Ptolemy v Copernicus

I intend to write a post every day in the Month of August. My last post on The Medici really took the wind out of me and I did not publish it until 2:00 AM. I seem to be repeating the same mistake today. I am dropping tonight;s post on POB and tagging it with #STEM as it discusses the history of #science.

What I want to show with my essays is that there are different modes of thought. Some modes of thought produce positive results and those that produce negative results.

The scholars at the start of the Florentine Republic clearly had a positive mode of thinking that led to positive results. The political thinkers at the collapse of the Republic were driven by a need to dominate others.

The fuedal lords of the day were skilled at using conflict to consolidate power. My last post was extremely negative. It spoke about how a group called The Medici gained power through financial manipulation. Their legacy is schism, civil war and genocide.

I wanted to include a discussion about Galileo. Galileo work on astronomy and other interesting sciences. For the most part, Galileo's work was a positive development.

The power structure of the day pulled Galileo into a political conflict and things went sour. Some people pretend that there was some sort of great cosmic battle between the Ptolemaic and Coperican view. I find this view absurd.


The pictures are public domain images from Wikicommons. The first is a bust of Ptolemy Soter. The second is a picture of Copernicus.

As a student I learned that the trial of Galileo was the opening salvo in the conflict between science and religion. I am now of the opinion that that the conflict that marred Galileo's career was petty political infighting.

I was unhappy with my discussion of Galileo in the last post.

Before discussing the conflict, one needs to understand that the Catholic Church of the day used a modified version of the Julian calendar based on the Ptolemaic model of astronomy.

I hold that the Ptolemaic System is not in conflict with the Coperican System.

Ptolemy Soter (367 BC - 282 BC) was raised in the court of King Philip II of Macedon. He was a childhood friend of Alexander. It is likely that Ptolemy knew Aristotle. It is possible that Ptolemy was one of Aristotle's students.

Ptolemy became a general in Alexander's Army. This army conquered Egypt and Persia. Ptolemy became the ruler of Egypt after Alexander's death. Ptolemy established the Library of Alexandria. The first head of the library was a mathematician named Euclid.

The Ptolemaic dynasty was deeply interested in astronomy. Their approach was to take careful measurements of the positions of the planets. They then developed a complex model with epicycles within cycles to model the data.

The regime engaged in high quality science. It was some of the best science of the ancient world.

Some claim that followers of the Ptolemaic system believed that the earth was flat. This is easy to disprove because the Ptolemies performed an experiment that calculated the circumference of the globe to a high degree of accuracy.

Seriously, people who believe the earth is flat do not perform experiments to calculate the circumference of the earth.

The Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt to the days of Cleopatre. Julius Ceasar adopted the Ptolemaic Model and it became the official calendar of Rome on January 1 709 AUC (aka 45 BC).

The Julian Calendar assumed that there were 365.25 days in the year. The rotation of the earth is independent of its revolution around the sun, which means that there is a drift between the Julian calendar the solar calendar. Scientist estimate that there is currently 365.24219 days in a year.

The Ptolemaic system calculated the positions of the planets using a combination of epicycles and cycles. The system is complex but it is a scientifically valid approach to celestial observations.

The first heliocentric model of Copericus was a good theory. The model that held that the planets revolved around the sun in perfect circles. The first Copernican model did not accurately match the data. The model was not accurate until Kepler calculated the elliptical orbits of the planets.

I wish to point out that the Coperican Model is not in conflict with the Ptolemaic Model. The Coperican Model helps explain why measurements of the planets shows circles moving within circles.

The two approaches complement eachother.

Euclid, the guy who was the head of the Library of Alexandria, was intreested in optics. Florentine thinkers revived interest in optics with the technique of curvilinear perspective. This led to numerous advances in optics.

A spectacle maker named Hans Lippershey filed a patent for a refracting telescope in 1609. Galileo built his first telescope in that same year. It is likely that the true inventor of the theory is unknown.

Galileo was able to see that the planets were indeed spheres floating in the heavens.

The technologies and new theoretical models enchanged each other. The Ptolemaic model is an accurate description of what a observer on a fixed point on a spinning sphere would see.

So, why did the case of Galileo flare into a huge controversy?

The answer is simple: Politics.

The Italian Pennisula was ruled by feudal lords who knew how to use controversy to gain political power.

The Medici's were Galileo's primary patron. The Medici's vied with other powerful clans for control of the papacy.

Galileo became a pawn in a political conflict.

This political problem not unique to the Italians.

Look at the politics surrounding COVID19! It is possible that the virus was created by gain of function research.

Advocates of vaccines suppressed the development of therapeutics. Political leaders used lockdowns to punish enemies and borrowed heavily to create relief pools to reward friends. Even worse, politicians used COVID19 to radically change election laws.

In reaction to political overeach is as negative as the overreach itself.

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