The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

by

Thomas S. Kuhn

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Nicolaus Copernicus Character Analysis

After centuries of belief in the geocentric universe (in which the sun rotated around Earth), Polish astronomer Copernicus suggested that the reverse was true. In his famous 1543 treatise De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), Copernicus presented a heliocentric model of the universe (in which the Earth rotated around the sun). This idea went largely unnoticed when Copernicus first announced it, but it became popular—and extremely controversial—after Galileo used new telescope technology to find evidence for the Copernican model.

Nicolaus Copernicus Quotes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quotes below are all either spoken by Nicolaus Copernicus or refer to Nicolaus Copernicus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Linear Progress vs. Circular History Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Chicago Press edition of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions published in 2012.
Chapter 8 Quotes

When acute, this situation is sometimes recognized by the scientists involved. Copernicus complained that in his day astronomers were so “inconsistent in these [astronomical] investigations . . . that they cannot even explain or observe the constant length of the seasonal year.” “With them,” he continued, “it is as though an artist were to gather the hands, feet, head and other members for his images from diverse models, each part excellently drawn, but not related to a single body, and since they in no way match each other, the result would be monster rather than man.” Einstein, restricted by current usage to less florid language, wrote only, “It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one, with no firm foundation to be seen anywhere, upon which one could have built.”

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), Nicolaus Copernicus, Albert Einstein
Related Symbols: Jigsaw Puzzles
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

What occurred was neither a decline nor a raising of standards, but simply a change demanded by the adoption of a new paradigm. Furthermore, that change has since been reversed and could be again. In the twentieth century Einstein succeeded in explaining gravitational attractions, and that explanation has returned science to a set of canons and problems that are, in this particular respect, more like those of Newton’s predecessors than of his successors.

Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Looking at the moon, the convert to Copernicanism does not say, “I used to see a planet, but now I see a satellite.” That locution would imply a sense in which the Ptolemaic system had once been correct. Instead, a convert to the new astronomy says, “I once took the moon to be (or saw the moon as) a planet, but I was mistaken.”

Related Characters: Thomas Kuhn (speaker), Nicolaus Copernicus
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nicolaus Copernicus Character Timeline in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The timeline below shows where the character Nicolaus Copernicus appears in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1. Introduction: A Role for History
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...scientific revolutions throughout history. Several of the most well-known revolutions are associated with scientists Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Antoine Lavoisier, and Albert Einstein. However, Kuhn believes that many less famous scientific... (full context)
Chapter 7. Crisis and the Emergence of Scientific Theories
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...so cumbersome and inaccurate […] could possibly be true of nature.” This growing awareness prompted Copernicus to develop a model of the solar system with the sun at the center. (full context)
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As with Copernicus, Lavoisier’s discovery of oxygen came out of a crisis—and as with Copernicus, many scientists thinking... (full context)
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...famous foreshadowing of a discovery came from Aristarchus, an ancient Greek philosopher who argued (like Copernicus) that the sun was at the center of the universe—centuries before Copernicus was even born.  (full context)
Chapter 8. The Response to Crisis
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Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
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...this is because the anomaly has practical importance for society, as in the case of Copernicus (the Catholic Church was struggling to create an accurate calendar, and Copernicus was trying to... (full context)
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Intuition and Emotion Theme Icon
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...of a paradigm as far as they will go. The second step, as practiced by Copernicus and Einstein, is to isolate the anomaly and make it seem clearer and more out... (full context)
Chapter 10. Revolutions as Changes of World View
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...to do so. Or, as Kuhn puts it, “looking at the moon, the convert to Copernicanism does not say ‘I used to see a planet, but now I see a satellite.’... (full context)
Chapter 12. The Resolution of Revolutions
Perception and Truth Theme Icon
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Kuhn now turns his attention to scientists who have truly discovered something new (like Copernicus, Galileo, and Lavoisier). How did these men persuade their colleagues and ensure that their paradigms... (full context)
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Community and Knowledge Theme Icon
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...claim to effectiveness is not enough by itself. And in fact, it is not always true—Copernicus’s measurements of the heavens were not any more accurate or useful than Ptolemy’s. In these... (full context)