John Dugdale

Star Story

The Book Nobody Read

By

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,