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A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,820 ratings  ·  238 reviews
By 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of obser ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Walker & Company
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Richard Derus
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Report: Heliocentrism. I doubt that stirs much passion in anyone reading this review. It means "sun centeredness." *yawn* The solar system is heliocentric. Hawaiian culture is heliocentric. Big whoop.

In the Sixteenth Century, this sh*t was hot news, and really really controversial. Think gay-marriage-level passions inflamed. Heliocentrism meant that the SUN and not God's Perfect Creation The Earth was the center of the Universe. Panic! Riots! Thunderings from dimwitted
...more
Clif Hostetler
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is the story of Nicolaus Copernicus and how his book, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) revolutionized astronomy. There are two facts about Copernicus that I found astounding. First, astronomy was his hobby not his occupation. Second, his book was almost NOT published.

His job as church canon meant that he worked full time with responsibilities that included tasks such as administering church farm rental lands, negotiating peace terms with the
...more
Alan
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-lit
Very readable, and chocked with info on Copernicus's life as a Canon in Varmia on the Baltic, after study at U of Krakow, and at least two Italian universities--Bologna (canon law) and Padova (medicine). Copernicus ended up a physician who made his living as a political appointee (canon) at Varmia Cathedral, appointed by the literal nepotism of his uncle the Bishop.
But I found the play, "Interplay," inserted in the middle of the book a problem--a fictional account of Copernicus and his Protesta
...more
Wayne
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE !!!
Recommended to Wayne by: Dava's previous books
Dava Sobel spoke at the Sydney Writers' Festival last week
about her latest wonderful book.
She and the interviewer also performed two excerpts from her play
of the conversation between Copernicus the Polish Catholic Astronomer cleric and Rheticus the young German Lutheran Mathematician who had visited Copernicus to urge him to publish and be damned.
This brief play forms part of this novel.
Dava played Rheticus who as a believer of astrology got some hefty
trouncing from his Scientific Better.It was
...more
Yibbie
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I made it about halfway through this book. Even before the scene that made me quit, I was considering quitting. The description I had of this book never let on that huge sections of this book are fiction. To be specific they are drafts of the author’s play about Copernicus. Even in the non-play sections, the author quoted a novel to fill a gap in the official record. Then the author’s insistence on including the astrological readings for everything was odd because she constantly had to tell us ...more
Bárbara Széchy
I have mixed feelings about this book. While it was well written and overall well researched, it contained a lot of details that weren't that interesting, and I had to force myself slightely to keep reading through some of it. So I enjoyed it but wasn't crazy about it. I would recommend only for people who are trully interested in the person of Copernicus himself rather than astrology.
Emily Lakdawalla
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-space
As with her previous two books Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel draws heavily on primary sources for her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. With lengthy quotes from personal letters and contemporary records, Sobel paints a picture in words of the life and times of a man whose work literally produced a revolution, changing the static, immovable Earth to one that spun and revolved around the Sun at the center of the cosmos.

Sobel's work is cha
...more
Ahmed R. Rashwan
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
How long I have set aside the Copernican Revolution, only to read it now, renewing my vows with Astronomy. It brings great delight and happiness to my heart reading about the man who is most probably the most important and influencing to my most beloved subject.

Copernicus did not only revolutionize the Cosmos, he revolutionized our perspective, how we view ourselves in this world. He is the messiah that delivered us from our self-centered beliefs and our ego-centric point of view of ourselves, a
...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘The motions of the planets captured Copernicus’s interest from the start of his university studies.’

Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543), a Polish mathematician and astronomer, was the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric astronomical model of our solar system. In this book, Ms Sobel provides a biography of Copernicus together with a history of the development of his heliocentric astronomical model. Copernicus was working during a period of change in Europe: th
...more
Nathan Albright
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2018
My feelings about this book and the author's approach are somewhat complicated and ambivalent.  On the one hand, the book does a good job at presenting the known facts of the life of Copernicus and the way in which he was able to thrive in the morally lax and somewhat corrupt world of pre-Tridentine Roman Catholicism.  On the other hand, this book is an uncomfortable mix of fact and fiction, as the author includes an early version of her play "And The Sun Stood Still" in the middle of this book ...more
Matt
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it
A fine read about Copernicus.

First and foremost, it paints a clear portrayal of the forces Copernicus faced in the Europe of his time: the tensions between Catholic and Protestant forces, small and large powers; the nature of scientific inquiry in the day; the blurred line between astrology and astronomy; and above all, Copernicus's hesitancy to publish, given fears over the public reaction.

Copernicus did his best to avoid controversy, but there was no pretty much no chance he could both publish
...more
Katy
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-science
Missy bought me this book for my birthday.
I really enjoyed it, even the historical fiction play that occurs in the middle of the book. (although it could have done without the scene with Franz)
I appreciate the courage that early scientists had to stand up against the Catholic church and its quest for dominance in all lives during this time period.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting book about how hard the beginning of the Renaissance really was.
Jason Golomb
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Dava Sobels' "A More Perfect Heaven" is a biography of Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, a history of the development of his theory of a sun-centric solar system, and an engaging look into a Europe on the cusp of transitioning from a dark and paranoid medieval society to an enlightened and brighter renaissance future.

