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Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began Hardcover – December 4, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Simon & Schuster Hardcover Ed edition (December 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074328951X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289511
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Repcheck paints a vivid picture of the times, in which both Protestantism and intellectual inquiry posed threats to the Catholic worldview. The author also does an admirable job of shining a light on Copernicus's little-known immediate predecessors to show that, like the works of Einstein and Darwin, the scientist's theory didn't spring Athena-like from his brow"-- "Publishers Weekly"

Review

"Repcheck paints a vivid picture of the times, in which both Protestantism and intellectual inquiry posed threats to the Catholic worldview. The author also does an admirable job of shining a light on Copernicus's little-known immediate predecessors to show that, like the works of Einstein and Darwin, the scientist's theory didn't spring Athena-like from his brow"

-- Publishers Weekly

"Excellent...[Repcheck] is especially good at setting Copernicus vividly in his time."

-- NY Sun

"No other biography of which I am aware treats the life of this scientific giant more vividly than this one."

-- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It just feels like it should read better.
Timothy Haugh
While style is certainly a subjective consideration I personally found the book compelling in its story telling, like reading a novel rather than science or history.
Dennis Morris
This is a very good book if all you are interested in it the story of Copernicus' life, with a very simplified introduction to his cosmology.
Metallurgist

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When it comes right down to it, this isn't a bad book. As a biography it is quite serviceable, brief and easy to read. Mr. Repcheck covers what is known about Copernicus' life and gives good attention to those years near the end of his life when De Revolutionibus was finally published; mainly through the prodding and effort of others. He also makes effective use of the letters of Copernicus and some of his correspondents. Use of primary source material always adds to a biography.

On the other hand, this book isn't anything special. The title, Copernicus' Secret, seems to promise some intrigue that Mr. Repcheck never really seems to deliver. What he offers are some background stories that are fairly well known with workman-like prose that never really generates excitement. By the end of this book the secret, if there really is one, remains unrevealed.

Perhaps Repcheck's book is overshadowed by other books on Copernicus that read better: Gingerich's The Book Nobody Read and even Banville's novel Doctor Copernicus. Admittedly, as a basic biography, it works. It just feels like it should read better.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to overestimate the audacity of the explanations made by Nicolas Copernicus. That they became universally accepted is surprising. There was, of course, religious opposition to the idea that the Earth went around the Sun, and not vice versa; churchmen, including the popes and Luther, knew that Joshua commanded not the Earth but the Sun to stand still. Even more basic than religious teaching is the information given by our senses; you can see that Sun roll across the sky, and you can't feel yourself spinning around on the globe. Add to this that Copernicus's picture of the universe meant that we were not at the center of things, and you begin to realize how revolutionary his explanation was. It is probably a good idea, then, to know a bit about Copernicus himself, and in _Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began_ (Simon and Schuster), Jack Repcheck has depicted the Polish astronomer and mathematician as a complex figure devoted to religious fervor and to scientific rigor, but also to human urges which he tried to keep secret. He was also reluctant to put the entirety of his explanation into print, and it was only by good fortune of dealing with other astronomers that publication happened in Copernicus's lifetime.

Copernicus is not someone you would have picked to make an astronomical revolution. He did not have obvious ambition; he was a scholar, and he wanted to do his researches and to be left alone. His researches were not even professional; he was an astronomer by avocation. He was trained as a doctor (he was trusted as a healer), and had official duties as a canon in the Catholic church.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on October 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Nicolaus Copernicus lived a life of two secrets, although neither hardly seemed to be very well hidden from those who knew him or traveled his professional circles. One secret concerned his theory, based on intense astronomical observation and mathematical reasoning, that earth rotates on its axis once every twenty-four hours and revolves around the sun (although he still viewed the sun, and not the earth, as the center of the universe). The second concerned his illicit affair with Anna Schilling, twenty years his junior but never his wife, even as he served as a cleric who had taken a vow of celibacy.

Why was Copernicus' heliocentric theory a secret? Because the religious state of affairs in 16th Century Europe, with its incessant power struggle between the Vatican and the Lutheran Reformation, created a highly toxic environment for scientific claims that ran counter to the long-held and Biblically consistent theories of Ptolemy (as Galileo would learn at first hand not too many years after Copernicus' death). Thus, despite certitude in his results, Copernicus was reluctant to publish or publicize his findings out of fear, perhaps as much for his job as a canon of the Cathedral Chapter of Warmia as for the opprobrium of the Catholic Church hierarcy.

In COPERNICUS' SECRET, Jack Repcheck uses the second secret, other biographical details, informed conjecture, and historical context to illuminate the conditions underlying the first one. For a biographical subject about whose life a remarkably limited written record exists, the author nevertheless constructs a workable profile of Copernicus the man, a profile that adds perspective on his astronomical work as well as the challenges of publishing those results.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Contreras on July 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Repcheck's book paints a fascinating picture of life in the sixteenth century and of the life of one its greatest scientific minds. Copernicus comes to life in the pages of the book. We think of him only as a scientist and scholar, but Copernicus was a late blooming student, a womanizer and a Canon of the Church. This is an engrossing story about the world in which his discoveries were made. Travel to the educational centers of Europe took weeks, even months. There were no real tools for observation of the heavens, and even publishing was an arduous task. Books were hard to come by. Most interesting about the Copernicus' Secret was seeing how reticent Copernicus was about his discoveries and if not for the prodding of a young professor they might never have been published. It's not often that we find scientific biography that reads like a novel.
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