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<   No. 2734   2010-07-22   >

Comic #2734

1 Caption: Frombork, Poland, 1543.
1 Nicolaus Copernicus: I shall avoid persecution by having my publisher add a disclaimer that my heliocentric model is merely a calculation tool, not reality.
2 SFX: ZUUURCH!! {time machine appears}
3 Isaac Netwon: Nicolaus Copernicus? I'm Isaac Newton and this is Edmond Halley. Come with us to the future to help save the world!
4 Nicolaus Copernicus: Aha! Sod that! I shall avoid persecution by departing to a more enlightened time!

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In our history, Nicolaus Copernicus published his landmark book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium just before his death in 1543. In it he set forth his model of the solar system, the first organised body of work promoting the theory that the Earth and planets moved around the Sun, as opposed to the then popularly held belief that everything moved around the Earth.

There is no doubt that Copernicus really believed in the truth of his model. However, he entrusted his manuscript to his friend Georg Rheticus for printing, and Rheticus in turn gave the manuscript to Andreas Osiander, who was a theologian and not a friend of Copernicus. Osiander, objecting to the content of the book, added a preface to the work, unbeknownst to either Rheticus or Copernicus himself. The anonymously added preface states that the contents of the book are not intended to be regarded as the truth, but merely as a model useful for mathematicians and astronomers to calculate planetary positions.

This addition outraged Copernicus' friends, but it's unclear whether Copernicus himself survived long enough to learn of the unauthorised addition.

Our Copernicus here is clearly somewhat more meek than his real-world counterpart.

Frombork, by the way, was at the time part of the Prince-Bishopric of Warmia, a semi-independent state within the Kingdom of Poland, but that would have been far too long to put in the opening caption.

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Last Modified: Thursday, 22 July 2010; 03:11:01 PST.
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