Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
Nuremberg: Johannes Petreius, 1543
Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library
Astor Library
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The most justly famed illustration of Western science, this image in the first printed edition of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium [On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres] shows the Sun at the center of the universe. Copernicus's theory of a heliocentric universe made use of the cycles and epicycles that characterized the Ptolemaic system. But by placing the Sun at the center, Copernicus was able to explain observed phenomena in a simpler and more elegant manner. The concentric circles, which represented the heavenly spheres, continued to be used until the end of the seventeenth century.

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