An Actor’s Guide
Susan Patrick Benson, Director
Michael A. Rose, Playwright
Neal Ryan Shaw, Dramaturg
Table of Contents
Scenic Breakdown of Copernicus Rising 1
Character Biographies 5
Nicolas Copernicus 5
George Rheticus 7
Tycho Brahe 8
Andreas Osiander 9
Galileo Galilei 10
Albert Einstein 11
Simone de Beauvoir 13
Polish History 21
A Brief History of Poland 21
A Brief History of Church in Poland 23
Medieval-Renaissance Astronomy 27
Copernican Astronomy 34
Galileo and Astronomy 38
Tycho Brahe's Observations 42
Simone de Beauvoir, Philosopher of the Self 49
Existential Primer: Jean-Paul Sartre 54
Fun Stuﬀ 58
Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein 58
Tycho Brahe's Nose And The Story Of His Pet Moose 59
Fun Astronomy Facts 61
Quotes by Galileo 62
Quotes by Simone de Beauvoir 63
"Einstein and Copernicus" 64
Scenic Breakdown of Copernicus Rising
1543. Copernicus' deathbed, Frauenberg.
Copernicus demands to speak with Rheticus.
Rheticus is a professor at Wittenberg now (historical fudging: in
reality he was at the University of Leipzig by now).
1539, May. Frauenberg.
George Rheticus comes from Wittenberg to study with Copernicus.
Copernicus meets Galileo, who attempts to convince him that his
inﬂuence on the future is at stake.
(shift back to:)
Copernicus tells Doctor to pass some letters along to Rheticus.
1543. Johann Petreius' print shop, Nurnberg. (More fudging: this really
took place in 1541.)
Rheticus brings Copernicus' De Revolutionibus to Petreius' shop to
Because he has other obligations, Petreius entrusts the job to
1543. Copernicus deathbed, Frauenberg.
The Doctor and Nurse discover that Copernicus has fallen into a
Copernicus and Galileo meet Tycho Brahe, who historically
challenged the views of Copernicus. Here Brahe ridicules
him for being so incompetent.
Galileo leads Copernicus further into the future.
Some time between 1539-41. Copernicus' observation room.
Copernicus and Rheticus discuss the difficulties of being a
Galileo and Copernicus meet Einstein, who historically was indebted
to Copernicus for his (Einstein's) Special Theory of Relativity.
Einstein leads them through the "time stream".
Late 1570's. Public forum. (This never really took place. Rheticus had
died by this point, anyway.)
Copernicus, Galileo and Einstein witness a lecture given by Tycho
The lecture is interrupted by Rheticus, who defends Copernicus.
(shift back to:)
Einstein shows Copernicus the negative effect that progress can
have on society, in the example of the atom bomb.
1543 (More fudging: really '41). Petreius' shop, Nurnberg.
Petreius hands over to Osiander the task of printing Copernicus'
manuscript. Osiander replaces Copernicus' preface with his
own, less controversial, unsigned introduction, as well as
changes the title.
Rheticus returns to collect the copies, and notices the new addition.
Argues with Petreius over it. Petreius admits ignorance.
The Dreamscape. The Stream of Consciousness.
Copernicus, Galileo and Einstein meet the explorer, who is
navigating the stream.
Some time between 1539-41. Copernicus' observatory.
While Copernicus and Rheticus are working, they are called upon by
two Papal Guards, who pass along orders for Copernicus to
cease his controversial investigations.
Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein and the Explorer enter the Collective
Unconscious, where they meet Simone de Beauvoir.
De Beauvoir informs Copernicus that he is the master of his own
destiny; she also demostrates the power of the Collective
1542. Rheticus' room.
Rheticus writes a letter discussing Copernicus' methods.
Copernicus enters, and Rheticus confronts him with the idea of
ﬁnally publishing his work.
Copernicus imagines three different ways he could make the
Copernicus reveals to Rheticus a letter he received from Cardinal
Schonberg of Capua, entreating him to communicate his
ideas to the public.
Rheticus volunteers to take the manuscript to the press himself.
Copernicus, Galilieo, Einstein, Simone and Tycho Brahe discuss
what Copernicus will do next, now that he has decided to
1543. Copernicus' deathbed, Frauenberg.
Rheticus returns with the printed copies of De Revolutionibus.
Copernicus wakes from his coma, aware of his place in the
Rheticus shows him the books; Copernicus notices the additions.
Nevertheless, he accepts the copies, and implores Rheticus to carry
on his legacy.
Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Copernicus is said to be the founder of modern
astronomy. He was born in Poland, and eventually was
sent off to Cracow University, there to study
mathematics and optics; at Bologna, canon law.
Returning from his studies in Italy, Copernicus, through
the inﬂuence of his uncle, was appointed as a canon in
the cathedral of Frauenburg where he spent a sheltered
and academic life for the rest of his days. Because of
his clerical position, Copernicus moved in the highest
circles of power; but a student he remained. For relaxation Copernicus
painted and translated Greek poetry into Latin. His interest in astronomy
gradually grew to be one in which he had a primary interest. His
investigations were carried on quietly and alone, without help or
consultation. He made his celestial observations from a turret situated on
the protective wall around the cathedral, observations were made "bare
eyeball," so to speak, as a hundred more years were to pass before the
invention of the telescope. In 1530, Copernicus completed and gave to
the world his great work De Revolutionibus, which asserted that the earth
rotated on its axis once daily and traveled around the sun once yearly: a
fantastic concept for the times. Up to the time of Copernicus the thinkers
of the western world believed in the Ptolemiac theory that the universe
was a closed space bounded by a spherical envelope beyond which there
was nothing. Claudius Ptolemy, an Egyptian living in Alexandria, at about
150 A.D., gathered and organized the thoughts of the earlier thinkers. (It
is to be noted that one of the ancient Greek astronomers, Aristarchus, did
have ideas similar to those more fully developed by Copernicus but they
were rejected in favour of the geocentric or earth-centered scheme as
was espoused by Aristotle.) Ptolemy's ﬁndings were that the earth was a
ﬁxed, inert, immovable mass, located at the center of the universe, and
all celestial bodies, including the sun and the ﬁxed stars, revolved around
it. It was a theory that appealed to human nature. It ﬁt with the casual
observations that a person might want to make in the ﬁeld; and second,
it fed man's ego.
Copernicus was in no hurry to publish his theory, though parts of his
work were circulated among a few of the astronomers that were giving
the matter some thought; indeed, Copernicus' work might not have ever
reached the printing press if it had not been for a young man who sought
out the master in 1539. George Rheticus was a 25 year old German
mathematics professor who was attracted to the 66 year old cleric, having
read one of his papers. Intending to spend a few weeks with Copernicus,
Rheticus ended up staying as a house guest for two years, so fascinated
was he with Copernicus and his theories. Now, up to this time,
Copernicus was reluctant to publish, -- not so much that he was
concerned with what the church might say about his novel theory (De
Revolutionibus was placed on the Index in 1616 and only removed in
1835), but rather because he was a perfectionist and he never thought,
even after working on it for thirty years, that his complete work was
ready, -- there were, as far as Copernicus was concerned, observations
to be checked and rechecked.
(Interestingly, Copernicus' original manuscript, lost to the world for 300
years, was located in Prague in the middle of the 19th century; it shows
Copernicus' pen was, it would appear, continually in motion with revision
after revision; all in Latin as was the vogue for scholarly writings in those
Copernicus died in 1543 and was never to know what a stir his work had
caused. It went against the philosophical and religious beliefs that had
been held during the medieval times. Man, it was believed (and still
believed by some) was made by God in His image, man was the next
thing to God, and, as such, superior, especially in his best part, his soul,
to all creatures, indeed this part was not even part of the natural world (a
philosophy which has proved disastrous to the earth's environment as
any casual observer of the 20th century might conﬁrm by simply looking
about). Copernicus' theories might well lead men to think that they are
simply part of nature and not superior to it and that ran counter to the
theories of the politically powerful churchmen of the time.
Two other Italian scientists of the time, Galileo and Bruno, embraced the
Copernican theory unreservedly and as a result suffered much personal
injury at the hands of the powerful church inquisitors. Giordano Bruno
had the audacity to even go beyond Copernicus, and, dared to suggest,
that space was boundless and that the sun was and its planets were but
one of any number of similar systems: Why! -- there even might be other
inhabited worlds with rational beings equal or possibly superior to
ourselves. For such blasphemy, Bruno was tried before the Inquisition,
condemned and burned at the stake in 1600. Galileo was brought
forward in 1633, and, there, in front of his "betters," he was, under the
threat of torture and death, forced to his knees to renounce all belief in
Copernican theories, and was thereafter sentenced to imprisonment for
the remainder of his days.
The most important aspect of Copernicus' work is that it forever changed
the place of man in the cosmos; no longer could man legitimately think
his signiﬁcance greater than his fellow creatures; with Copernicus' work,
man could now take his place among that which exists all about him, and
not of necessity take that premier position which had been assigned
immodestly to him by the theologians.
"Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a
greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of
Copernicus. The world had scarcely become known as round
and complete in itself when it was asked to waive the
tremendous privilege of being the center of the universe.
Never, perhaps, was a greater demand made on mankind -
for by this admission so many things vanished in mist and
smoke! What became of our Eden, our world of innocence,
piety and poetry; the testimony of the senses; the conviction
of a poetic - religious faith? No wonder his contemporaries
did not wish to let all this go and offered every possible
resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and
demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far
unknown, indeed not even dreamed of." [Goethe.]
RHETICUS, or RHAETICUS (1514-1576), a surname given to GEORGE
JOACHIM, German astronomer and mathematician, from his birth at
Feldkirch in that part of Tirol which was anciently the territory of the
Rhaeti. Born on the 15th of February 1514, he studied at Tiguri with
Oswald Mycone, and afterwards went to Wittenberg where he was
appointed professor of mathematics in 1537. Being greatly attracted by
the new Copernican theory, he resigned the professorship in 1539, and
went to Frauenberg to associate himself with Copernicus, and
superintended the printing of the De Orbium Revolutione which he had
persuaded Copernicus to complete. Rheticus now began his great
treatise, Opus Palatinum de Triangulis, and continued to work at it while
he occupied his old chair at Wittenberg, and indeed up to his death at
Cassovia in Hungary, on the 4th of December 1576. The Opus Palatinum
of Rheticus was published by Valentine Otho, mathematician to the
electoral prince palatine, in 1596. It gives tables of sines and cosines,
tangents, &c., for every to seconds, calculated to ten places. He had
projected a table of the same kind to ﬁfteen places, but did not live to
complete it. The sine table, however, was afterwards published on this
scale under the name of Thesaurus Mathematicus (Frankfort, 1613) by B.
