The Christian notion of man as a sinner was questioned froma an entirely different angle – by scientists. The turning point in European science came with the work of Copernicus (1473-1543), a contemporary of Martin Luther. Christians had believed that the earth was a sinful place and the heavy burden of sin made it immobile. The earth stood at the centre of the universe around which moved the celestial planets.
Copernicus asserted that the planets, including the earth, rotate around the sun. A devout Christian, Copernicus was afraid of the possible reaction to his theory by traditionalist clergymen. For this reason, he did not want his manuscript, De revolutionibus (The Rotation) to be printed. On his deathbed, he gave it to his follower, Joachim Rheticus. It took time for people to accept this idea. It was much later – more than half a century later, in fact – that the difference between ‘heaven’ and earth was bridged through the writings of astronomers like Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The theory of the earth as part of a sun-centred system was made popular by Kepler’s Cosmographical Mystery, which demonstrated that the planets move around the sun not in circles but in ellipses. Galileo confirmed the notion of the dynamic world in his work The Motion. This revolution in science reached its climax with Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation.