To the defenders of the laws of Copernicus and Newton, to Voltaire for example, it seemed that the laws of astronomy destroyed religion, and he utilized the law of gravitation as a weapon against religion.
Under the searchlights of the new learning, the dictatorship of Ptolemy appeared no more inevitable than that of Aristotle; advanced thinkers like Domenico Maria Novara (1454-1504) promulgated sub rosa what were called Pythagorean opinions; and they were eagerly and fully appropriated by Nicolaus Copernicus during his student-years (1496-1505) at Bologna and Padua.
The effects of his Italian sojourn upon the nascent ideas of Copernicus may be profitably studied in Domenico Berti's Copernico e le vicende del sistema Copernicano in Italia (Roma, 1876), and in G.
From the time the law of Copernicus was discovered and proved, the mere recognition of the fact that it was not the sun but the earth that moves sufficed to destroy the whole cosmography of the ancients.
Even in the time of Copernicus some well-meaning persons, especially those of the reformed persuasion, had suspected a discrepancy between the new view of the solar system and certain passages of Scripture - a suspicion strengthened by the antiChristian inferences drawn from it by Giordano Bruno; but the question was never formally debated until Galileo's brilliant disclosures, enhanced by his formidable dialectic and enthusiastic zeal, irresistibly challenged for it the attention of the authorities.
In 1653 he returned to Paris and resumed his literary work, publishing in that year lives of Copernicus and Tycho Brahe.
So too, like Voltaire in his time, uninvited defenders of the law of inevitability today use that law as a weapon against religion, though the law of inevitability in history, like the law of Copernicus in astronomy, far from destroying, even strengthens the foundation on which the institutions of state and church are erected.
The only work published by Copernicus on his own initiative was a Latin version of the Greek Epistles of Theophylact (Cracow, 1509).
The epoch-making treatise in which it was set forth, virtually finished in 1530, began to be known through the circulation in manuscript of a Commentariolus, or brief popular account of its purport written by Copernicus in that year.
Further, Copernicus could not have known of Aristarchus's doctrine, since Archimedes's work was not published till after Copernicus's death.