Pitiscus (1561-1613), who himself carried the calculation of a few of the
earlier sines to twenty-two places. He also published Narratio de Libris
Revolutionum Copernici (Gedenum, 1540), which was subsequently
added to editions of Copernicus's works; and Ephemerides until 1551,
which were founded on the Copernican doctrines. He projected numerous
other works, as is shown by a letter to Peter Ramus in 1568, which Adrian
Romanus inserted in the preface to his Idea of Mathematics.
Tycho Brahe is probably the most famous observational
astronomer of the sixteenth-century, although it is not
always clear whether he is better remembered for the fact
that his data provided the basis for the work of Johannes
Kepler (1571-1630), or because of the more colourful
aspects of his life and death. Born into the high nobility of
his native Denmark in 1546, he was groomed by his
family for a career at court, but from an early age showed
greater interest in astronomy than law, the discipline of choice for
aspiring royal councillors and administrators. After three years at the
University of Copenhagen, he spent much of the period from 1562 to
1576 travelling in Germany, studying at the Universities of Leipzig,
Wittenberg, and Rostock, and working with other scholars in Basle,
Augsburg, and Kassel. It was in Rostock in 1566 that he lost part of his
nose in a duel, and subsequently wore a prosthesis.
The appearance in 1572 of a "new star" (in fact a supernova) prompted
Tycho's ﬁrst publication, which was issued by a Copenhagen printer in
1573. In 1574, he gave some lectures on astronomy at the University of
Copenhagen. Already he was of the opinion that the world-system of
Copernicus was mathematically superior to that of Ptolemy, but physically
absurd. In 1576, his permanent relocation to Basle, which he considered
the most suitable place for him to continue his astronomical studies, was
forestalled by King Frederick II, who offered him in ﬁef the island of Hven
in the Danish Sound. With generous royal support, Tycho constructed
there a domicile and observatory which he called Uraniborg, and
developed a range of instruments of remarkable size and precision which
he used, with the aide of numerous assistants and students, to observe
comets, stars, and planets.
In 1588, Tycho issued from his press a work on the comet which had
appeared, causing a ﬂurry of other publications, in 1577. The eighth
chapter of this book also contained Tycho's system of the world, which
retained the earth as the unmoving centre of the universe but rendered
the other planets satellites of the Sun. In 1596 he published a volume of
his correspondence with another noble-astronomer, Wilhelm IV of Hesse-
Kassel, and Wilhelm's mathematician Christoph Rothmann. The latter was
a committed Copernican, and Tycho's forceful arguments for the
superiority of his own cosmology was one reason for his publication of
the letters. Other works begun on Hven were the Astronomiae instauratae
mechanica (1598), an illustrated account of his instruments and
observatories, and the Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata (1602),
which contained his theory of lunar and solar motions, part of his
catalogue of stars, and a more detailed analysis of the supernova of
1572. However, the erosion of Tycho's funding and standing following
King Christian IV's attainment of his majority caused the astronomer to
leave Denmark in 1597. In 1599 he settled near Prague, having been
appointed Imperial Mathematician by Emperor Rudolph II, and was joined
by Johannes Kepler the following year. He died of uraemia in 1601.
ANDREAS OSIANDER (1498-1552), German reformer, was born at
Gunzenhausen, near Nuremberg, on the 19th of December 1498. His
German name was Heiligmann, or, according to others, Hosemann. After
studying at Leipzig, Altenburg and Ingolstadt, he was ordained priest in
1520 and appointed Hebrew tutor in the Augustinian convent at
Nuremberg. Two years afterwards he was appointed preacher in the St
Lorenz Kirche, and about the same time he publicly joined the Lutheran
party, taking a prominent part in the discussion which ultimately led to
the adoption of the Reformation by the city. He married in 1525. He was
present at the Marburg conference in 1529, at the Augsburg diet in 1530
and at the signing of the Schmalkald articles in 1537, and took part in
other public transactions of importance in the history of the Reformation;
that he had an exceptionally large number of personal enemies was due
to his vehemence, coarseness and arrogance in controversy. The
introduction of the Augsburg Interim in 1548 necessitated his departure
from Nuremberg; he went ﬁrst to Breslau, and afterwards settled at
Konigsberg as professor in its new university at the call of Duke Albert of
Prussia. Here in 1550 he published two disputations, the one De lege et
evangelio and the other De justiﬁcations, which aroused a controversy
still unclosed at his death on the 17th of October 1552. While he was
fundamentally at one with Luther in opposing both Romanism and
Calvinism, his mysticism led him to interpret justiﬁcation by faith as not
an imputation but an infusion of the essential righteousness or divine
nature of Christ. His party was afterwards led by his son-in-law Johann
Funck, but disappeared after the latter's execution for high treason in
1566. Osiander's son Lukas (1534-1604), and grandsons Andreas (1562-
1617) and Lukas (1571-1638), were well-known theologians.
Osiander, besides a number of controversial writings, published a
corrected edition of the Vulgate, with notes, in 1522, and a Harmony of
the Gospels - the ﬁrst work of its kind - in 1537. The best-known work
of his son Lukas was an Epitome of the Magdeburg Centuries. See the Life
by W. Moller (Elberfeld, 1870).
Italian scientist and philosopher. Galileo was a true
Renaissance man, excelling at many different endeavors,
including lute playing and painting. He attended medical
school in Padua. While in a cathedral, he noticed that a
chandelier was swinging with the same period as timed
by his pulse, regardless of its amplitude. He began to
study the isochronism of the pendulum in 1581, as well
as the motion of bodies. Using an inclined plane, he
showed that all bodies fall at the same rate. He also
investigated cohesion, and concluded that a waterfall breaks when the
weight of the water becomes too great, the same reason that water
pumps could only raise water by 34 feet.
Galileo described his views on dynamics and statics in Dialog on the
Two New Sciences, which emphasized mathematics over rhetorical
arguments. Galileo was one of the earliest to propose abstract dynamical
theories which were ideal and would not be observed under less than
ideal circumstances. Galileo observed the supernova of 1604 and tried
unsuccessfully to measure its parallax. According to Copernicus's theory,
the Earth's motion must produce a parallax, but no such parallax was
found until Bessel. Galileo grew interested in the heavens, and built his
own telescope in 1609 after the discovery of lenses was reported from
Holland. Galileo used his 30 power telescope to discover craters on the
Moon, sunspots which rotated with the Sun, the four largest satellites
of Jupiter, and phases of Venus. This last observation demonstrated that
the Copernican theory was correct, since phases would only be observed
~ 10 ~
if Venus were always closer to the sun than to the Earth. Galileo
published his observations in Siderius Nuncius (The Starry Messenger)
(1611). For some famous quotes and diagrams from Siderius Nuncius,
see MacRobert (1990). A complete translation is contained in van Helden
Galileo also proposed Galilean relativity, which states that the same
deﬁnitions of motion are valid everywhere. The resultant Galilean
transformation is correct for low speeds, but must be replaced by the
Lorentz transformation for relativistic speeds. Galileo also said that
motion is continuous and can only be altered by the application of a
force. Galileo enunciated the law of fall (which states that distance
traveled is proportional to the square of time) and the time law (which
states that velocity is proportional to time). There is an apocryphal story
that Galileo dropped two balls of different masses simultaneously from
the leaning tower of Pisa to demonstrate that bodies fall at the same rate.
Galileo lay down the chief elements of his mechanics in Dialog on the
Two Chief Systems of the World (1632), which was supposed to be an
objective debate between the Copernican and Ptolemaic system.
Unfortunately, Galileo put the Pope's favorite argument in the mouth of
one of the characters, then proceeded to ridicule it. Galileo suddenly lost
favor with the church, and was forced to recant his Copernican views and
put under house arrest. Misner et al. (1973 p. 38) give some quotes by
Galileo. One of the most telling is "In questions of science, the authority
of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual"
(1632). A very similar twentieth century quote is attributed to Einstein.
Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg,
Germany, on March 14, 1879.
Six weeks later the family moved to Munich and he began
his schooling there at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Later,
they moved to Italy and Albert continued his education at
In 1896 he entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be
trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, the year he
gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, as he was unable
to ﬁnd a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in
the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905 he obtained his doctor's degree.
~ 11 ~
During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced
much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent
in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911
Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the
following year to ﬁll a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of
the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of
Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until
1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and
emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical
Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and
retired from his post in 1945.
After World War II, Einstein was a leading ﬁgure in the World Government
Movement, he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel, which he
declined, and he collaborated with Dr. Chaim Weizmann in establishing
the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics
and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and
was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded
his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance.
At the start of his scientiﬁc work, Einstein realized the inadequacies of
Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from
an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the
electromagnetic ﬁeld. He dealt with classical problems of statistical
mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum
theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of
molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low
radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon
theory of light.
In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct
interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory
of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory
of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the
theory of radiation and statistical mechanics.
In the 1920's, Einstein embarked on the construction of uniﬁed ﬁeld
theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic
interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in
America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of
the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished
valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and
~ 12 ~
After his retirement he continued to work towards the uniﬁcation of the
basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation,
to the majority of physicists.
Einstein's researches are, of course, well chronicled and his more
important works include Special Theory of Relativity (1905), Relativity
(English translations, 1920 and 1950), General Theory of Relativity
(1916), Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926), and The
Evolution of Physics (1938). Among his non-scientiﬁc works, About
Zionism (1930), Why War? (1933), My Philosophy (1934), and Out of My
Later Years (1950) are perhaps the most important.
