A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos - Dava Sobel
It’s fitting that in her history of the cosmic re-centering from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican system, Longitude author Dava Sobel pauses in the middle of the story for a two-act play. Literally dramatizing the events surrounding the suppression and the publication, nearly 30 years after it was written, of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, A More Perfect Heaven (Walker, $25) uses the traditional tools of history and science as well as the imagination. Sobel, in both her scholarly exposition and her illuminating drama, brings to life Copernicus, the orphaned son of a copper merchant who was raised by his cleric uncle and pressured to enter the church himself, and the much younger, far-sighted mathematics professor, Rheticus, who persuaded the aged Copernicus to publish his scientific work. Also a vivid presence is 16th-century Europe, where ideas, especially new ones, were dangerous things.