Influences on Sir Isaac Newton and the Acceptance of the Heliocentric Theory of the Universe

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5th Period AP European History
11 November 2011

Unit 4 Essay

3. Isaac Newton once said, “I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”  Explain this statement and explain how Newton was the product of time and circumstance.

When Isaac Newton said, “I have stood on the shoulders of giants,” he demonstrated that he knew his place in the scientific community. In the relay race of astronomic science, Newton was the last of the runners to be passed the baton, and he, adding to the work of many great scientific minds before him, sprinted the home stretch. Newton understood that his findings weren’t entirely his; they merely, but greatly, added to and reinforced the claims of past scientists. Before the Revolution in Astronomy, the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic System of the Universe was accepted by all and questioned by none. Abnegation of this theory all started with Nicholas Copernicus. He was the first to propose a heliocentric universe in place of a previously accepted geocentric one. This means that he got the ball rolling for the argument that the sun was the center of the universe, rather than the earth. His book, On Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, was published at his death. The astronomer was afraid of living through the repercussions of such a controversial claim. As all authoritative figures and church leaders interpreted from the Bible that the earth was the center of the universe, he surely would have been dubbed a heretic and made to suffer serious consequences. Our first runner may not have been a courageous one, but he surely got things moving in the direction of a more realistic, thoughtful world society. The punishments feared by Copernicus were made a reality by Giordano Bruno. Bruno both supported and contributed to Copernicus’s heliocentric theory. He said that the sun not only is the center of the universe, but also is fundamentally a star, not a planet. With this finding, he went even further so as to claim that since the sun is a star, and...
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