Albert Einstein received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine
and philosophy from many European and American universities. During
the 1920's he lectured in Europe, America and the Far East and he was
awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientiﬁc
academies throughout the world. He gained numerous awards in
recognition of his work, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society
of London in 1925, and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute in
Einstein's gifts inevitably resulted in his dwelling much in intellectual
solitude and, for relaxation, music played an important part in his life.
He married Mileva Maritsch in 1901 and they had two sons; their
marriage was dissolved and in 1917 he married his cousin, Elsa Einstein,
who died in 1936.
He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.
Simone de Beauvoir
1908 -- 1986
We best remember Simone de Beauvoir for her 1949 study
entitled The Second Sex, which quickly turned into a
feminist compendium for women all around the world.
Over the years, as women have improved their situation,
some of Beauvoir's ideas have come under attack while
others apply as much today as they did 50 years ago. With
~ 13 ~
less emphasis now being placed on The Second Sex, critics have begun to
reassess Beauvoir's many other works of ﬁction and nonﬁction.
Many of Beauvoir's works deal with her own experiences, sometimes
concealed in ﬁctional terms, sometimes revealed in her autobiography.
This is how, in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, we learn of her growing up
in a bourgeois Parisian family. Her childhood and adolescence seem to
have been quite happy although she does not share any intimate details,
only that she commanded her younger sister Helène (called Poupette) and
her other playmates. Her attachment to Elizabeth Le Coin--called Zaza in
her memoirs--set a pattern for the many important friendships with
women Beauvoir would maintain throughout her life.
Beauvoir excelled in school, and her father at ﬁrst supported her
intellectual aspirations. Later he resented her success, and Beauvoir
eventually began to rebel against the constraints of her bourgeois
upbringing. She also rejected her mother's Catholicism. Her parents
expected Beauvoir to get married as other girls from her social class did,
but she insisted on attending university and becoming a teacher so that
she would be able to support herself. While preparing for her ﬁnal
examinations, she met Jean-Paul Sartre and associated with his friends, a
group of young philosophers who appreciated Beauvoir's specialization
on Leibniz. As Toril Moi points out, Beauvoir was "a pioneering woman in
her own time" when, as only the ninth woman and the youngest student
ever, she completed the impressive ﬁnal examination in philosophy. She
passed the exam with ﬂying colors and took second place to Sartre. Her
professors admitted that they arrived at this ﬁnal ranking only with great
difficulty. After graduation, Beauvoir began a teaching career at various
lycées, where she was much admired by her students for her
unconventional approach and fascinating lectures. She, thus, established
her professional independence by working outside the home. All her life
she cherished her individuality and travelled extensively.
While the extent of her impact on contemporary women may be disputed,
Beauvoir, nonetheless, managed to model the persona of a successful,
professional woman writer. She also believed that such work constituted
a valid alternative to motherhood. Beauvoir's writing was ﬁrst published
during the 1940s and elaborated her philosophical ideas in ﬁctional form.
Otherwise uninvolved in the political events of the day, in Letters to
Sartre she describes, in detail, the German Occupation and displays her
fears for Sartre's safety during his internment as a prisoner-of-war in
Germany. It was only after the war that her thinking became more
~ 14 ~
In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir would clarify various points of
Sartre's existentialism for a post-war world. As Kate and Edward
Fullbrook argue in Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: The
Remaking of a 20th-Century Legend (1994), Sartre may actually have
been inﬂuenced by Beauvoir's ideas before he formulated his philosophy.
Soon after the war, Beauvoir also went on a long lecture tour of the
United States where she met the novelist Nelson Algren, with whom she
had a long-distance relationship for nearly 15 years. Both Beauvoir and
Sartre, despite their lifelong "essential" relationship, continued to see
other people in "contingent" relationships, because they rejected
marriage as an outdated and oppressive bourgeois institution.
Her long novel, The Mandarins--usually considered a key to
understanding the leftist intelligentsia's experience of the postwar
years--features characters reminiscent of Beauvoir, Sartre, Algren, and
Albert Camus. In great detail, Beauvoir describes how various characters
try to reconﬁgure their lives and relationships after the war. Focusing on
two characters, Henri Perron and Anne Dubreuilh, Beauvoir alternates
their accounts of the events, letting them overlap at times and, thus,
affording the reader two perspectives of the same incident. Despite some
stylistic ﬂaws, the novel received the Prix Goncourt because of its
philosophical depth and political and historical signiﬁcance.
Despite her literary success, Beauvoir suddenly became aware of her
situation as a woman in a male world and decided to explore this idea in
The Second Sex. The study employs existentialist philosophy and an
historical approach in an effort to explain women's secondary social
status. Man sees woman as "a sexual being" and imposes many of his
ideas and dreams on his image of woman, making her his other. Beauvoir
explains that woman "is deﬁned and differentiated with reference to man
and not he with reference to her." Thus, all women, become "The Second
She traces this evolution from prehistory and classical antiquity, through
the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment into our own time. Particularly
interesting are her insights into mythology and her close analysis of
images of women in the works of Montherlant, D. H. Lawrence, Claudel,
Breton, and Stendhal. The work's greatest signiﬁcance rests on the
premise that woman is not biologically predetermined to become mother
and wife but free to determine her own fate. Contemporary critics point
to ﬂaws in Beauvoir's argument: hasty generalization resulting from
insufficient and dated evidence, for instance. They also deplore her
negative attitude toward the female body and motherhood. Furthermore,
many have deemed her whole approach Eurocentric and phallocentric.
~ 15 ~
Although Beauvoir had previously described women in her novels, The
Second Sex marked a turning point in her writing career: The Woman
Destroyed and Les Belles Images would discuss women's issue even more
overtly. Until her death in 1986, Beauvoir continued her political and
philosophical pursuits. A lifelong opponent of colonialism, she supported
the independence of both French Indochina and Algeria. In Djamila
Boupacha (1962), she exposed the torture of an Algerian girl by the
French military. The Long March is a detailed account of Communist
China in the late 1950s. Several of her last works discussed the impact of
old age and death.
Despite her many other accomplishments, we remember Beauvoir as a
pioneering feminist. This reputation originated in The Second Sex and
continued with her involvement in the French women's struggle for equal
rights and greater participation in the politic arena. She also took a ﬁrm
stand in favor of abortion. Due to the current interest in post-structural
and post-modern criticism and dismissal of existentialist ideas, French
feminists such as Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous have dismissed
Beauvoir's ideas as well. Publication of Beauvoir's correspondence and
notebooks has, however, opened up new possibilities for the study of the
Sartre-Beauvoir relationship and Beauvoir's gender identity. A survey of
recent feminist writing reveals that many authors, indeed, owe a great
deal to Simone de Beauvoir--even if it is only their efforts in rejecting her
~ 16 ~
Absinthe, 3. An alcoholic liqueur originally distilled from wine mixed
with wormwood, but said now often to contain none. Also used of a
colour resembling the green of absinthe. (OED)
Axiom, 1. A proposition that commends itself to general acceptance; a
well-established or universally-conceded principle; a maxim, rule, law.
Benedictine, 1. One of the order of monks, also known, from the colour
of their dress, as ‘Black Monks,’ founded by St. Benedict about the year
Chicanery, 1. Legal trickery, pettifogging, abuse of legal forms; the use of
subterfuge and trickery in debate or action; quibbling, sophistry, trickery.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On
the fabric of the human body in seven books) is a textbook of human
anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) in 1543. (Wikipedia)
Echinacea, or purple coneﬂower, is a perennial herb of the Composite
family, commonly known as the daisy family. Most often referred to as
the purple coneﬂower, this hardy plant also known as Sampson root,
Missouri snakeroot, and rudbeckia. The prominent, bristly seed head
inspired the generic name of the plant, taken from the Greek word
echinos meaning hedgehog. (Enotes.com)
Epicycle, 1. A small circle, having its centre on the circumference of a
greater circle. (OED)
Etymologically, (etymology), 1. a. The process of tracing out and
describing the elements of a word with their modiﬁcations of form and
Freud, Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939; was an
Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of
Geostatics pl., ‘the statics of rigid bodies’ (OED)
Heliocentric, 1. Referred to the sun as centre; considered as viewed from
the centre of the sun: as the heliocentric latitude, longitude, place, etc. of
~ 17 ~
a planet, i.e. that in which it would appear to an observer placed at the
centre of the sun. (OED)
Heretic, 1. One who maintains theological or religious opinions at
variance with the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church,
or, by extension, that of any church or religious system, considered as
orthodox. Also transf. with reference to non-Christian religions. (OED)
Humor, b. spec. In ancient and mediæval physiology, one of the four
chief ﬂuids (cardinal humours) of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, and
melancholy or black choler), by the relative proportions of which a
person's physical and mental qualities and disposition were held to be
Iota, The least, or a very small, particle or quantity; an atom. (OED)
Jung, Carl Gustav Jung (July 26, 1875 – June 6, 1961) was a Swiss
psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology. (Wikipedia)
Little Commentary, Narratia Prima or Little Commentary included these 7
1. There is no one center in the universe.
2. The Earth's center is not the center of the universe.
3. The center of the universe is near the Sun.
4. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is imperceptible
compared with the distance to the stars.
5. The rotation of the Earth accounts for the apparent daily rotation
of the stars.
6. The apparent annual cycle of movements of the Sun is caused by
the Earth revolving round it.
7. The apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the
motion of the Earth from which one observes.
