AAS 195th Meeting, January 2000
Session 106. Education
Display, Saturday, January 15, 2000, 9:20am-4:00pm, Grand Hall

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[106.17] The Incidence of Sixteenth Century Cosmic Models in Modern Texts

S. A. Maene, J. S. Best (Shepherd College), P. D. Usher (Penn State)

In the sixteenth century, the bounded cosmological models of Copernicus (1543) and Tycho Brahe (1588), and the unbounded model of Thomas Digges (1576), vied with the bounded geocentric model of Ptolemy (c. 140 AD). The work of the philosopher Giordano Bruno in 1584 lent further support to the Digges model. Despite the eventual acceptance of the unbounded universe, analysis of over 100 modern introductory astronomy texts reveals that these early unbounded models are mentioned infrequently. The ratio of mentions of Digges' model to Copernicus' model has the surprisingly low value of R = 0.08. The philosophical speculation of Bruno receives mention more than twice as often (R = 0.17). The expectation that these early unbounded models warrant inclusion in astronomy texts is supported both by modern hindsight and by the literature of the time. In Shakespeare's "Hamlet" of c. 1601, Prince Hamlet suffers from two transformations. According to the cosmic allegorical model, one transformation changes the bounded geocentricism of Ptolemy to the bounded heliocentricism of Copernicus, while the other completes the change to Digges' model of the infinite universe of suns. This interpretation and the modern world view suggest that both transformations should receive equal mention and thus that the ratio R in introductory texts should be close to unity.

This work was supported in part by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

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