Martin Luther on Copernicus

“People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon.  Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best.  This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy.”

- Martin Luther on Copernicus, 1543.



  • Owen

    It’s always tough to see one’s own blind spots. Unfortunately Luther’s BS (blind spots) had cataclysmic and eternal consequences.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Yes Luther’s opinion flowed over into the Catholic Church frightening a then weak & confused Papacy who vented their anger on Galileo. Prior to that, Copernicus’s theory was being taught in the Papal State schools. In my opinion there must have been many ordinary folk who by observing the tides, lunar phases and sequence of the seasons would have concluded what Copernicus came up with using Math. The manure slung by Luther however has continued to stick to the Catholics.

    • PunkyAmerica

      Kind of hard to blame Luther for the Church’s actions. Ironically enough, the only reason the Church allowed Copernicus’ Der Revolutionibus to be taught prior to 1616 was because Osiander, a Lutheran theologian, had inserted an anonymous preface claiming that the book was hypothetical only, not meant to be a literal rendering of the universe (he also modified the title to ‘The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres’, alluding to the prevailing geocentric theory).

      Once Galileo and others insisted on the literal truth of Copernicus’ work, the Church labeled it one of the Forbidden Books and brought the weight of Church against anyone proclaiming it true.

      You might have a point about the ordinary folk, though most would not have likely read the 400+ page work, nor been able to afford a copy of it.

      • Tom

        It was the Church itself, in persons of some bishops, including future pope, who commissioned Copernicus to work on this theory. And it was taught at universities for a 100 years before the controversy with Galileo. And it was not a matter of literal vs. hypothetical, but proven vs unproven, theory vs. scientific fact. Galileo was celebrated by the church leaders, it was protestants who branded Copernicus and his theory “heretic”. Galileo was asked not to proclaim this theory as fact. It was his own arrogance and rudeness that got him the house arrest and it took him almost two decades to accomplish this, while the church leaders bent over backwards to be lenient to him, while Martin Luther had the effigy of Copernicus burnt on a stake.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Actually, Aristarchus (310 BC – ca. 230 BC) of Samos was the first known astronomer to propose a heliocentric system with the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth revolving around it. He identified the “central fire” with the Sun, and put the other planets in their correct order of distance around the Sun. His astronomical ideas were often rejected in favor of the geocentric theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy until Copernicus & then Galileo came along. (see Wkipedia.)