Luminary, 3. ﬁg. A source of intellectual, moral, or spiritual light (now
only of persons, formerly also occas. of things); a person of ‘light and
Machiavelli, Niccolò di Bernado dei Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 – June 21,
1527) Florentine political philosopher, musician, poet, and romantic
comedic playwright. Machiavelli was also a key ﬁgure in the Renaissance
and the development of realist political theory. (Wikipedia)
~ 18 ~
Melanchthon, Philipp Melanchthon (born Philipp Schwartzerd) (February
16, 1497 - April 19, 1560) was a German professor and theologian, a key
leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and a friend and associate of Martin
Papacy, 2. The system of ecclesiastical or political government headed by
the Pope; the papal government or administration. (OED)
Parallax, 1. a. Difference or change in the apparent position or direction
of an object as seen from two different points; (Astron.) such a difference
or change in the position of a celestial object as seen from different
points on the earth's surface or from opposite points in the earth's orbit
around the sun. Also: (half of) the angular amount of such a difference or
change; (Astron.) the angle subtended at a celestial object by the radius
of the earth's orbit, giving a measure of its distance from the earth; any
of various similar measures of distance calculated by methods
incorporating the motion of the sun relative to the local region of the
galaxy, the proper motion of the observed body, the motions of a cluster
of bodies having similar distances and speeds, etc. (OED)
Phrenology, 2. The theory that the mental powers or characteristics of an
individual consist of separate faculties, each of which has its location in
an organ found in a deﬁnite region of the surface of the brain, the size or
development of which is commensurate with the development of the
particular faculty; the study of the external conformation of the cranium
as an index to the position and degree of development of the various
faculties. Cf. earlier CRANIOLOGY n. Now hist. (OED)
Pragmatic, 5. Practical; dealing with practice; matter-of-fact (OED)
Predilection, A mental preference or partiality; a favourable
predisposition or prepossession. (OED)
Ptolmic (Ptolemaic), 1. Of or pertaining to Ptolemy, a celebrated
astronomer who lived at Alexandria in the second century A.D. (OED)
Reticent, Reserved; disinclined to speak freely; given to silence or
Rhetoric, 1. a. The art of using language so as to persuade or inﬂuence
others; the body of rules to be observed by a speaker or writer in order
that he may express himself with eloquence. (OED)
Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April
~ 19 ~
15, 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist, novelist and
Traipse, 1. a. intr. To walk in a trailing or untidy way; e.g. to walk or ‘trail’
through the mud; to walk with the dress trailing or bedraggled; to walk
about aimlessly or needlessly. (Usually said of a woman or child.) Also in
gen. use, to tramp or trudge, to go about. (OED)
Trencher, 3. A slice of bread used instead of a plate or platter. 4. a. A
trencher and that which it bears; a supply of food;
Vasari, Giorgio Vasari (July 30, 1511 - June 27, 1574) was an Italian
painter and architect, known for his famous biographies of Italian artists.
Woolf, Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) is
by reputation one of the foremost modernist literary ﬁgures of the
twentieth century. Though she is commonly regarded by many as
feminist, it should be noted that she herself deplored the term, as she
felt it suggested an obsession with women and womens' concerns. She
preferred to be referred to as a "humanist" (see Three Guineas).
~ 20 ~
A Brief History of Poland
Renaissance culture was reaching Poland since the late 15th century,
through trips by young noblemen for studies, diplomatic contacts,
dynastic relations and trade.
The 16th century saw a particularly great development of the Polish
Renaissance. It had a fairly large audience made up of well- educated
noblemen and burghers. That development was further assisted by the
patronage of the king and magnates. Krakow remained the hub of Polish
culture as the city hosted the royal court and the University, had good
printers, sculpture shops and architectural studios.
The Krakow Renaissance, radiating all over the land was developing
under the inﬂuence of the Italian one. The Wawel Royal Castle was
reconstructed by the Italians in the years 1507-1536. The Renaissance
Chapel of the Sigismunds and the tombstones of Sigismund the Old and
Sigismund Augustus became the examples to follow for similar
tombstones throughout the Republic. Renaissance townhalls were being
erected in towns.
New towns were developed according to the ideas of the Renaissance.
The most excellent example was Zamosc, built by Bernardo Morando for
Jan Zamoyski. The northern Renaissance prevailed in Royal Prussia, where
it was brought thanks to the numerous trade contacts between Gdansk,
Torun and Elblag with the Netherlands. A unique synthesis of Polish,
Ruthenian and Armenian cultures was created in Lwow. A similar function
of an ethnic-cultural conglomerate was played by Wilno [now called
~ 21 ~
The best achievements of literature were the works by Jan Kochanowski
(1530- 1584), his epigrams (fraszki), Songs and Threnodies after the
death of his daughter. The Reformation stimulated the development of
Lutheranism spread primarily in Royal Prussia, while Calvinism became
the religion of part of the gentry in Little Poland and Lithuania. However,
the majority of Polish and Lithuanian gentry remained Catholic, with
Orthodox religion prevailing in Ruthenia. King Sigismund Augustus used
to say, "I do not want to be the master of your conscience." Polish
religious tolerance of the time allowed for the emergence of radical
movements: the Arians--Polish and Bohemian brethren. Each of those
religions tried to expand its inﬂuence through schooling and
propaganda. Hence, there was development of education and printing, as
well as several translations of the Bible into Polish.
Counter-Reformation also used education, especially Jesuit, for its
purpose. The ﬁrst gymnasiums were founded by the Jesuits in the 1560s
and 1570s. The teaching at their secondary schools was on a very high
level. The Jesuit College in Wilno developed into a university (1576)
thanks to the ﬁnancial support of King Stefan Batory.
A university, which became the center of Lutheranism, was established in
Polish science developed in close contact with that of Europe. Especially
advanced was astronomy, to mention only Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicholas
Copernicus, 1473-1543), the author of "De revolutionibus orbium
coelestium" [On the Revolution of the Earth and Sky"]. Also developing
were cartography, surveying, medicine, law, and natural and agricultural
The greatest accomplishment of political science was Andrzej Frycz
Modrzewski's "Commentarium de republica emendanda" ["Commentary
on Reforms of the Polish Republic"]. The sermons in the Sejm [Parliament]
by the royal preacher, Piotr Skarga, in a ﬁne way combined propaganda
and literary style.
Interest in national and world history resulted in numerous works, such
as the Polish-language "Chronicle of the World" by Marcin Bielski (1556)
and "De duabus Sarmatiis" by Maciej Miechowita (1517). The latter work
reﬂected the growing conviction of the gentry that their ancestors
differed from those of the peasants and burghers. According to their
viewpoint, they, the nobles, traced their descent to the ancient tribe of
~ 22 ~
the Sarmatas. That view gained particular currency in the latter half of the
16th century and in the 17th century. The attractiveness of the nobility's
culture exerted much inﬂuence upon the rest of the social strata in the
Republic. It was also attractive to their neighbors.
A Brief History of Church in Poland
Poland was christianized in 966, as the Prince Mieszko the First (baptized
onApril 14th, 996) ruled Poland. A few years later the ﬁrst archdiocese
has been established in Gniezno, on the grave of the bishop martyr Saint
Wojciech who died as a missionary in Prussia on April 23rd, 997, The ﬁrst
archbishop of Gniezno was his brother, Blessed Radzim-Gaudenty.
Church played an important role in the integration of the country and in
its spiritual, economical, administrative and scientiﬁc development.
Church institutions founded primary schools and universities (e.g. the
ﬁrst university in central, northern and eastern Europe: the Cracow - later
Jagellonian - University, 1364, and later the University of Vilnus), taught
the peasants (by-that-time) modern methods of farming. Church
administration of the country was a model for modern state
administration. The Church sponsored scientiﬁc research in mathematics
and natural sciences: just to mention Mikol`aj Kopernik, Marcin Polak
from Opawa, Witelo Ciol`ek from Wrocl`aw. Also arts were supported by
the Church, both builders of beautiful churches and composers like
Wacl`aw from Szamotul`y, Marcin Lwowczyk, and Mikol`aj Gomo`l`ka.
Rulers of Poland recognized the importance of Catholicism for spiritual
and economical development of Poland, though they frequently didn't
want to subordinate themselves to Christian teaching of morality. This
gave rise to various conﬂicts between kings and the Church, killing of the
bishop of Cracow, Saint Stanislaw, XIth century, by a king who couldn't
stand the criticism of his unfaithfulness towards his wife, was one of
prominent examples. In 12th century the bishops of Poland made strong
statements in defence of peasants threthening with excommunication to
those big land owners that oppressed the peasants.
The office of Primate of Poland (bound to archbishops of Gniezno),
established in the XVth century, has been the symbol of continuity of
Polish state, especially in the time of elected kings, as the Primate was
the interreggio after the death of a king and before the next one has
been elected. Intrinsic Catholicism in Poland protected the country from
religious wars and religious intolerance. The teaching on unconditional
love of the neighbour resulted in intrinsically equal treatment of all the
nations living in the multinational state, including various national
~ 23 ~
minorities escaping from western Europe because of their prosecution in
those countries. In 1410, Polish army defeated a united west european
army of fanatics that wanted to exterminate prussian and lithuanian
tribes because they were still not baptised. Polish bishops insisted on and
passed through the doctrine that the christian faith can only be spread by
peaceful means of arguments and not using military force (during Trident
Council, 1545-1543). Two priests acting in Poland after that Council are
worth mentioning: Jakub Wujek, the ﬁrst translator of the whole Bible into
Polish, and Piotr Skarga, engaged in improving moral qualities of the
politicians of that time. The spirit of intrinsic christianity in Poland caused
that even after the ﬁrst partition of Poland (XVIIIth century) Jews were
running away from Austrian, German and Russian occupation zones to
the still free part of Poland because Poland offered them religious
freedom. It is worth mentioning that the Pope Klemens XIV protested
against the partition of Poland.
During partition of Poland (1795-1918), as Poland stopped existing on
the maps of the wworld, the office of the Primate of Poland was retained
by the Holy See making the occupying powers angry. Polish has been
retained as the language of prayers in churches and of religious teaching
in partitioned Poland. The occupying powers considered Catholic Church
as the main enemy and numerous priests and even bishops were
imprisoned, sent to Siberia. Churches were closed or destroyed. Ordinary
people were ill-treated to force them to change their confession, at least
hundreds have been murdered for holding to Catholic Church (one
example are the martyrs of Pratulin 1874). Publication of religious books
was hampered and sometimes forbidden. The Church was one of major
factors in reuniﬁcation of Poland in 1918 after defeat of occupying
powers in world war one. The Catholic Church in Poland had to suffer
most during the second world war from the German nazi state. In many
dioeceses more than 90% of all Catholic priests have been killed - in
German death camps and in the street. Symbols of that time are martyrs
Blessed bishop Michal` Kozal and the Saint priest Maksymilian Kolbe.
