible. This work, among other things, anticipated Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, and led Galileo to be later regarded as the father of modern science.

— In 1618, a deeply religious German astronomer with a childhood filled with much pain and anxiety, Johannes Kepler, finished “Harmonice Mundi” (Harmonies of the world) – a series of 5 books which covered music, astrology, philosophy, theology and mysticism. Arguably his most significant achievement was the realization that the planets moved in elliptical, not circular, orbits. It included his third law, which, not an apple, led Newton to discover the law of gravitation. Previously, in 1611, he’d published “Dioptrices”, which forever changed the course of optics. In spite of all this, he was never revered, famous or rich. He was always in financial difficulty, and had to hop skip and jump between several countries because of religious upheaval and civil unrest. Kepler had dealt with fat, simpleminded wives, the early deaths of several of his children, and having to defend an eccentric mother who was nearly burnt at the stake for practicing witchcraft.

And so, being considerate to the members of our audience with ADD, I end part one of this monologue. To see where this surprisingly informative yet seemingly pointless thing is heading, you’ll have to tune into this same space sometime soon, probably tomorrow.

This is a printer-friendly version of the journal entry “A science history lesson – Part I of II” from actuality.log. Visit to read the original entry and follow any responses to it.

2 Responses to “A science history lesson – Part I of II”

  1. Vigvg says:

    It takes a man of keen wisdom indeed to see where this is going.

    And before you ask, I am currently in Bangalore, will be in Chennai and Mumbai later this year and early next ;)

  2. wahgnube says:

    It does indeed.

    Stay tuned to find out more.

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