Kepler's innovative idea of elliptical orbits, coupled with his law of areas, did let the Copernican, model dispense with cumbersome epicycles. But his accurate Rudolphine Tables for planetary motion, published in 1627, were difficult to use. It was Newton's theories of motion and gravity, not published until 60 years later, that sealed the scientific case in favor of Copernicus by putting his model on a firm theoretical footing.
Religious objections The actual religious reaction to the heliocentric model also differs from the folklore. For one thing, Copernicus did not seem to fear religious opposition to his ideas. After all, he was a reputable cleric himself. He even dedicated his book to Pope Paul ill with a letter in which he apologized for the seeming outlandishness of his suggestion that the Earth moved. He explained that he was forced to that hypothesis by the inadequacy of the Ptolemaic system for constructing calendars and predicting the positions of stars. A cardinal and a bishop were among those who urged him to publish his book. In fact, for 60 years after Copernicus's death just two months after its publication, De Reuolutionibus was read and at least partially taught at leading Catholic universities.
In 1600 the church did burn at the stake the philosopher Giordano Bruno, an adherent of Copernicus, for heresy. But Bruno was condemned for other heresies against Christian doctrine rather than explicitly for being a Copernican. However, the fact that Bruno had been an advocate and popularizer of heliocentrism may have led to the later perception that he was the first martyr of the new science.
Kuhn says of Copernicus: "His full system was little if any less cumbersome than Ptolemy's had been. Both employed over thirty circles; there was little to choose between them in economy. Nor could the two systems be distinguished by their accuracy. When Copernicus had finished adding circles, his cumbersome sun-centered system gave results as accurate as Ptolemy's, but did not give more accurate results. Copernicus had failed to solve the problem of the planets."
The Copernican model did have some aesthetic and qualitative advantages. It provided a more natural qualitative explanation for the zigzag motion of planets like Mars as observed from Earth, and it answered some important questions about the ordering of the planets. That's why heliocentrism was eventually accepted. As Kuhn puts it, "De Revolutionibus did convince a few of Copernicus' successors that sun-centered astronomy held the key to the problem of the planets, and these men finally provided the simple and accurate solution that Copernicus had sought." [see footnote 6]
That's an important point about scientific revolutions. At the start, the new theory rarely gives convincingly better results than its predecessor. What usually happens is that it has some appeal, often aesthetic, that attracts others to work within the new model. And if, over time, the new model proves fruitful in resolving many puzzles, it gains adherents. [see footnote 7]
or, better, why the heliocentric system was ..
published the definitive statement of his system in in 1543. Copernicus began to write it in 1506 and finished it in 1530, but did not publish it until the year of his death. Although he was in good standing with the Church and had dedicated the book to , the published form contained an unsigned preface by defending the system and arguing that it was useful for computation even if its hypotheses were not necessarily true. Possibly because of that preface, the work of Copernicus inspired very little debate on whether it might be during the next 60 years. There was an early suggestion among that the teaching of heliocentrism should be banned, but nothing came of it at the time.
of reluctance to quote pre-Christian ..
Kuhn argues that there were thus excellent reasons for rejecting the upstart Copernicus and retaining Aristotelian cosmology and its elaboration in Ptolemaic astronomy. Accepting Copernicus would not simply replace one astronomical model with another. It also meant that a whole class of physics problems that had been considered solved were now suddenly unsolved. Therefore much of the initial resistance came from within the physics and astronomy communities rather than from the church.
In fact, awareness of Copernicus's work was at first largely restricted to the community of astronomers. Only they were interested in improving the calculation of planetary motions. Copernicus was widely respected as one of Europe's leading astronomers, and reports about his work, including his heliocentric hypothesis, had been circulating since 1515. So when his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) was published 28 years later, it was hardly a surprise to other astronomers. They accepted it as the most comprehensive account of celestial motions since Ptolemy.
But most astronomers also felt that the Ptolemaic system, although complicated, could ultimately be made to work. So while they hailed Copernicus's work and used his tables and methods, they were skeptical of his central idea of a moving Earth. They dismissed it as an ad hoc trick (much as Max Planck's quantum hypothesis was initially viewed centuries later) that turned out to be a useful tool for calculations. The idea that the motion described by some artificial model was a convenient fiction was not unprecedented. Ptolemy himself had said that not all of his epicycles had to be considered physically real. Some were to be thought of as merely mathematical devices that gave sound results.
Singham (2007) the Copernican ..
The ancient Greeks, although they were great philosophers and good at mapping the motions of stars and planets, tended to create models of the universe that were more influenced by philosophical, aesthetic, and religious considerations than by observation and experiment. The idea that Earth was the stationary center of the universe, and that the stars and planets were embedded in spheres that rotated around Earth, appealed to them because the circle and the sphere were the most perfect geometric shapes. In the Christian era, the model also pleased religious people because it gave pride of place to human beings - God's special creation. The prestige of Greek philosophers like Aristotle was so great, and commitment to religious doctrine so strong, that many scholars stubbornly tried to retain Ptolemaic astronomy even though increasingly complicated epicycles had to be added to make the system work even moderately well. So when Copernicus came along with the correct heliocentric system, his ideas were fiercely opposed by the Roman Catholic Church because they displaced Earth from the center, and that was seen as both a demotion for human beings and contrary to the teachings of Aristotle. Therefore the Inquisition persecuted, tortured, and even killed those who advocated Copernican ideas. Because of the church's adherence to philosophical and religious dogma, scientific progress was held back for a millennium. It was the later work of Tydto Brahe (1546-1601), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) that finally led to the acceptance of heliocentrism.