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    Copernicus and His Work on Planetary Motion

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    Copernicus: Innovation in the Renaissance

    The main theme of the biography “Nicolaus Copernicus: Making the Earth a Planet” in one word is innovation. It is the of pioneering of new ideas that later innovated a whole scientific community and challenged the blind acceptance of “known” concepts through his theory of Heliocentrism. This theory of Heliocentrism brought about controversial heresy in a church centered era, while inspiring scholars in the coming centuries to rethink our universe and strive to find the truth under harsh opposition.

    Nicolaus Copernicus was born in 1473 in the Polish city of Torún to a wealthy and established Polish merchant family. His father died early on and so his mother had his Uncle the Bishop of Varmia, help raise him. His Uncle looked after his education and helped secure him a job within the Catholic church. Most of Copernicus’s education was spent at established universities. His education started at the University of Cracow studying liberal arts, before moving to the University of Bologna to study canon law. During these years Copernicus’s interest was sparked in Astronomy and dived into any of the available literature at the time.

    Copernicus’s main achievement is made impart because of his predecessors Ptolemy, and Iln’ab shati. These two scientists laid the ground work to which Copernicus theory of Heliocentrism built from. As dictated in the book Copernicus was not a fan of Ptolemy’s equant and found it unaesthetically pleasing. A large flaw with Ptolemy’s theory besides Earth being the center, was that it quite often got the position of Mars incorrect due to retrograde motion. Copernicus as a result started off to fix this problem and created a whole new theory of planetary motion.

    Copernicus decided to use the mechanics of Arab scholar Iln’ab shati, who replaced the epicycles with small circles which had fixed angles to a larger planet. Instead of fixing these angles on the larger planet in the diagrams (Earth), Copernicus instead fixed it on the Sun which “eliminated the equant” (pg. 47 Gingerich).

    Copernicus then goes on to tabulate calculations of planetary distance which leads to the discovery that earth is a moving planet (pg. 66 ).

    Copernicus continues to tirelessly go over calculations, while taking observations for years correcting and rethinking problems making sure everything is correct in his book “Revolutions” published in 1543, the same year he dies. The one of the major reason Copernicus’s much later book is not widely accepted, is how he is unable to explain why no one flies off of earth if it is a moving planet. Only later due to Newton’s law of gravity is Copernicus’s theory proven and finally accepted. Copernicus was an inductivist, proposing theory and then correcting his proposed theory through observations and mathematical equations.

    Newton: The Quantification Revolution

    The theme of the Biography “Isaac Newton: And the Scientific Revolution” is quantification. It is quantification as Math during this time period becomes more common in the sciences and finally starts to become applied to theory thank to Newton. During his life not only did Newton formulate and prove the law of gravitation, he also developed the three laws of motion, but also Calculus in which to prove these theories! Newton’s contributions have made an impact on a global scale that will last through the centuries.

    Isaac Newton was born in 1643 to a farming family with considerable land in Woolsthorpe, England. Unfortunately, his father died at a young age. His mother remarried later but saw to it that Newton, her first child would receive an excellent education, and the family fortune.Newton has many achievements that he accomplished in his life, but the ones he is most famous for are his leaps in the scientific community, and his time as the Master of the Mint in the British government. Newton worked his way through school, and when not working locked himself in his room to tend to his studies at Cambridge.

    It was through intense secessions of study and long walks through the university that helped him develop and work through developing theories and philosophical problems. On such an episode Newton was able to develop his new way of solving solutions through math, Calculus. Arguably Calculus might have been his greatest discovery, as through it many more doors were opened for later scientist and mathematicians. Through Calculus he was able to solve and prove his theories of Gravity and Laws of motion. He solved these using both deductive and inductive views to achieve his results. The Equation of Newton’s law of Gravitation is:

    ‘F = ‘ (G m_1 m_2)/R^2

    F = force of attraction

    G = gravitational constant which incorporates Kepler’s constant K times 4π2

    m1, m2 = mass of the bodies that attract each other

    R = distance between the bodies.

    Newton’s three laws of motion are:

    First Law:A body at rest will remain at rest or a body moving uniformly in a straight line will continue to move in a straight line unless an external force acts on it. This law describes the motion of bodies not subjected to external forces. This is the principle of inertia, a restatement of Galileo’s and Descartes’ explanation of inertia.

    F = ma, or force = mass x acceleration. The rate at which the speed of a body changes (its acceleration) is equal to the force acting on the body divided by its mass, or inversely dependent on its mass, ‘a = ‘ F/m . This law describes how bodies move when subjected to external forces. In this equation Newton made the first distinction between weight and mass.

    Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. Earth attracts the Moon and the Moon attracts Earth. This reciprocal attraction was true for all the planets and for all bodies on Earth.

    Newton developed these ideas and inventions such as his reflecting telescope, not to impress the Royal Academy, nor to ensue fame (at least in the beginning), Newton was just pure genius with an ever-curious child-like mind on how the universe functioned. Newton died in the year 1727 in London England, an established and revered scientist with a legacy that continues to impact generations.

    Lavoisier: The French Revolution

    The theme of the biography “Antoine- Laurent Lavoisier: Chemist and Revolutionary” is revolution. Specifically, the advances Lavoisier contributed to the scientific community in the form of composition and classification. During his lifetime Lavoisier proposed the law of the conservation of mass, the theory of oxygen, and a new system of nomenclature to which record these findings that helped form our modern system.

    Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier was born in 1743 in Paris, France, to a very wealthy family living in France. As with his father, and grandfather before him, Lavoisier attended Collège Mazarin for law studies. Later on, being accepted into an elite law firm who presented cases to the Parliament of Paris. Lavoisier, however during his time at Mazarin took every opportunity to attend lectures over the topics of chemistry and physics which helped grow his real passion in life, science.

    Lavoisier is most credited with his law of the conservation of mass, and his revolutionary theory of oxygen. His law of the conservation of mass formula is mr = mp meaning that the mass of reactants is equal to the mass of the products. From this he also reached a conclusion about compounds and elements. A compound is anything you can break down further, while an element is something you cannot breakdown further. Lastly, his theory of Oxygen completely changed the scientific community, much as Newton had with this theory of gravity. Lavoisier had proposed that instead of fire being what made things combust or rust in the air around us, it was instead oxygen. He came to this conclusion after many experiments and observations two of which were:

    1. Determining the composition of water

    2 H2(g) + O2(g) → 2 H2O(l)

    2. When he was recording respiration

    CH2O(s) + O2(g) → CO2(g) + H2O(l)

    This discovery led him to clarify what caused calcination, combustion, and respiration in his experiments in both a qualitative and quantitative manner. Unfortunately, the French Revolution could not see his genius, and instead only saw him as a bourgeois tax collector. He was later beheaded in 1794, one of the greatest French scientists.

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