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A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos Hardcover – 5 Sep 2011

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A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos + Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; First Edition edition (5 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408818000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408818008
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 419,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A refreshingly fast-paced account of the life of Nicolaus Copernicus. A More Perfect Heaven does a good job of giving the flavor of life in Reformation-era Europe...an excellent book (Economist)

Lively, inventive ... a masterly specimen of close-range cultural history. Ms. Sobel certainly brings Copernicus to life, perhaps better than any other author. Ms. Sobel presents a thoroughly researched and eminently readable account of a major scientist who celebrated the sun yet lurks in the shadows (Wall Street Journal)

All the page turning lucidity and brio you would hope for from the creator of Longitude (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

Fantastic ... A masterly telling of how Copernicus revolutionised science (The Times)

Sobel is an elegant stylist, a riveting and efficient storyteller, a writer who can bring the dustiest of subjects to full-blooded life (New York Times) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The bestselling author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter tells the story of Nicolaus Copernicus and the revolution in astronomy that changed the world.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 29 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
As an amateur astronomer I love reading anything relating to the history of astronomy. Copernicus quite literally turned our understanding of our place in the solar system on its head. What could be perhaps the most amazing story, is again not really told in an interesting way. I do appreciate what the author has tried to do here, especially with the play, but her attempt at describing what might have happened to convince Copernicus to share his ideas and risk the consequences and ridicule that could have followed, fell short for me. I wanted more about the reaction to his theory, about how he described to people why his theory was clearly more likely than the Ptolemy model that had been held for more than a thousand years. Instead the book was heavy on the local politics of Poland at the time and about what may or may not have been said word for word minute for minute between Copernicus and this young mathematician who is said to have been an influence on his decision to publish his new solar system model. I didn't really enjoy this book which is a shame because everyone loves Longitude.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. C. Jeynes on 30 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I regard this as a second masterpiece from Dava Sobel that matches her "Longitude" (1995) in importance. I did not know that Copernicus was actively persuaded to publish by Rheticus, a young Lutheran scholar. I appreciated none of the history of ducal Prussia, although I did realise that in 1543 when "De Revolutionibus" was published the Counter Reformation was in full swing. In particular I did not know that that Copernicus' city of Frauenburg had a particularly schismatic bishop who had proscribed all Lutherans in his jurisdiction.

Having set the scene, not so easy for this (to us) little-known corner of Europe with a political complexion which is both very complicated and very unfamiliar to us, Sobel proceeds to tell the main story with scintillating verve in the form of a two-act play, bringing home to us some idea of the depth and intricacy of what was involved.

But then, Sobel brings her overview up to date, summarising the results of the "Annotated Census of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus" by Owen Gingerich (2002, Harvard; see also "The Book Nobody Read", Gingerich 2004). Gingerich found 277 surviving copies of the first (1543, Nuremberg) edition and 324 of the second (1566, Basel). Contrary to Arthur Koestler's assertion in his (otherwise brilliant) book "The Sleepwalkers" (1959), everybody had read Copernicus's book! I really did not know this.

In particular, Kepler had a copy originally owned by Schreiber (a classmate of Rheticus), which he purchased in 1598 and annotated heavily. Kepler found, against a discussion by Copernicus about "computing the apparent sun" (Book III ch.25) a one-word annotation by Schreiber: "ellipse". Kepler's masterpiece, "Astronomia Nova" (1609), demonstrated that the orbit of Mars was elliptical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DB on 26 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's a pity Dava Sobel hasn't written more popular books on the history of science and astronomy, because I find her such a pleasure to read - meticulous research combined with an easy flowing style. I knew about the scientific importance of Copernicus, but knew next to nothing about his life nor about the political situation in Poland at the time, so this book supplied some great colouring in. It's also interesting that he was initially attacked more by protestants than by catholics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 28 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The exceptional aspects of this treatment are its narrative context & its survey. Dava Sobel reveals how nearly we might never have heard of Copernicus, & how difficult it was to practise science in his political circumstances. We attribute the heliocentric model to him because he made clear it's the right perception of reality, & inspired the further advances by Kepler & Newton. This book helps us appreciate & value progress.
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Format: Paperback
A little disappointing, reading this after Longitude and Galileo's Daughter. Possibly reading it as an audiobook didn't help, but I found much of this account of the Copernican revolution rather dry and too full of names to be very interesting.

The middle part, written as a play with the major scenes played out by the characters was great, and saved this for me, put it in context and added depth to the names. But either side (especially the first third) was hard to follow.

The whole work covers the time in which Copernicus lived, his history, how he came to write the seminal On The Revolutions, which paved the way for the new way of seeing the universe as helio- rather than Earth-centric. And then the aftermath. A pretty amazing subject really.

A shame then, for me, that I didn't find it as easy to read (and listen to) as I'd expected. Some great historical background to modern scientific thinking, I did learn a thing of two, but not as readable as Sobel's other works.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Serghiou Const on 1 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The merits and limitations of the book are described concisely and aptly in the ensuing passage excerpted from 'The Economist's' review (September 24th - 30th 2011) which I readily acknowledge cannot improve:

' 'A More Perfect Heaven' does a good job of giving the flavour of life in Reformation-era Europe, at least among its intellectual elite. But there is strangely little discussion of the intellectual underpinnings of Copernicus's system of the world, and of the meticulous observations that eventually convinced him that Ptolemy was wrong. It was a giant leap suddenly to argue that the earth orbits the sun, rather than the other way around, particularly without telescopes. Imagine to deduce this with the naked eye, a sextant and little else. Then imagine the difficulties of defending it against the obvious criticisms in an era before mathematically rigorous physics.'
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