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The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  710 ratings  ·  54 reviews
For scientist and layman alike this book provides vivid evidence that the Copernican Revolution has by no means lost its significance today. Few episodes in the development of scientific theory show so clearly how the solution to a highly technical problem can alter our basic thought processes and attitudes. Understanding the processes which underlay the Revolution gives u ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 1st 1992 by Harvard University Press (first published 1957)
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Probably a 4.5, made up of a 5 when I first read it (almost 40 years ago) and a 4 when I reread it much more recently. I don't think the book changed, but there is evidence that I did.

Kuhn is one of the thinkers of the History and Philosophy of Science that has written very famous books in both branches of that discipline. This is his contribution to the historical branch, while The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is his very influential (and thus also controversial) contribution to the phil
Roy Lotz
There are few phrases more annoying or more effective than “I told you so.”

This is my second encounter with Thomas Kuhn, and again I emerge deeply impressed. To do justice to an event so multifaceted as the Copernican Revolution a scholar must have a flexible mind; and Kuhn is fully equal to the task. He moves seamlessly from scientific data, to philosophical analysis, to historical context, and then back again. The result is a book that serves as an admirable introduction to the basics of a
Graeme Rodaughan
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone not attached to a geocentric view of the world
An extremely accessible book on the Copernican revolution.

From Wiki:
"Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, set the heavenly bodies in rotation around the Sun, and introduced Earth's daily rotation on its axis."

And, that certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons. I still think that many in our modern civilization hanker for a world in which humanity, and each one of us is - at the center of the universe. (The lust for significance is st
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Oh man, this book is wonderful. I'm a bit biased: it manages to touch on pretty much everything that I like and weave them together in a way that's fascinating and compelling. While I'm not a scientist myself - a pretty intense aversion to math when I was in high school turned me away from that - I absolutely love science and think it's fascinating, so anytime I come across a history of science book I always feel like I'm in a for a bit of a treat. Unfortunately, it can occasionally be difficult ...more
Whereas The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a book of bold claims about the very nature of science itself, The Copernican Revolution is a much humbler effort-- the account of one revolution, and how it came to pass, and how the ideas of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton all intersected in early modern Europe. While his follow-up to The Copernican Revolution attempted to rephrase philosophical terms, this is a more of a straightforward piece of scientific nonfiction. Gre ...more
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is one of the most inspiring -- and most humbling -- books that I've read in quite some time.

I've been interested in astronomy since I was a kid, so the story of Copernicus and Kepler is one I thought I knew. But Kuhn brings out several aspects I hadn't understood before. Kuhn draws attention to something that's often overlooked: Ptolemaic astronomy isn't actually quite compatible with Aristotelian cosmology. The inconsistency wasn't noticed because mathematical astronomy at the time w
Apr 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I understood any of the science and math but this book was fabulous in laying out the intellectual history of the time. I really loved reading those sections. ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is by far the most accessible and enlightening book I have ever read on this subject. It is hard to pin this book down on one topic though. It is an introduction to astronomy (ancient and modern), it is a story about the building and destruction of world views, it is an informative account of the scientific revolution and its implications for mankind. And to top it off: it is written in a very clear and concise style.

Read 265 pages and you're fully informed. Not much else to say about
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The most riveting intellectual history I have read since Lovejoy's "Great Chain of Being," this is a book replete with historical empathy, copious, starkly beautiful diagrams, and a keen sense of the ironies of history. ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I was not expecting to like this, because science. I loved it, because SCIENCE!
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It would be wrong to approach this as a case study for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, or at least prove a dull exercise in it. Instead this book should be understood foremost as a fantastic work of scholarship, which manages to be accessible without sacrificing rigor of technical exposition, and which has a wide breadth while remaining economical and focused. While Kuhn doesn't refrain from commentary, what he succeeds in doing is to underline the implications and importance of the key ...more
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Having thoroughly enjoyed “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Kuhn, I was excited to read this book. However, while there certainly was an interesting argument in this book but it was a bit overwhelmed by the force with which Kuhn wanted to reader to understand its astronomical foundations. These started out simple enough with discussions about solar dials and basic astronomical observations, however they progressively increased to the point that Kuhn himself decided to make a technical ...more
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book brought the clarity I needed to fully appreciate Kuhn's main thesis he would develop throughout his lifetime in Structure and beyond. What I felt was lacking from Structure was a fully developed, concrete example where I could see his ideas of paradigm shift in progress in an actual historical moment. It's clear from reading this book that this was his original case study, and the transformation he generalized to speak about other scientific revolutions.

For anyone interested in Kuhn's
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Among the infinite conceptions of the universe, science favors those that are most unified with experience and with each other. In its drive towards oneness, science is a sort of mysticism. New conceptions are often originally conceived by those seeking order despite the lack of experience that shows that it’s actually there. It’s a guess, or a hope, or an ideal that derives coherence in the world and makes sense to the thinker. This was the case for Copernicus, and Aristotle before him. In the ...more
A solid addition to the literature of science history and intellectual history. Kuhn sets out the interesting ways by which the astronomical system of Copurnicus generated the revolution named for him.

The book is interesting in detail and breadth and is fairly easily reading not compromised by philosophical obfuscation. I do not sense that Kuhn is out of his depth at any point. He exaggerates his viewpoint only somewhat. I believe it will interest any non-scientist as well as any scientist not a
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
A very, very good book for science and history buffs. I read Kuhn's classic book: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, some years ago but found it too philosophical or esoteric for my tastes. The Copernican Revolution offers a much more accessible account of a scientific revolution unfolding through the centuries.

