Introduction

It may have been the case that Copernicus's Revolutions reached only a limited audience, but it was read by and strongly influenced some important astronomers, the most notable being Tycho Brahe (1546—1601), Michael Maestlin (1550-1631), and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Although Brahe developed his own cosmology, the Tychonic system, his main ideas were derived from Copernicus. His historical importance derived from his observational work rather than from his cosmology. Following his teacher Maestlin, Kepler embraced the Copernican system and made the investigation of heliocentric astronomy his lifework. Kepler initiated a new line of reasoning in scientific astronomy by moving away from the traditional clockwork-like conception of planetary motion to a physical understanding of how forces are related to the motions they produce.

Copernican cosmology and the new physics were extended and solidified greatly in the writings of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). His telescopic discoveries added to the plausibility of heliocentric astronomy, and his analysis of motion laid the foundations for terrestrial dynamics. These different threads of thought were synthesized in Isaac Newton's (1642-1726) great treatise Principia Mathematica (1687), a work that capped the early modern revolution in cosmology.

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