Still, under these terror conditions, the oppressed Church made
tremendous efforts to save life of hundreds of thousands of oppressed
people, especially Jews, who got from the Church new identity papers
(hiding their Jewish origin) or even found shelter in monasteries and
priest schools - all at risk of losing life by clergymen. The people found
spiritual strength to survive psychologically that awful time only by
attending Church services and by prayers. It has been reported that on
Christmas Eves during the war some people went to occupant soldiers in
the street with Christmas wafers wishing them merry and peaceful
Christmas. Germans were both surprised and moved by this gesture of a
Christian nation. The importance of the Church for Polish identity grew in
~ 24 ~
communist times (1945-1989). Countless priests have been murdered
and numerous bishops (including Stefan Cardinal Wyszyn`ski, the
Primate of Poland) have been imprisoned in 1950s. Publication of
Catholic journals and newspapers was banned. Catholic organizations
were dissolved. Bishops were not allowed to do their job as diocese
shepherds. Catholics were not allowed to hold any higher ranking
administrative positions, to be military officers, factory directors etc.
Though later Poland had a prominent period of religious freedom, several
more priests have been murdered (The case of priest Jerzy Popiel`uszko
is best known, but not the only one). After 1989, the Catholic Church
remains a sign of contradiction. Dozens of priests have been killed and
their murderers never found. Hundreds of Catholic cemeteries are being
destroyed, churches robbed out, profaned, set on ﬁre, and the bandits
are never punished.
It should be mentioned that not only Poland beneﬁted from teachings of
Catholic Church, but it also contributed much in support of universal
mission of the Church. Polish army defended the freedom of faith of
Catholics all over Europe by stopping Tartar (Battle of Legnica, 1241),
Swedish (Defense of Jasna Gora, 1656), Turkish (Battle of Vienna, 1683)
and Soviet (Battle of Vistula, 1920) ﬂoods. Polish Catholics made efforts,
though with partial success only, to reunite the splitted christianity: they
started religious dialog both with the protestant churches and the
orthodox churches. In 1596, the so-called Brzes`c`/Brest Union was
achieved between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (the
Greek Catholic Church has been established). Many orthodox bishops and
large numbers of parishes in Poland, Lithuania and Russia joined the
Catholic Church by recognizing the Pope as the head of the Church while
keeping their liturgic and legal traditions. Regrettedly ambitions of
politicians who used even military force to prevent people from joining
the Catholic Church made the further progress of reuniting christianity
impossible. Also in the 17th century a union of Ormians living in Poland
with the Catholic Church was achieved.
Over the last two centuries Polish missionaries carried the Good News to
the nations of Africa, Asia, and America. They brought there also general
and professional education, health care, frequently sacriﬁcing their lives
killed by enemies of the church and by illnesses the people suffered from
in those poor countries. The missionary engagement outside of Europe
started already in the 17th century with jesuit friars Andrzej Rudomin,
Mikol`aj Smogulecki and Michal` Boym, and the martyr Wojciech
Me`cin`ski worked in the Far East. This engagement is continued till
present day. On of the outstanding examples is the recently nominated
Adam Cardinal Kozlowiecki , who acts as a missionary in Zambia for
~ 25 ~
several decades now. Poland gave the Church many Saints, martyrs for
the faith. The current Pope, John Paul II, the great Pope of this century,
grew up in Poland and suffered here from the "strengths" of capitalism
(during the big economical crisis of 1930ies) the hitlerian socialism
(during nazi occupation 1939-45) and the stalinist socialism (1940ies
and 1950ies) and experienced the strong Catholic faith the people here
had as the only weapon to handle these dreadful times. Whenever His
Holiness writes encyclicals in defense of human dignity, against poverty
and mishandling of people, calling for conversion to Catholic faith, for
praying and trusting God, He is not making any political propaganda, but
is speaking from His personal experience. The Church benevolent
organization Caritas Poland, legalized anew after 1989, is engaged in
bringing relief to many nations plagued by hunger and shortage of
medical care all over the world. Poland was the place of several Church
events of world-wide importance and with world-wide attendance. Jasna
Go`ra, the major Marian sanctuary of Poland, for centuries already visited
by pilgrims from countless European countries, hosted in 1991 the World
Youth Day, attended by the Pope. Wrocl`aw, a city in western part of
Poland, is the place of the 46th International Eucharistic Congress in the
Nowadays the administrative structure of the Catholic Church in Poland
(since 1993) consists of 13 archdioceses and of 29 dioceses. There is a
ﬁeld diocese and an archdiocese and a diocese for Bysanthic-Ukrainian
Rythus. We have over 150 bishops and archbishops, some 20,000 priests,
more than 90% of the population has been baptized in Catholic Church.
More than 20% of people go to church regularly (every Sunday).
In this world of hatred against the Church, vicious capaigns against
various sections of the society, against other nations, the Church holds
ﬁrm to the teaching of Jesus Christ, preaches love and forgiving of crimes
of others against us, teaches us how to love our country, teaches to
shake hands in a gesture of peace and forgiveness with our neighbours
both from the west, and the east, and the south and the north. She
teaches us on Christian common roots of all the Europe, but also not to
restrict our love to the white race but rather lets us care for the well-
being of all the mankind.
~ 26 ~
Medieval & Renaissance Astronomy
Contrary to common misconception the period between the end of the
classical era and the start of the Renaissance was not devoid of scientiﬁc
progress. Islamic scholars translated many of the surviving writings from
Greek or Syriac into Arabic from the late 700's onwards. These
translations in turn were transported into Islamic Spain where they
eventually fell into Christian hands and were translated into Latin. Islamic
astronomers such as Muhammad al-Battani (c. 850 - 929) reﬁned
Ptolemy's model and their published works and tables were later used by
Western astronomers. Even today the inﬂuence of Islamic astronomers is
found in the names of many of the bright stars such as Betelgeuse (α
Ori), Alnitak (ζ Ori) and Zubenelgenubi (α Lib).
As Western scholars studied the Latin translations of the classical
philosophers they incorporated many aspects of their work into the
prevailing theology and world view. Aristotle's physics described the
motion of objects and the reﬁned model of Ptolemy was used to study
the night sky. The Frenchman, Nicole Oresme (1320 - 82) applied an
early concept of the centre of gravity, used mathematics to argue against
astrology and even suggested the existence of other inhabited worlds in
space. Nicolas of Cusa (born c. 1401) supported this idea and rejected
the concept of a static Earth at the centre of all motions.
Georg Puerbach (1423 - 61) reﬁned the Almagest and wrote a popular
textbook on it. This prompted a renewal of interest in the need for
accurate observations. His pupil, Regiomontanus (1436 - 76) highlighted
problems with Ptolemy's work based on observations made at his
purpose-built observatory. He published his own and other writings on
astronomy and the increasing availability of printed books did much to
spread ideas among scholars. In 1482 he observed a bright comet that
was later identiﬁed as one of the visits of Comet Halley and was most
likely working towards a heliocentric model inﬂuenced by Aristarchus at
the time of his death.
~ 27 ~
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543)
Copernicus studied classics and mathematics at Krakow in his native
Poland, canon law in Bologna and Ferrara and medicine at Padua in Italy.
His keen interest in astronomy was fostered in Italy and developed back
in Poland where he was canon at the cathedral in Frauenberg (now
Frombeck) where he spent most of his life.
A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 1504 was observed to differ by 10
days from the predictions of tables based on Ptolemy's work. This,
combined with Copernicus' abhorrence of the equant drove him to
develop an improved model. Inﬂuenced by the work of Regiomontanus
(thus also Aristarchus) and neoplatonism (which viewed the Sun as the
Godhead and source of all knowledge) he produced his own model. He
withheld publication due to his conservative nature and fear of ridicule
but was eventually persuaded by Rheticus. Allegedly he received the ﬁrst
copy of his work De revolutionibus orbium (On the revolution of the
heavenly spheres) on his deathbed in 1543.
Manuscript example of Copernicus' model.
In Copernicus' model a spherical Earth rotates daily on it axis whilst it
and the other planets each orbit the Sun. The period of the planets' orbits
increases with increasing distance from the Sun. The Sun was not exactly
at the centre of the planetary orbits thus strictly speaking the model is
heliostatic rather than heliocentric.
~ 28 ~
There were several advantages of Copernicus' model over that of Ptolemy:
1.It could predict planetary positions to within 2°, the same as that
2.Retrograde motion of planets was explained by the relative
motion between them and the Earth.
3.Distances between planets and the Sun could be accurately
determined in units of the Earth-Sun distance (ie Astronomical
4.Orbital periods could be accurately determined.
5.It explained the difference between the inferior planets (Mercury
and Venus) that were always observed close to the Sun and the
superior ones (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).
6.It preserved the concept of uniform circular motion without the
need for equants.
7.It preserved Aristotle's concept of real spheres nestled inside one
8.Unlike Ptolemy's model it did not require the Moon to change in
Copernicus' model also had several problems which contributed to its
failure to immediately supplant Ptolemy's model:
No annual stellar parallax could be detected. Copernicus explained
this as due to the fact that the stars were a vast distance hence any
parallax would be very small and difficult to detect.
It required a moving Earth, This would contradict Aristotelian
physics and Copernicus presented no new laws of motion to
By removing the Earth from its natural place it was philosophically
and theologically unacceptable to many scholars.
It was no more accurate than Ptolemy's in predicting planetary
It was actually more complicated then Ptolemy's model. In his
efforts to avoid the equant but retain uniform circular motion he
had to introduce more devices to ﬁt his observations.
Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601)
Tycho Brahe, of Danish noble stock, was probably the greatest
astronomical observer of the pre-telescope era. Early observations in the
560's revealed inaccuracies with existing tables and spurred him onto
making systematic, long-term observations and records. This task would
occupy the rest of his life. With generous funding from the King of
~ 29 ~
Denmark he established a dedicated observatory, Uraniborg, on the
island of Hven (now Ven). He built large instruments such as quadrants
from wood and brass that improved on earlier designs. The
measurements he made were up to ten times more accurate than any
preceding ones and were at the limit of that obtainable by the unaided
eye. The investment by the Danish King amounted to 5% of his total
income, still a record for investment on scientiﬁc research. Brahe
eventually fell out with the Danish court and moved to Prague for his ﬁnal
In November 1572 a new star appeared in the constellation Cassiopeia.
