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"Moving Heaven and Earth" by John Henry

Underrated book gently talking about the history and birth of the Sun, along with an easy-to-read account about Astronomy.

This is one of the rare books that get published but never see the light, nor does it breathe the air outside. Being very uncommon, despite its publication date, and lack of any reviews on this, it's about time a small, but wonderful, book like this should flourish.

Author Henry, like he states, is a historian of science. With that, you'll get the most gentle writing your eyes and brain will take in—comparative to John Gribbin's writing. Henry knows his stuff, and looking at it, he's sounds like a huge fan of Nicolaus Copernicus. And rightfully so because, as you will learn, he's the reason for stamping in what we believe today: the Earth revolves around the Sun.

First couples of chapters informs you as to how it may feel like the Earth isn't moving entirely. I don't know if you ever think about it, but it surely feels from where one is standing, the Earth doesn't feel like it rotates around a centered Sun. Henry then explains why Copernicus stated his discovery that the Sun is in the middle, and not the Earth (back then, they believed the Sun revolves around the Earth). This goes back during the days of Aristotle, and his explanation of the natural philosophical view of the earth and the heavens, with the heavens containing a fifth element—aether—along with the building blocks of the universe: earth, air, fire and water. Basically, as Plato stated, it was a time to "save the phenomena," claiming that natural philosophy explains the heavens. Capitalizing on the Earth-centered universe and Ancient astronomy, along with other excellent astronomers like Hipparchus and Apollonius, was Claudius Ptolemy. As Copernicus was brought to this planet, he gave his takes as to why the Earth revolves around the Sun. For the lay person with very little math skills won't have to worry about any math since no equations were presented to bring a point (though some astronomical maps and figures are presented). Nevertheless, the strong urge to "save the phenomena" and the scientific works being considered with its seasons, the lengths of days and the stars in the heavens, along with the natural philosophy and in relation with Catholicism, couldn't come at a better time for Copernicus' discoveries.

Right in the middle is a chapter dedicated to the biography of Copernicus himself and being that he ventured into Law, talks about how he jumped into Astronomy. Henry states it likely started from his Greek studies, in order to read and understand ancient Greek works and philosophy. As he compiled his works and discoveries in book form, something happened. Rheticus, a fan of Copernicus' discoveries, and a professor, passed the printing press of Copernicus' book to a guy named Andrea Osiander to finish up the book work, as Nicolaus was ill. Out of the blue, Osiander added on the book's preface that the book should not be take very seriously and it's "just something to consider." This is understandable since these were the days when scientific findings that don't connect with religious beliefs could get one in deep trouble (as did happened with Galileo Galilei later). Copernicus passed away as soon as he received his copy of his book, possibly having found what was written on the preface.

Chapters 4 and 5 talk about the public reaction, the followers of Aristotle and the Church. Because Copernicus proved that math can explain the heavens, Aristotelian belief gradually diminished. Not that Aristotle didn't know what he was talking about, but the exposure of the flaws, have shown why followers and the otherwise were led in the wrong direction. As other excellent astronomers and mathematicians began extending the truth about the solar system and the relation between the Sun, the Moon, the Earth and God, beliefs and views that denied math not able to explain the physics of the Earth's movement, being elliptical thanks to Johannes Kepler, minimized. All these discoveries and mathematical proofs are exactly the ones we believe today (with the exceptions of brand new things/quirks being discovered every year). In relation to Catholicism, you find that God perfected the solar system with the right amount of distance between the planets and the "Musical Archetype," which according to Kepler, is God's way of pinpointing the motion and the position of the planets (a very neat read!).

"It's ironic that most of the great natural philosophers or scientists of these times were devout religious believers who saw their studies of the physical world as a way of honouring God and His creation, and yet their science was repeatedly and enthusiastically taken up by atheists." (Henry, ed 2001, p.91)

I do think this is apparent today, otherwise they wouldn't teach science, and may I say also disallow scientific discoveries, to the utterly religious nor make it available to them.

The last chapter and Henry's last words, summarizes Copernicus' role in making what we know about the world and the infinite universe it's currently in. Although the great mathematicians, physicists and astronomers eventually came later to solidify and further extend the real truth about our planet and its life with the Sun, there's no denying that Copernicus sowed the seeds of celestial knowledge in which the Earth orbits around the Sun. Since the Earth's magnetic surface causes it's elliptical orbit, and not a perfect circle, it's hard not to credit Copernicus for the original idea.