While the focus of Sobels' work is her history of Copernicus the man, his science and mathematics, Sobels' biggest victory is her fictionalized drama of how
...more
Krista
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting read! I liked it, however, this is not a book I would normally read on my own for pleasure. I read this to see if this would be a good fit to add into my oldest son's Astronomy unit (homeschool). I think he would enjoy it. I would have liked a bit more on Copernicus' astronomy research. The book was rather enjoyable though.
Bethany
Sep 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is weird. There are three “sections”. First is the minutiae the author could dig up about Copernicus. Basically a grocery list out of context. The second part is a stage play, where the author took a lot of liberty with conjecture. The third part is the spread of Copernicus’ ideas. The third section is the only redeeming part of the book.
Rachel Welton
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is not my cup of tea at all.The first half deals with the wrangling of the Catholic church in the 1500s and the bishops' ulcers.
Then it dissolved into a soap opera of a play peopled by caricatures with unbelievable motives. Very disappointed.
I picked this book up with an interest in science. I really haven't been rewarded.
Part 3 redeems it slightly with a followation of astronomical developments.
Tyler Jones
Mar 29, 2020 added it
Shelves: science
Like many people, my interest in Copernicus has everything to do with my interest in how authority tries to silence or control science in order to serve its own interests. Dava Sobel is the perfect author for people like me - she presents everything in human terms; Copernicus's relationship with his housekeeper is given attention, as his professionalism when filling his duties as a physician. These details, in addition to a play inserted midway through the text, go a long way in bringing Coperni ...more
Bob
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, has taken on another important figure from the Scientific Revolution, Nicholas Copernicus. Sobel's book is unique in that the most dramatic part of Copernicus' life, the writing and publishing of his work "On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres" which laid out his heliocentric theory of the solar system, is presented as a drama. It is a daring choice and it is one that works well.

Copernicus was born in Poland, educated in Italy, and work
...more
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
A More Per­fect Heaven: How Coper­ni­cus Rev­o­lu­tion­ized the Cos­mos by Dava Sobel is part fic­tion part non-fiction book. The book includes a play in two acts in the middle.

It is 1514 and Pol­ish monk Nico­laus Coper­ni­cus has the ini­tial out­line for his helio­cen­tric the­ory in which he defies the norms of soci­ety and church by plac­ing the sun in the cen­ter of the uni­verse. Coper­ni­cus’ book is long and detailed, yet unpublished.

A young Ger­man math­e­mati­cian named Georg Joachim
...more
Vince
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting combination of history and fiction. Sobel covers Copernicus' life in the first 1/3 of the book and part of the last third. Most of the last third is devoted to devoted assistant Joachim Rheticus, who was largely responsible for the publication of Copernicus book 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres', and the astronomers who followed his work (esp. Brahe, Kepler and Galileo), and the continuing influence it has today. The middle third of the book includes a play about Copern ...more
Eduardo Santiago
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as enjoyable as Longitude or Galileo's Daughter. The play-within-a-play-biography gimmick didn't really work well for me. Still, four stars because I really did develop a strong feeling for that time period. It can't be easy: we live in a world where heliocentrism is a fundamental tenet, known and understood since we're old enough to say “mama.” We can't really imagine what it was like when this wasn't understood. Sobel does a great job conveying the zeitgeist.

(Side rant: Why oh why do I rea
...more
Callie Leuck
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
I should preface this review by saying that I read this book for a class and am probably not the intended audience; I probably would not have picked it up on my own.

I admire Dava Sobel for taking a risk and trying something new here. This is a nonfiction biography surrounding a fictional play. The play is Dava Sobel's imagining of a key moment in Copernicus' life: when someone convinces him to write and publish his heliocentric-universe idea.

I greatly enjoyed the play and would love to see it
...more
Beth
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sobel has done extensive research as usual. Not that easy to make the life of Nicolas Copernicus interesting - the über maths geek of his time. You get the impression of a man with a fairly humdrum external life whilst in private he was meticulously calculating mathematical, astronomical truths that would alter humanity's perception of itself and our earth forever. Sobel also portrays the real fear of exposing this controversial truth against a background of religious fundamentalism that was alr ...more
Roo Phillips
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars maybe. Readable, but only just. Sobel's ability to find and quote primary sources is spectacular. The problem is, that is all she does. Any sort of narrative, direction, or thesis is completely lost in the tedious details. Too much quoting of letters from seemingly random people and about peripherally "significant" events. There is very little original thought from Sobel. It literally is almost entirely made up of excerpts from letters and reports written to and from people that lived ...more
Lydia
Ha, well, as it turns out, the life of Copernicus was pretty ordinary. I expected more storytelling from Dava Sobel. I loved Galileo's Daughter and Longitude, but this I just couldn't get into. It feels like the whole book is "look at what an ordinary guy Copernicus is".

I guess it is nice to know that Famous People of Science still have to deal with the mundane things of life, at any rate.
Carmen
Nov 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
One of the most boring books I have ever read. There is a play (by the author) in the middle. Originally, she wanted to publish the play. But her editor told her she had to flesh it out with more data. Big mistake. Super-boring. The play was the most interesting part, and that isn't saying much.
Charlie
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Part one was about the life of a visionary who possessed great faith in the church. He did not feel that the universe he saw placed any less significance in God.

Part two is a play that depicts the writing of Copernicus's great work. This was enjoyable and a new way for me to learn about history.

Part three dealt with the aftermath of Copernician thought.

I liked it!
Noelle Walsh
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this, I never really thought about how society came to heliocentricity. I hardly knew anything about Copernicus. After reading this book, I feel like I understand how heliocentricity works and how it came to be. Definitely worth reading!
Elena
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. And her play in the middle, brilliant... i only wish it had been longer. Thanks for signing my copy and for the great lecture of Copernicus!
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Dava Sobel is an accomplished writer of popular expositions of scientific topics. A 1964 graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Ms. Sobel attended Antioch College and the City College of New York before receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1969. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from the University of Bath, in England, and M ...more

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“Faultfinding is of little use and scant profit, for it is the mark of a shameless mind to prefer the role of the censorious critic to that of the creative poet. —FROM COPERNICUS’S Letter Against Werner, JUNE 3, 1524” 3 likes
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