Brahe's observations showed that it was motionless relative to nearby
stars suggesting to him that it was in fact a star and not a tail-less
comet. Five years later he observed a bright comet and discerned no
parallax and placed it at least six times further from Earth than the Moon.
Both of these observations challenged the Aristotelian orthodoxy. The
stars were supposed to be changeless and perfect whilst comets were
supposed to be conﬁned to the sub-lunary sphere, that is between the
Earth and Moon. Further observations revealed that the comet would
move through the solid crystalline spheres of an Aristotelian Universe.
To reconcile his observations with his philosophy Brahe developed his
own model, incorporating some aspects of Copernicus' but rejecting the
idea of a moving Earth. Although his hybrid model enjoyed a brief period
of popularity it was soon replaced by the work of his assistant, Johannes
~ 30 ~
Brahe's model was somewhat of a hybrid and drew upon Herakleide's
earlier concepts. It had a static Earth at the centre of the Universe with
the Moon orbiting it. A rotating sphere of ﬁxed stars also revolved
around the Earth once every 24 hours. The planets however orbited about
the Sun which itself orbited the Earth. It utilised epicycles, deferents and
equants. In his model there is no need for stellar parallax. The diagram
above shows a simpliﬁed representation.
Brahe's lasting legacy was his long-term and meticulous observations of
planetary motions, especially those of Mars. This data was used after his
death by Kepler, who worked as his assistant during Brahe's last year.
Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630)
Best known for his key works on astronomy, Johannes Kepler made
valuable contributions in other ﬁelds. In his works on optics he examined
the refraction of light, correctly explained the working of the eye for the
ﬁrst time and provided a theoretical basis for telescopes with suggested
means of improving them. His explanation on the new Napierian
logarithms did much to encourage their wide acceptance. Given a
challenge to calculate volumes of wine casks he ended up developing an
approach to inﬁnitesimal calculus well ahead of the ideas of Liebniz and
Newton. Kepler had studied under the renowned astronomer Michael
Maestlin, one of the ﬁrst proponents of Copernicus' work.
~ 31 ~
In his ﬁrst astronomical work, Mysterium cosmographicum (The cosmic
mystery) in 1596, Kepler upheld his belief in the Copernican system. He
also discovered a geometrical relationship for the orbits of the planets
around the Sun. Between the sphere of each planet's orbit he found he
could place one of the ﬁve regular solids, for example a cube between
Jupiter and Saturn, so that the six planets were separated by ﬁve regular
solids. This system reﬂects the inﬂuence on Kepler of the Platonic-
Pythagorean tradition of matching order in nature with the regularities of
mathematics. Of greater long-term importance however was his
suggestion that the Sun somehow affected the orbits of the planets,
perhaps by magnetism.
Kepler's geometrical relationship in the Solar System as shown in his
Mysterium cosmographicum of 1596.
Kepler tried to ﬁt Brahe's data to the Copernican model but consistently
arrived at errors of at least eight seconds of arc, small but not
insigniﬁcant. He was ﬁnally forced to abandon the concept of uniform
circular orbital paths but it was to take him several years of painstaking,
methodical calculations before he arrived at an alternate model that ﬁtted
Brahe's 20 years of data on Mars. The results were published in 1609 in
his work Astronomica nova (New Astronomy). In it he explained what are
now known as his ﬁrst two laws of planetary motion.
~ 32 ~
Kepler's 1st Law: The Law of Ellipses.
All planets orbit the Sun in elliptical orbits with the Sun as one common
focus. Note the eccentricity of the ellipse has been greatly exaggerated in
the above diagram. For most planets their orbits are almost circular.
Kepler's 2nd Law: The Law of Equal Areas.
The line between a planet and the Sun (the radius vector) sweeps out
equal areas in equal periods of time.
In the diagram, the time interval t2-t1 = t4-t3 so the areas swept through
in equal times are equal,
that is A1 = A2.
This effect is very noticeable in comets such as Comet Halley that have
highly elliptical orbits. When in the inner Solar System, close to the Sun at
perihelion, they move much faster than when far from the Sun at
Kepler actually formulated the law of equal areas ﬁrst and it then led him
to the law of ellipses. His third law was not published until 1618 in
Harmonice mundi (The Harmony of the World). This resulted from his
attempts to ﬁnd a relationship between the distance of a planet from the
Sun and its orbital period.
~ 33 ~
Kepler's Third Law: The Law of Periods or the Harmonic Law*. The square
of a planet's period, T, is directly proportional to the cube of its average
distance from the Sun, r.
Mathematically this can be expressed as:
or T2/r3 = k (1.1)
where k is a constant and the same for all planets or orbital bodies (such
as comets) in a given system.
If T is measured in Earth years and r in astronomical units (AU) then for
the Earth, T = 1 and r = 1 so:
T2/r3 = k
1/1 = k
ie. k =1
The implication of Kepler's Third Law is that planets more distant from
the Sun take longer to orbit the Sun. Let us see how this can be used to
determine the mean distance of Mars from the Sun if its orbital period is
1.88 Earth years.
If T2/r3 = k (1.1)
Then rewriting for r
r3 = T2/k
r = ((1.88)2/1)1/3
so r = 1.524 AU
So Mars is 1.524 astronomical units from the Sun.
Kepler's laws of planetary motion were empirical, they could predict what
would occur but could not account for why planets behaved in such a
manner. His Rudolphine tables of planetary motion published in 1627
were more accurate than nay previous ones. He came close to uncovering
the concept of gravitation and corresponded with Galileo and was aware
of his telescopic discoveries.
The Copernican Model:
A Sun-Centered Solar System
~ 34 ~
The Earth-centered Universe of Aristotle and Ptolemy held sway on
Western thinking for almost 2000 years. Then, in the 16th century a new
idea was proposed by the Polish astronomer Nicolai Copernicus (1473-
The Heliocentric System
In a book called On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies (that was
published as Copernicus lay on his deathbed), Copernicus proposed that
the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of the Solar System. Such a model
is called a heliocentric system. The ordering of the planets known to
Copernicus in this new system is illustrated in the following ﬁgure, which
we recognize as the modern ordering of those planets.
The Copernican Universe
In this new ordering the Earth is just another planet (the third outward
from the Sun), and the Moon is in orbit around the Earth, not the Sun.
The stars are distant objects that do not revolve around the Sun. Instead,
the Earth is assumed to rotate once in 24 hours, causing the stars to
appear to revolve around the Earth in the opposite direction.
Retrograde Motion and Varying Brightness of the Planets
The Copernican system by banishing the idea that the Earth was the
~ 35 ~
center of the Solar System, immediately led to a simple explanation of
both the varying brightness of the planets and retrograde motion:
The planets in such a system naturally vary in brightness because they
are not always the same distance from the Earth.
Copernicus and the Need for Epicycles
There is a common misconception that the Copernican model did away
with the need for epicycles. This is not true, because Copernicus was able
to rid himself of the long-held notion that the Earth was the center of the
Solar system, but he did not question the assumption of uniform circular
motion. Thus, in the Copernican model the Sun was at the center, but the
planets still executed uniform circular motion about it. As we shall see
later, the orbits of the planets are not circles, they are actually ellipses.
As a consequence, the Copernican model, with it assumption of uniform
circular motion, still could not explain all the details of planetary motion
on the celestial sphere without epicycles. The difference was that the
Copernican system required many fewer epicycles than the Ptolemaic
system because it moved the Sun to the center.
The Copernican Revolution
We noted earlier that 3 incorrect ideas held back the development of
modern astronomy from the time of Aristotle until the 16th and 17th
centuries: (1) the assumption that the Earth was the center of the
Universe, (2) the assumption of uniform circular motion in the heavens,
and (3) the assumption that objects in the heavens were made from a
perfect, unchanging substance not found on the Earth.
Copernicus challenged assumption 1, but not assumption 2. We may also
note that the Copernican model implicitly questions the third tenet that
the objects in the sky were made of special unchanging stuff. Since the
Earth is just another planet, there will eventually be a natural progression
to the idea that the planets are made from the same stuff that we ﬁnd on
Copernicus was an unlikely revolutionary. It is believed by many that his
book was only published at the end of his life because he feared ridicule
and disfavor: by his peers and by the Church, which had elevated the
ideas of Aristotle to the level of religious dogma. However, this reluctant
revolutionary set in motion a chain of events that would eventually (long
after his lifetime) produce the greatest revolution in thinking that Western
civilization has seen. His ideas remained rather obscure for about 100
~ 36 ~
years after his death. But, in the 17th century the work of Kepler, Galileo,
and Newton would build on the heliocentric Universe of Copernicus and
produce the revolution that would sweep away completely the ideas of
Aristotle and replace them with the modern view of astronomy and
natural science. This sequence is commonly called the Copernican
Been There, Done That: Aristarchus of Samos
The idea of Copernicus was not really new! A sun-centered Solar System
had been proposed as early as about 200 B.C. by Aristarchus of Samos
(Samos is an island off the coast of what is now Turkey). However, it did
not survive long under the weight of Aristotle's inﬂuence and "common
(1)If the Earth actually spun on an axis (as required in a heliocentric
system to explain the diurnal motion of the sky), why didn't objects
ﬂy off the spinning Earth?
(2)If the Earth was in motion
around the sun, why didn't it leave
behind the birds ﬂying in the air?
(3)If the Earth were actually on an
orbit around the sun, why wasn't a
parallax effect observed? That is,
as illustrated in the adjacent ﬁgure,
stars should appear to change their
position with the respect to the
other background stars as the
Earth moved about its orbit,
because of viewing them from a different perspective (just as
viewing an object ﬁrst with one eye, and then the other, causes the
apparent position of the object to change with respect to the
The ﬁrst two objections were not valid because they represent an
inadequate understanding of the physics of motion that would only be
corrected in the 17th century. The third objection is valid, but failed to
account for what we now know to be the enormous distances to the stars.
As illustrated in the following ﬁgure, the amount of parallax decreases
~ 37 ~
Parallax is larger for closer objects
The parallax effect is there, but it is very small because the stars are so
far away that their parallax can only be observed with very precise
instruments. Indeed, the parallax of stars was not measured conclusively
until the year 1838. Thus, the heliocentric idea of Aristarchus was quickly
forgotten and Western thought stagnated for almost 2000 years as it
waited for Copernicus to revive the heliocentric theory.
Galileo and Astronomy
There was another man, working at around the same time as Kepler, who
made an even greater contribution to the dawn of modern astronomy and
single-handedly pioneered modern mathematical physics. This was a
man who laid down virtually all the groundwork for Newton and his name
was Galileo Galilei (usually referred to only as Galileo). He has been called
by some as the father of both modern astronomy and modern physics
and certainly his role as a pivotal ﬁgure in the development of both these
sciences is beyond question. On top of this he was also the pioneer of
modern experimental scientiﬁc method.
It was Galileo that ﬁnally provided proof of the Copernican theory, and
thus conﬁrming Kepler's work to be correct. He also had time to lay down
the foundations of correct understanding of dynamics and of gravity. But
we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
~ 38 ~
Before Galileo began so much of his ground breaking work in astronomy
an invention was to come along and help him out, that invention was the
telescope and in the arms of Galileo it was the instrument that was to
revolutionise the science of astronomy, allowing Galileo to peer into the
heavens and see at a magniﬁcation many times what any human had seen
The discovery of the telescope is usually credited to Hans Lippershey in
1608, although there is some evidence that there was one or possibly
even two people before him to invent a telescope, but this evidence
remains very much inconclusive, so we shall not break from tradition
Galileo and Astronomy
So back to Galileo, in 1609 (about the same time as Kepler was about to
publish his ﬁrst two laws) from only simple reports of this new invention,
Galileo, using his skills, was able to construct a vastly superior model to
Lippershey's telescope and is said to be the ﬁrst to use the refracting
telescope. Some of his early observations included:
➢The Moon was not smooth but actually covered in mountains and
➢The planets were discs not points of light.
➢The Milky Way was composed of an enormous number of stars (agreeing
with Copernicus' idea of the universe being much vaster than previously
thought, also destroying the only argument for the Taychoic system, by
providing reason for why, in a heliocentric system there would appear to
be no stellar parallax).
As a collective what these observations did was to raise the issue of the
credibility of the Ptolemaic system, how could Aristotle and Ptolemy's
work be trusted to be correct when there was so much of the universe
they didn't know? Galileo's early observations convinced him of the
accuracy of the Copernican system and he began to argue strongly for it,
basing his arguments on his observations with his telescope.
In this work there are 3 further observations in particular that deserve
~ 39 ~
His observations of the Moons of Jupiter
Galileo used the so called Galilean moons to prove a major argument
against the Copernican system was incorrect.
The argument suggested that given the moon orbited the Earth, if the
Earth then orbited the Sun, the Moon would be left behind. With the
discovery of the moons around Jupiter it was clear that a planet could
orbit a body without leaving behind any moons that were in turn orbiting
Observations of Sunspots
With the observation of Sunspots not only did Galileo prove that the Sun
was not perfect (remember at the time the held ideas continued to be
Aristotle's theory that God made all the celestial bodies and so they
must be perfect) but he also observed that these imperfections were
moving. This implied that the Sun was rotating on an axis which meant it
was more feasible for the earth to be rotating (the idea of the Earth
rotating in the Copernican model was one of the greatest arguments
against it as such rotation could not be felt).
Galileo's view of Sunspots A 2001 view of Sunspots
From Galileo's own sketches Courtesy of SOHO/MDI
Observations of the Phases of Venus
Galileo's most important achievement in astronomy was demonstrating
that the planet Venus, as seen from the Earth, went through a complete
set of phases just like the Moon, which he ﬁrst noticed in 1610.
This wasn't just ground breaking it was earth shattering, it provided
conclusive evidence that was consistent with the Copernican model but
not with the Ptolemaic model.
~ 40 ~
How? Well if the Earth was the centre of the Universe then due to the
position of the Earth, Venus and the Sun, we would only ever see Venus
in crescent phases because Venus would always be between the Earth
and the Sun (see Ptolemaic system below).
The Ptolemaic System The Copernican System
Galileo identiﬁed that Venus went through a full cycle of phases, as
viewed from the Earth, which meant that sometimes Venus must be on
the opposite side of the Sun from Earth (see the Copernican system
above), thus disproving the Geocentric theory of the Universe. So long
after Copernicus' discovery ﬁnally there was empirical evidence to allow a
deﬁnitive test, which proved Copernicus' and Kepler's work to be correct
and the Ptolemaic model that had been held to be correct for 1500 years
to be wrong!
Galileo Publishes His Work
In 1632 Galileo published his work Dialogue Concerning The Two
Greatest World Systems. This latest work, supporting the Copernican
model and proving the geocentric system wrong was not received well by
the Roman Catholic Church! Indeed they were incensed by this work as it
was contrary to scripture, contrary to the very foundations of religion. Of
course a century before Copernicus himself and delayed the publication
of his work for fear of the reprisal of the church, and it appears that his
fear was justiﬁed. In 1633 Galileo was summoned to Rome and quickly
convicted of hearsay, he was forced to make a public confession of his
error in judgement and withdraw his support for the Copernican model,
he was also forbidden to publish any further work and sentenced to life
imprisonment. Due to his age, however, he was permitted to serve his
sentence under house arrest.
Galileo's 'Ears of Saturn'
~ 41 ~
As a point of interest Galileo also discovered what he called the 'ears' of
Saturn (of course we now know these to be rings but Galileo's telescope
was not powerful enough to determine this).
A chronology of how Galileo saw the rings of Saturn
All images are original Galileo sketches
Tycho Brahe's Observations
It is important to remember that Tycho Brahe lived before the invention
of the telescope. Astronomical observation were made by the naked eye.
Galilei invents the telescope 9 years after Tycho Brahe's death. The
devices Tycho Brahe used and constructed are therefore mainly devices
for measuring angles and positions. Also clocks were very limited at that
time, the pendulum clock was not invented either, so to measure time,
Tycho usually chose to use the movements of the stars and planets, with
admirably accurate results.
In the evening of the 11th of November 1572, Tycho Brahe for the ﬁrst
time sees a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia. Tycho Brahe
observes it carefully, and publishes his ﬁndings about the "new star",
Stella Nova in latin, and becomes known as a respected astronomer.
~ 42 ~
Drawing of Cassipeia, with the position of the stars. "Nova Stella", the
brightest is marked as "I".
Two of Tycho Brahe's instruments.
The world system according to Tycho Brahe
Tycho believed that the earth was ﬁxed in the center of the world. Around
the earth circulated the moon and the sun. Around the sun orbited the
rest of the planets. He based this view mostly on measurements of the
apparent movement of Mars, and he did not think it was explained by the
traditional ptolemaic geocentric world system, where the earth was in the
center and everything orbited around the earth. Tycho Brahe was born
three years after Copernicus had publishes his revolutionary work, "De
Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium", which put the sun in the center of
the world, and all planets including the earth orbit around it. This is
called a heliocentric world system. Tycho Brahe thought Copernicus was a
brilliant astronomer, but he did not accept his world system, primarily for
religious reasons. The church stipulated that the earth was the center of
the universe. Even if Tycho's world system was not widely accepted, it can
be said to be important in such a way, that when Tycho Brahe tried to
prove his world system by observations, he made a table of planetary
movements. These tables were later completed and used by his assistant
Kepler to make his famous planetary laws, which showed that Copernicus
was right, the sun was the center and the planets moved around the sun.
~ 43 ~
But the planetary movements were elliptical not circular, something which
Kepler ﬁrst thought was absurd, but he to had to accept it, since Tycho's
accurate measurements conﬁrmed this theory.
Picture of the Tychonic World System, including the known planets of the
time, with Saturnus being the furthest from the Sun. Inside the stars are
the twelve signs of the zodiac.
~ 44 ~
Existentialism, philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing
individual existence, freedom, and choice, that inﬂuenced many diverse
writers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
II MAJOR THEMES
Because of the diversity of positions associated with existentialism, the
term is impossible to deﬁne precisely. Certain themes common to
virtually all existentialist writers can, however, be identiﬁed. The term
itself suggests one major theme: the stress on concrete individual
existence and, consequently, on subjectivity, individual freedom, and
A Moral Individualism
Most philosophers since Plato have held that the highest ethical good is
the same for everyone; insofar as one approaches moral perfection, one
resembles other morally perfect individuals. The 19th-century Danish
philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who was the ﬁrst writer to call himself
existential, reacted against this tradition by insisting that the highest
good for the individual is to ﬁnd his or her own unique vocation. As he
wrote in his journal, “I must ﬁnd a truth that is true for me . . . the idea
for which I can live or die.” Other existentialist writers have echoed
Kierkegaard's belief that one must choose one's own way without the aid
of universal, objective standards. Against the traditional view that moral
choice involves an objective judgment of right and wrong, existentialists
have argued that no objective, rational basis can be found for moral
decisions. The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche
further contended that the individual must decide which situations are to
count as moral situations.
All existentialists have followed Kierkegaard in stressing the importance
of passionate individual action in deciding questions of both morality and
truth. They have insisted, accordingly, that personal experience and
acting on one's own convictions are essential in arriving at the truth.
Thus, the understanding of a situation by someone involved in that
~ 45 ~
situation is superior to that of a detached, objective observer. This
emphasis on the perspective of the individual agent has also made
existentialists suspicious of systematic reasoning. Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, and other existentialist writers have been deliberately
unsystematic in the exposition of their philosophies, preferring to
express themselves in aphorisms, dialogues, parables, and other literary
forms. Despite their antirationalist position, however, most existentialists
cannot be said to be irrationalists in the sense of denying all validity to
rational thought. They have held that rational clarity is desirable wherever
possible, but that the most important questions in life are not accessible
to reason or science. Furthermore, they have argued that even science is
not as rational as is commonly supposed. Nietzsche, for instance,
asserted that the scientiﬁc assumption of an orderly universe is for the
most part a useful ﬁction.
