John Dugdale

Star Story

The Book Nobody Read


William Heinemann 320pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

AMONG THE POTENTIAL attractions of Gingerich’s study of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium and its readers is its alluring multinational band of leading characters. First there is Copernicus himself, a busy Polish canon, doctor and lawyer who took so long – more than thirty years – to get his idea of a sun-centred cosmos into print that he was on his deathbed when it appeared in 1543. Then there’s his disciple Rheticus, which coaxed him into publishing but went unacknowledged in the book and ended his academic career in disgrace after a homosexual scandal. Tycho Brahe was a peppery Dutch aristocrat whose observations were crucial to the new astronomy, although he drew the wrong conclusions from them. Johannes Kepler, a German, was forced to earn a living as imperial astrologer while using Brahe’s work to turn Copernicus’ hypothesis into a system. Finally there’s Galileo Galilei, the polymathic genius humiliatingly summoned to Rome after indicating support for the heliocentric heresy.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What did London look like in the 6th Century? Rory Naismith's 'Citadel of the Saxons' tries to answer that questi… ,
    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,