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History of Science 16th astronomy

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 11: 16th-century Astronomy

Reading 1: Background video

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
2 Thursday 11:59 p.m. 15

Reading 1
Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.

2 hrs.

The first reading for this week is Copernicus and His Revolutions, a group of exhibits on the Exhibits Online website. It is available in three forms: text with thumbnails, audio, or video (the video is strongly recommended if you have broadband). Videos are available from the Exhibits Online website for each of the 8 parts or for the entire presentation at once. The video format combines the images with the narration much more efficiently than reading the exhibit, where you have to flip back and forth between text and images. I hope you enjoy it.

The Readings 1 assignment may seem longer than usual this week, but that is because the two Reading assignments this week are best completed together. For this reason, the Readings 1 assignment is not due until Thursday night, at the same time as the Readings 2 assignment. You will see that both the study questions and the content for the two assignments overlap significantly.

I suggest you work through both reading assignments together: Do not try to watch the video all the way through in one sitting. Watch one of the 8 segments of the video, then read the relevant part of the primary source assignment, then watch the next video segment, etc.

TOPIC QUIZ: The statements are either True or False. When you take the quiz at Janux, you will see 12 of these statements, chosen at random, worth 2 points each.

  1. T or F ? Greek scholars who came to Italy because of the Turkish threat in the 15th century held to a Sun-centered view of the cosmos.
  2. T or F? If the celestial spheres were actual physical structures, we would expect to see the far side of the Moon about half of the time.
  3. T or F? According to common conceptions of the geocentric cosmos, the power, dignity and vigor of the spheres increases as one moves up and away from the Earth.
  4. T or F? In geocentric systems, eccentric models were used to explain retrograde motion.
  5. T or F? In an epicycle model, planets retrograde when they lie at their greatest distances from the Earth.
  6. T or F? In an equant model, a body will appear to move with uniform motion as seen from the center of a deferent circle.
  7. T or F? Islamic astronomers rejected equant systems because they are impossible to model with rigid spheres.
  8. T or F? Islamic astronomers rejected eccentric systems because they are impossible to model with rigid spheres.
  9. T or F? Accurate predictions on the basis of Earth-centered models were beyond the reach of Renaissance astronomers such as Regiomontanus.
  10. T or F? A lunar occultation is the same as a lunar eclipse.
  11. T or F? In Italian universities, Copernicus studied law and medicine.
  12. T or F? Celio Calcagnini argued that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still.
  13. T or F? Schoenberg, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, invited Copernicus to publish his Sun-centered system at the Cardinal’s expense.
  14. T or F? Rheticus summarized the main points of Copernicus’ new system in his Narratio Prima, or First Account, dedicated to the Lutheran Duke Albrecht of Prussia.
  15. T or F? Although Copernicus was a Polish Roman Catholic, the De revolutionibus of Copernicus was edited and printed by German Lutherans.
  16. T or F? Copernicus dedicated the De revolutionibus to the Pope.
  17. T or F? Copernicus rejected geocentric, Ptolemaic models of astronomy because they were contradicted by his observations.
  18. T or F? Copernicus rejected geocentric, Ptolemaic models of astronomy because they were overly complex, containing far too many circles.
  19. T or F? Copernicus relied on observations to justify his theory (more so than to discover it).
  20. T or F? Copernicus eliminated Ptolemy’s equant in order to reform astronomy on the principle of uniform circular motion.
  21. T or F? The most important advantage offered by Copernicus was a vision of the universe as a coherent and integrated system, where all the planets move together in elegant harmony.
  22. T or F? Ptolemaic models for the various planets were integrated together, sharing the same center (namely, the Earth).
  23. T or F? The Ptolemaic system determined specific values for the distances of the planets, and also specified their order or sequence.
  24. T or F? The Copernican system determined specific values for the distances of the planets, and also specified their order or sequence.
  25. T or F? Because of the relativity of motion, the models of Ptolemy and Copernicus produce equivalent observations.
  26. T or F? From antiquity, stellar parallax was not observed, and most astronomers took this observation as a decisive refutation of Sun-centered theories.
  27. T or F? Copernican models used a total number of circles about the same as for Ptolemy.
  28. T or F? Osiander and other Lutherans at Wittenberg admired Copernican models even though they thought that they might not be physically true.
  29. T or F? The system of Tycho Brahe preserved the elegance of the Copernican models in which all the planets revolve around the Sun.
  30. T or F? Tycho’s system placed the Sun at the center of the universe.
  31. T or F? Tycho’s system contradicted belief in the solid celestial spheres.
  32. T or F? In 1596, Kepler “proved” Copernicanism using the five regular Pythagorean solids.
  33. T or F? Kepler reaffirmed the principle of uniform circular motion.
  34. T or F? In Catholic territories, the De revolutionibus was like a “book nobody read,” and was neglected until Galileo drew attention to it in the early 17th century.
  35. T or F? In the Starry Messenger (Sidereus nuncius), Galileo refuted the objection to Copernicus based upon stellar parallax.
  36. T or F? In 1616, Galileo was instructed by the Inquisition to renounce Copernicanism.
  37. T or F? From 1616 until the 19th century, Catholics were prohibited from reading or discussing Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus.
  38. T or F? Widespread acceptance of the De revolutionibus required a revolution in physics.
  39. T or F? Copernicus rejected the ancient idea of solid celestial spheres.
  40. T or F? Copernicus rejected the ancient idea of a hierarchical cosmos, arguing instead that the Earth’s vantage point is typical and unremarkable.
  41. T or F? Copernicus rejected the ancient ideal of uniform circular motion.
  42. T or F? Copernicus rejected Earth-centered ideas because he gave more weight to observations than to mathematics.
  43. T or F? Copernicus rejected Earth-centered models because of telescopic observations.


Do you have a great quote for this page? Let me know! (If used, a new quote is worth 1 point extra credit)

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux