June 9, 2009
Week 2: Nicholas Copernicus and Giordano Bruno
Topics covered: Heavenly Spheres and Revolution; Pope Paul III and the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition; The Life and Trial of Giordano Bruno; The Invention That Changed the World
Synopsis: Week 2 outlines the revolutionary shift from a geocentric model of our solar system to the mathematically predictive heliocentric model of Copernicus. Covered are its promotion by Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), an Italian philosopher who also wrote extensively on the plurality of worlds, the investigative and judicial determinations of the Italian Inquisition, and the invention of the telescope -– all of which established conditions in which subsequent views on extraterrestrial life evolved in scientific, philosophical, and literary contexts.
Assigned readings: “The Principle of Plentitude and the New Cosmography” (Lovejoy 1936, 1964:99-143); Chapter 3, “From Copernicus to Bruno” (Crowe 2008:35-50). Crowe’s text includes primary source excerpts from this work:
Giordano Bruno, On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, in Dorothea Waley Singer, Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought with Annotated Translation of His Work “On the Infinite Universe and Worlds” (New York, Henry Schuman, 1950).