Aristarchus was an amazing man for his time. He was mainly known as a mathematician but of course everyone seemed to be lawyers, doctors, mathematicians and astronomers in those days...and usually all of this by the time they were 21. Aristarchus has interested me for a long time now. History influences the present and I take the view that to understand how we got to where we are, both in our personal lives, and in our lives within the community and society we live, we need to have at least to some degree a knowledge of history.
In 310 Aristarchus was born. I am going to delve much deeper into his life and the influences on his life and how he influenced others in due course, but for now, an overview. Aristarchus studied the sky and the stars and came to the solid conclusion that in fact, it was the Sun that was at the centre of the Universe and not Earth as was the commonly held view. However, it is always very difficult to get a new mindset/theory/idea off the ground and into the thinking of those around us, and for Aristarchus, he had 1800 years before anyone took him seriously...my question is why 1800 years...well then in 14oo and something Copernicus was born. Now there's a name you are probably more familiar with. Copernicus made many observations and measurements during his life, of the positions of the stars, as well as study law medicine, theology and mathematics and he was also a churchman all his life. He grew increasingly frustrated at realising that he and his colleagues couldn't ever seem to find the maths to describe or explain all the movements of the stars and the known planets of the time, and the Moon. He began to ask himself why this was the case. He began to read the ancient astronomers such as Plutarch and discovered that 1800 years ago it had been suggested that in fact the Sun not the Earth was at the centre of the Universe. Copernicus did more and more calculations until he arrived at this same conclusion. He began to discuss this with his friends and colleagues and eventually word came to the then Pope Clement vii and two of his cardinals and they welcomed the proposals that Copernicus made...what's that I hear you ask, but "I thought the church persecuted Copernicus and Galileo and co..." well yes they did...60 years later...and this leads to the question as to what happened during those 60 years that changed the hearts and minds of the majority of those with authority in church to lead to persecution...?
One cardinal after resigning his post at the age of 63 then wrote to Copernicus a long letter asking him to explain further to him these new ideas for a new cosmology as he wanted to support him in his endeavours. I will be posting that same letter which was sent on 1st November 1536 on this site in due course.
Then as I will explain, there is a direct connection with the persecution of the likes of Copernicus and Galileo and modern cosmology as it is today. After researching and reading, I believe that events in the 16th and 17th centuries changed the direction astronomy and cosmology took from there on. It is a fascinating story full of twists and turns and still I believe I have only scraped the surface. Come back to read more soon...