The common-sense, earth-centered Ptolemaic universe inherited by Copernicus was more than just a mental model of how the world was structured in a physical sense. It was a worldview
Fernando Pestana da Costa
A wonderful work about the Copernican revolution in which this landmark event in the history of Science (and of Ideas) is put into perspective by a masterful presentation of previous worldviews (the two spheres universe, the Ptolomaic system, the Aristotelian universe and its scholastic critiques) and of the Copernic system, with its immense physical and philosophical consequences. The opposition to Copernicism (at times of a rabid violence) as well as its progressive acceptance and the scientif ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having read the Structure of Scientific Revolutions many years ago I have carried around a general idea of Kuhn's ideas. It seemed unnecessary to go back and read the Copernican Revolution. I have been wrong. To really understand the complexity of Kuhn's ideas this book is a must. What I found most interesting was his discussion of the Aristotelian world view and how Copernicus' 'technical' clarification of the motions of planets undermined that whole world view. In the end I felt that I had a c ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: students of all branches; science enthusiasts
The Copernican Revolution, though not as widely known as The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and thus not as often recommended to students or science enthusiasts, is a masterpiece. I give it such high praise because it does not simply explain the role of said revolution in the historical context of astronomy and physics, but attempts to give its readers a deeper understanding of the meaning of scientific breakthroughs. While doing that, the author tries to map the entire age he writes about ...more
Tom Schulte
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 520-astronomy
Excellent and accessible overview of astronomy and conceptual frameworks from antiquity to the post-Copernican luminaries like Kepler, Tycho Brahe and Galileo. The entire presentation of the development of thought in this area is a fascinating tale. One minor thing that stood out to me in this era of surprisingly lively flat earth chatter is that Aristotle and Copernicus were among the great minds that echoed the beliefs of their time that the worlds is a sphere based on basic, naked eye observa ...more
Roo Phillips
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. One of those books where you are left in total awe that someone can comprehend, analyze, and synthesize so much. Kuhn superbly breaks down the scientific revolution that facilitated our progress from ancient to modern thought. It isn't long (<300 pages), but it is dense. Not overly technical, but deep. Every word counts. It took months to get through, and I would only recommend it if you love history of science and philosophy. But if you do, this is a must read. ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Nothing especially mind-bending if you're familiar with SSR, but it's good to see the theory put to work. Unlike SSR, which can be infuriatingly sloppy and imprecise at points, this book is solid throughout. Kuhn is at his best when he sticks to sociology and steers clear from talk of justification. Fortunately, this book does just that.

Recommended for anyone interested in the history or philosophy of science.
Peter Reczek
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent book on the nature and science of the revolution that Copernicus' great discovery unleashed. For the layperson and astronomer alike. Difficult at times but worth the effort. Especially good at expelling the Ptolemaic system. ...more
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Geometry, common sense and observations to understand astronomy.
Jonathan Hall
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to the history of western astronomy concerned with how it affected (and was affected by) other areas of thought. Goes through Newton.
Tony Summer
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book, which is less than three-hundred pages in length. It is concise, clear and yet comprehensive and very illuminating. Kuhn sets the stage for the Copernican Revolution by taking you inside the mediaeval mind. You get a chance to see the world somewhat as they saw it, and you can understand why the Copernican view was dismissed as ridiculous by learned and rational people: it conflicted with so much of what they thought they knew.
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
It feels almost wrong marking this as read-- I read it for school and my teacher used it kind of like a textbook. So I often did what any good student does with a textbook: skim. BUT. Kuhn has subjected me to far too many technicalities of far too many astronomical systems for me to not count it.

Apart from the fact that he's a tad racist (lumps together non-Western people and what he calls "primitive tribes" with children, downplays scientific/mathematical contributions of the Islamic civilizat
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great work of history, which succeeds both in treating its subject matter and shedding light on larger questions about humanity and philosophy.

At the beginning of the book, the Copernican Revolution is nowhere close to happening, and it feels like it's never going to happen. It feels so far off! You imagine that the whole book is just going to be taken up detailing the complexities of pre-modern astronomy, with its ether, epicycles, deferants, and equants. Then you get a sense that the
Zachary Flessert
Kuhn takes an exhaustive approach to understanding the historical underpinnings of Copernicus' insight and work, as well as the intellectual fallout that resulted. As is with any work in history, surely some details are left out but one can hardly complain about the depth of inquisition provided at each time point, ranging from Aristotle (presented as more than just a token ancient) to the philosophies of Newton.

Surely "Revolution" is a case study for Kuhn's later work (Structure), which I have
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat interesting

If I'm not mistaken, Kuhn wrote this before his Strucures of Scientific Revolution, and it sort of feels like a case study on the way to that work. So having read Structures, it feels less enlightening from a history of science point of view than it might've.

But he spends way more time on pre-Copernican celestial mechanics than I'd ever seen in any other context. So it was very cool to see how many little tweaks were applied to a fundamentally flawed model for so long. And in
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American historian and philosopher of science, a leading contributor to the change of focus in the philosophy and sociology of science in the 1960s. Thomas Samuel Kuhn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Harvard University in 1949. But he later shifted his interest to the history and philosophy of science, which he taught at Harvard, the University of ...more

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