online exhibition

rare book library



cosmology & astronomy

One of the great triumphs of the Scientific Revolution was the replacement of the traditional earth-centred view of the universe with the sun-centred or heliocentric theory. The catalyst for this change was the publication in 1543 of Nicolas Copernicus' On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. The establishment of the heliocentric view was a drawn out and difficult process as the famous trial of Galileo shows. And it involved some of the greatest minds in the history of astronomy such as Kepler, Galileo, Brahé. This section of the exhibition shows some of the seminal works that helped establish the new view of the cosmos. It illustrates the importance of accurate astronomical tables and instruments and it includes a sampling of a new literary genre which arose out of astronomy, the 'cosmogonical account'. These were highly speculative accounts of how the world was formed and were extremely popular in England and France. Indeed, other works in the exhibition also include cosmogonies, such as Descartes' Principles of Philosophy and Stillingfleet's Origines Sacrae.

previous page view images