The Copernican Question
Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order
University of California Press 2011
This is an extraordinary book written by one of the finest historians of science. Ringing in at nearly seven hundred oversized, double columned pages Robert Westman‘s The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and the Celestial Order (University of California Press, 2011) exhaustively examines the science of the stars in order to understand the problems that drove Copernicus and later engagements with Copernicanism. Far more than a reception study, Westman uncovers the practices, of prognostication and knowledge production, that delimited the conceptual space available to scholars of the stars and the innovative ways that they attempted to generate and secure astral knowledge. Building on his earlier identification of the Wittenberg interpretation of Copernicus’s ideas Westman shows how confession, patronage, friendships and university networks all factored into the many faceted appeal of Copernican ideas, illustrating the difficulty of identifying a single unitary Copernicanism in the three generations after the first circulation of Copernicus’s own ideas. Painstakingly researched, often to the point of tracing who had access to which copies of books (and their all important annotations) the book asks us to re-evaluate the scientific revolution in favour of more nuanced understandings of early modern scientific movements.
Dr. Westman has written a precis of the book that can be found at the Montreal Review .