Sep/Oct 2001 Table of Contents
Digges was the first to envision a physically infinite universe
of stars, but his contribution is often overlooked.
Jason Best, Sara Maene, and Peter Usher
astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) introduced his heliocentric
model in 1543 in his seminal publication De Revolutionibus Orbium
Coelestium (On the Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies). This
work provided the first mathematically sound alternative to the
standard geocentric model that Claudius Ptolemy (fl. 140 A.D.) had
brought to an advanced stage of perfection in the Almagest.
At the heart of Copernicuss model were two arguments: that
the apparent diurnal rotation of the sky was more easily explained
by a rotating Earth; and that the apparent retrograde motions of
the planets were more easily explained if the Sun was the center
of the planetary system.
Copernicus did not provide the other half of this universal equation:
the extension of the realm of the universe beyond our solar system
into an infinite space filled with stars like our Sun. This was
the work of Thomas Digges (1546?-1595), an Englishman born a few
years after Copernicuss death.