"And if anything is certain, apart from death and taxes, it's the fact that Copernicus helped to make our world." (Henry, ed 2001, p.145)

My only critique was just to stay on topic. I noticed some parts extended to another topic not too much related with astronomy and the Copernican universe that was about to emerge. All this was done to thoroughly explain a point, and I understand, but I nearly got lost reading it. Other than that, I strongly recommend this book.

Feeling thankful for Copernicus and everything he brought in addition to our sights and beliefs about our planet's role is what I got. It's amazing how much science, in this case Astronomy, evolved over the years and how much changed and how much were tweaked to get a closer understanding at how everything works. You get the feeling of this being that I grew up knowing that Pluto was a planet, and now it isn't. However, standing, or lying, outside makes it does feel like it's the Sun revolving, but because of the masterminds that walked this Earth, and the huge advancement of technology, we all know better.

Not that my opinion of Aristotle has decreased, after his claim of where math and philosophy can rightfully explain, and that he's one of the top masterminds ever, but I got a feel of the studies and beliefs during the era of the Greeks and the massive contribution they brought into this world. Of course, Copernicus changed all that but this book praising Copernicanism makes one not discredit the top scientists/astronomy of the past for leading us to what we believe in today. If Copernicus didn't state his Earth-revolving findings, would we then find out later? Would another scientist take that throne? Or would we all believe that the Sun revolved around the Earth, up until a decade later?

Anyone with a strong interest in the history of astronomy, or science, should pick books like this up. If at all you wondered why we believe in the universe and heavens the way we do today, wonderful books like this ought to explain it for you. With gentle and friendly writing to go with it, without sounding too technical, I think you'll learn a lot from this small book.





  • Simple and gentle writing.
  • Very underrated, with almost no reviews on this book.
  • A recommended book for young students wanting to venture into Astronomy.
  • Would love to see another updated take/edition of this book.
95% (A)
Fan Rating
Title Moving Heaven And Earth

Copernicus and the new Solar System
Author(s) John Henry
Description When Nicolaus Corpernicus claimed that the Earth was not stationary at the centre of the universe but circled the Sun, he brought about a total revolution in the sciences and consternation in the Church - a twin upheaval that would eventually lead to the trial of Galileo before the Inquisition in Rome. His astronomical theory demanded a new physics to explain motion and force, a new theory of space, and a completely new conception of the nature of our universe.

But that wasn't all. The theory that moved heaven and earth also showed for the first time that a common-sense view of things isn't necessarily correct, and that mathematics - no matter how abstract it might seem - can and does reveal the true nature of the material world. No other single innovation could have had the same far-reaching consequences in 16th-century society, where pure knowledge was thought to rest only in surviving fragments of Ancient wisdom.

Copernicus sowed the seed from which science has grown to be a dominant aspect of modern culture, fundamental in shaping our understanding of the workings of the cosmos. In this book, John Henry not only explains how these changes followed upon Copernicus's theory, but also reveals why, in the first place, Copernicus was led to such a seemingly outrageous and implausible idea as a swiftly moving Earth.
Dedication "To my mother and father, Jean and Bill Henry"
ISBN 1-84046-251-5
Book Dimensions Width: 4.38″ (4 3/8″)
Height: 6.94″ (6 15/16″)
Depth: 0.69″ (11/16″)
Page Count 160
Contents Acknowledgements, six (6) chapters, Glossary, Further reading
Typesetting by Hands Fotoset
Cover Design Richard Green
www shepherdstudio co uk
Series editor Jon Turney
Originating editor Simon Flynn
Author Photograph --
Published May ??, 2001
Publisher Icon Books Ltd, Grange Road, Duxford, Cambridge CB2 4QF (www.iconbooks.co.uk)
[USA] Totem Books
[Australia] Allen & Unwin Pty. Ltd.
Distributed to / in [USA] National Book Network Inc.
[UK, Europe, South Africa and Asia] Macmillan Distribution Ltd.
[Canada] Penguin Books Canada
Sold [in UK, Europe, South Africa and Asia] by Faber and Faber Ltd.
Copyright © 2001 John Henry
Printed / Bound in UK by Cox & Wyman Ltd., Reading
Book Format Paperback
Quoted Reviews --
Best Seller's List --
Other John Henry is a Senior Lecturer at Edinburgh University.
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number ???
LC Call Number ???
DDC Call Number ???


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