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A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,630 Ratings  ·  214 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 (first published 2011)
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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
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
Emily Lakdawalla
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: planetary
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
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
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
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 Rheticus comes to study unde
...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 p
...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
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!
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!
K
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I’ve really liked other books by Dava Sobel, but this bio of Copernicus just didn’t do it for me. I found it very hard to follow on a scientific/technical basis, almost nothing about him as an intellectual, and strange conjecture about his personal life. It wasn’t enough of anything, I guess. Still, it’s an engaging book and provides an opening insight on a hugely important person in science history.

The lack of information is, of course, somewhat attributable to the lack of actual direct informa
...more
bup
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well-written, and interesting, but there were some major challenges in writing Copernicus' biography:
There isn't a whole lot of original source material.

Copernicus went out of his way to not make waves. He made one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of all time, but didn't publish so as to not offend his employer, the church.

He probably escaped more unwanted attention by living at the same time as Martin Luther, who was an even bigger threat to the establishment.

He had his famous insight ea
...more
David Vidaurre
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of Copernicus and Kepler from the XVI century is oddly relevant in the USA of the XXI century. These great men followed the facts to their ultimate conclusion, even though the facts did not agree with their beliefs or even the accepted common sense of the time. They put scientific honesty and facts above dogma, something that is very rare in this age when people are willfully ignorant and proud of their ignorance and label anything they don't agree with as "fake".

Also interesting is th
...more
Ben Babcock
I came across this book while browsing the science section in Waterstones, because that’s where they hide all the good mathematics books as well, and I was looking for an appropriate math book to give to a fellow math friend for her birthday. (I opted for Ian Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasures.) Having read Dava Sobel’s explication of John Harrison and the marine chronometer in Longitude , I snapped this up without a second thought. Later, I discovered it was already on my to-read list. ...more
Maureen Neville
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
During approximately the past 20 years the author, Dava Sobol, has written several books about various famous scientists from different historical eras who have studied astronomy and navigation. This is the first book of Ms. Sobol's that I've read, however. While it did take me a while to read this work about Copernicus, an astronomer (& also canon of the Catholic Church), it continued to hold my interest. Not being very knowledgeable about astronomy, at times I found I wish I knew more, yet ...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
Sammy Tiranno
There are definitely dull spots throughout, but it was interesting to see some of the communication that occurred among his fellow clergymen and stargazers regarding Copernicus’s research, and their speculation about how it might be considered not only by other astronomers, but by the Pope and/or Luther as well, especially amid the religious turmoil of the time.

The two-act drama that appears in the middle as an interplay is the most entertaining part of the work, if not the most historically loo
...more
Vitak Cheav
3.87 stars

Okay... This is a good book. Especially the play! The play is funny, awesome and, at the same time, imaginative and creative. It's like a fanfiction all over again. And I love how Dava made Copernicus invent the machine and all those cool objects. She managed to make Copernicus look funny and amazing at the same time. He would not have been so, I believe, as he had stroke before he died. He must have been a very stressed man. However, I couldn't fall more for Dava's magic of creativ
...more
Tauras
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always known about the controversy of heliocentrism back in the day, yet the most mind-boggling part of the book for me was the realisation that it took 100 years for the idea to become "more popular" and only after that 100 years the church decided to ban and censor it.
It is somewhat fascinating how such an unfamiliar (yet true) idea took an entire century to get more widely known. And at the same time, the ban on the book made it somewhat more popular.
Human nature is a funny little thin
...more
Christopher Jamison
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I listened to the audio version of this. There's a section in the middle where they go from narrative to play-dialog format, with different vocal parts. I found that jarring. It interrupted the flow of the story for me. I'll give credit - it was interesting and different. But I personally didn't care for it.

One great insight for me - an "Ah Ha" moment - was in understanding how the planets' apparent motion can be retrograde. I could never grasp this until explained in this book (it has to do wit
...more
Fred Kohn
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
This book can be divided roughly into three parts. The first part is Copernicus's history up until the time he met Rheticus. The second part is a short play. The third part is something of a whirlwind history from the time Copernicus took Rheticus in as a student through Galileo. This book didn't totally thrill me. I found the first part of the history tedious compared to the last part which I felt was rushed through. The play was certainly the most enjoyable part of the book.
David Gill
This book was not as good as my previous books by Dava being Longitude and Galileos daughter. I enjoyed the early part of the book, about how Copernicus realised and showed that the earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the other way around, and how this went against all religious teaching by both the Catholic and Protestant churches. Up to the end of the play, I enjoyed it, but then found that it lost pace and meandered a bit.
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.
Brandon
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting biography of Copernicus, who famously used astronomy and math to claim that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the solar system. The best part of this book was the middle section where the author wrote in a play format to vividly describe the painstaking work and intriguing events that led up to the publishing of On the Revolutions just before Copernicus' death.
Cynthia Karl
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting account of Copernicus life and his times and the aftermath of his discoveries. My objection is the play inserted in the middle of the book which may have been dear to the author but didn’t contribute anything to the book.
Jeff
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting and informative - I really enjoyed most of it. But. There's an important section of the story that is pretty much unknown, so Ms. Sobel fills it in with theater, which means you have a non-fiction narrative interrupted by a play. It's kind of jarring and didn't completely work for me.
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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” 2 likes
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