By Dava Sobel
Walker & Company, $16.00, 273 pages
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) is credited with changing the way humankind looked at our place in the wild universe. He is known to have challenged church doctrine by arguing that the earth revolved around the sun like all the other planets, rather than the old paradigm which put earth at the hub of the universe. Dava Sobel tells his tale and that of many of those who were influenced and inspired by him in A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. One will find here church figures, friends, colleagues, admirers, and his famous posthumous supporters Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilia.
“Rheticus: The fates of empires depend on the positions of the planets.
Copernicus: No, Professor. The fates of empires depend on the positions of armies on battlefields. Not the planets in the heavens. The sky does not enter into human affairs.”
Sobel’s documentation has drama and interesting characters, but sadly also explores church scandals, which makes this, in places, an adult book. The story does get bogged down in historical characters and situations which take away from the drama of the history. For drama one will find included a short play about Copernicus in his older years when he worried about ridicule, but decided after prodding to let his discovery be made public. As is, the book will satisfy both the historian and the reader looking for something profound. The enclosed play is the easiest thing to read, but one also gets a detailed picture of the world Copernicus was successful in changing.
Reviewed by Ryder Miller