C Choice and
Perhaps the most prominent theme in existentialist writing is that of
choice. Humanity's primary distinction, in the view of most existentialists,
is the freedom to choose. Existentialists have held that human beings do
not have a ﬁxed nature, or essence, as other animals and plants do; each
human being makes choices that create his or her own nature. In the
formulation of the 20th-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre,
existence precedes essence. Choice is therefore central to human
existence, and it is inescapable; even the refusal to choose is a choice.
Freedom of choice entails commitment and responsibility. Because
individuals are free to choose their own path, existentialists have argued,
they must accept the risk and responsibility of following their
commitment wherever it leads.
D Dread and Anxiety
Kierkegaard held that it is spiritually crucial to recognize that one
experiences not only a fear of speciﬁc objects but also a feeling of
general apprehension, which he called dread. He interpreted it as God's
way of calling each individual to make a commitment to a personally valid
way of life. The word anxiety (German Angst) has a similarly crucial role
in the work of the 20th-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger;
anxiety leads to the individual's confrontation with nothingness and with
the impossibility of ﬁnding ultimate justiﬁcation for the choices he or she
must make. In the philosophy of Sartre, the word nausea is used for the
individual's recognition of the pure contingency of the universe, and the
word anguish is used for the recognition of the total freedom of choice
~ 46 ~
that confronts the individual at every moment.
Existentialism as a distinct philosophical and literary movement belongs
to the 19th and 20th centuries, but elements of existentialism can be
found in the thought (and life) of Socrates, in the Bible, and in the work
of many premodern philosophers and writers.
The ﬁrst to anticipate the major concerns of modern existentialism was
the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal. Pascal rejected the
rigorous rationalism of his contemporary René Descartes, asserting, in
his Pensées (1670), that a systematic philosophy that presumes to
explain God and humanity is a form of pride. Like later existentialist
writers, he saw human life in terms of paradoxes: The human self, which
combines mind and body, is itself a paradox and contradiction.
Kierkegaard, generally regarded as the founder of modern existentialism,
reacted against the systematic absolute idealism of the 19th-century
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who claimed to have
worked out a total rational understanding of humanity and history.
Kierkegaard, on the contrary, stressed the ambiguity and absurdity of the
human situation. The individual's response to this situation must be to
live a totally committed life, and this commitment can only be understood
by the individual who has made it. The individual therefore must always
be prepared to defy the norms of society for the sake of the higher
authority of a personally valid way of life. Kierkegaard ultimately
advocated a “leap of faith” into a Christian way of life, which, although
incomprehensible and full of risk, was the only commitment he believed
could save the individual from despair.
Nietzsche, who was not acquainted with the work of Kierkegaard,
inﬂuenced subsequent existentialist thought through his criticism of
traditional metaphysical and moral assumptions and through his espousal
of tragic pessimism and the life-affirming individual will that opposes
itself to the moral conformity of the majority. In contrast to Kierkegaard,
whose attack on conventional morality led him to advocate a radically
individualistic Christianity, Nietzsche proclaimed the “death of God” and
~ 47 ~
went on to reject the entire Judeo-Christian moral tradition in favor of a
heroic pagan ideal.
Heidegger, like Pascal and Kierkegaard, reacted against an attempt to put
philosophy on a conclusive rationalistic basis—in this case the
phenomenology of the 20th-century German philosopher Edmund
Husserl. Heidegger argued that humanity ﬁnds itself in an
incomprehensible, indifferent world. Human beings can never hope to
understand why they are here; instead, each individual must choose a
goal and follow it with passionate conviction, aware of the certainty of
death and the ultimate meaninglessness of one's life. Heidegger
contributed to existentialist thought an original emphasis on being and
ontology (see Metaphysics) as well as on language.
Sartre ﬁrst gave the term existentialism general currency by using it for
his own philosophy and by becoming the leading ﬁgure of a distinct
movement in France that became internationally inﬂuential after World
War II. Sartre's philosophy is explicitly atheistic and pessimistic; he
declared that human beings require a rational basis for their lives but are
unable to achieve one, and thus human life is a “futile passion.” Sartre
nevertheless insisted that his existentialism is a form of humanism, and
he strongly emphasized human freedom, choice, and responsibility. He
eventually tried to reconcile these existentialist concepts with a Marxist
analysis of society and history.
F Existentialism and
Although existentialist thought encompasses the uncompromising
atheism of Nietzsche and Sartre and the agnosticism of Heidegger, its
origin in the intensely religious philosophies of Pascal and Kierkegaard
foreshadowed its profound inﬂuence on 20th-century theology. The
20th-century German philosopher Karl Jaspers, although he rejected
explicit religious doctrines, inﬂuenced contemporary theology through
his preoccupation with transcendence and the limits of human
experience. The German Protestant theologians Paul Tillich and Rudolf
Bultmann, the French Roman Catholic theologian Gabriel Marcel, the
Russian Orthodox philosopher Nikolay Berdyayev, and the German Jewish
philosopher Martin Buber inherited many of Kierkegaard's concerns,
especially that a personal sense of authenticity and commitment is
~ 48 ~
essential to religious faith.
G Existentialism and
A number of existentialist philosophers used literary forms to convey
their thought, and existentialism has been as vital and as extensive a
movement in literature as in philosophy. The 19th-century Russian
novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky is probably the greatest existentialist literary
ﬁgure. In Notes from the Underground (1864), the alienated antihero
rages against the optimistic assumptions of rationalist humanism. The
view of human nature that emerges in this and other novels of
Dostoyevsky is that it is unpredictable and perversely self-destructive;
only Christian love can save humanity from itself, but such love cannot be
understood philosophically. As the character Alyosha says in The
Brothers Karamazov (1879-80), “We must love life more than the
meaning of it.”
In the 20th century, the novels of the Austrian Jewish writer Franz Kafka,
such as The Trial (1925; trans. 1937) and The Castle (1926; trans. 1930),
present isolated men confronting vast, elusive, menacing bureaucracies;
Kafka's themes of anxiety, guilt, and solitude reﬂect the inﬂuence of
Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, and Nietzsche. The inﬂuence of Nietzsche is
also discernible in the novels of the French writers André Malraux and in
the plays of Sartre. The work of the French writer Albert Camus is usually
associated with existentialism because of the prominence in it of such
themes as the apparent absurdity and futility of life, the indifference of
the universe, and the necessity of engagement in a just cause.
Existentialist themes are also reﬂected in the theater of the absurd,
notably in the plays of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco. In the United
States, the inﬂuence of existentialism on literature has been more
indirect and diffuse, but traces of Kierkegaard's thought can be found in
the novels of Walker Percy and John Updike, and various existentialist
themes are apparent in the work of such diverse writers as Norman
Mailer, John Barth, and Arthur Miller.
Simone de Beauvoir, Philosopher of the Self
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) had been almost totally excluded from the
philosophical canon until the 1980's, when a revival and reinterpretation
of her work by mainly feminist philosophers began. For example, she is
not mentioned in Walter Kaufmann's Existentialism from Dostoevsky to
~ 49 ~
Sartre (1956) (nor is Maurice Merleau-Ponty, though Albert Camus* is
mentioned). In Paul Edwards' comprehensive philosophical encyclopaedia,
The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (1967), the only mention is of her Ethics
of Ambiguity (1948), which is said to be important in its own right but in
relation to Jean Paul Sartre. Yet there is no further ampliﬁcation or
discussion in that source of what is said to be an important work and how
it was related to Sartre – a crucial issue. In general her putative
philosophical works are subsumed under or said to be derivative from
those of Sartre, or they are recorded as "a kind of footnote to Sartre"
(Kruks, 1990:84). In Christina Howells' (1995) The Cambridge Companion
to Sartre, she is mentioned once only and that for providing biographical
material on Sartre's reading of Husserl. Hazel Barnes, however, is a major
and early exception: "De Beauvoir is more than Sartre's interpreter"
(1959:4). She is also more than a novelist. For biographical details see
Claude Francis and Simone Gontier (1989) and Deidre Bair (1990).
It would seem that until her death in 1986 Beauvoir aided and abetted in
this general interpretation, and in a number of sources. Some feminists
maintain that she created a myth about her own philosophical
contributions to existentialism (for papers on this see the edited
collection of Simons, 1995). But this received position on the
interpretation of her philosophical work was not reopened until the
publication posthumously, by her adopted daughter Sylvie le Bon de
Beauvoir in 1990, of her Letters to Sartre. Possibly it needed the
publication of these letters to question the received position.
The issue as to whether or not she was an original philosopher seems to
hinge upon whether she had identiﬁed and articulated certain key ideas
which Sartre was later to present as his, especially in the opening pages
of Being and Nothingness (1943), or whether she merely contributed to
Sartre's ideas and work. Arguably this is the case on the notion of the
self. This issue can be pursued initially by a careful reading of her letters
to Sartre, and their war diaries during the period between October 1939
and January 1941, when she was writing L'Inviteé (translated as She Came
to Stay). This, her ﬁrst published novel, was completed in 1941 but not
published until 1943. What must also be considered is the philosophical
import of the ﬁrst three chapters, especially the ﬁrst eight pages of She
Came to Stay. Her second novel Le Sang des Autres (The Blood of Others)
is also important here. She should be considered in her own right, not as
an appendage to Sartre. We will look therefore look at some of the
philosophical ideas in her early novels – particularly the notions of self
and Other and freedom - and her approach to doing philosophy.
Beauvoir did not write academic philosophy. She had passed her
~ 50 ~
aggrégation and commenced teaching in lycées in 1929 (Latin initially,
then literature, but philosophy by 1932 [Bair 1990:180]) but as early as
age 18 she had began to write ﬁction. Some of this early ﬁction was to be
published later (Beauvoir 1968;1982). Unlike Sartre, whose philosophical
works (though not his philosophical novels and plays) were written
abstractly, and who was seeking a grand totalising philosophical system,
Beauvoir did not want to write so as to present philosophical ideas in
either an abstract manner or as divorced from actual or possible human
experience. For her, literature presented and provided a way of relating
philosophical ideas to experience (cf. Camus), particularly as it presented
a way of expressing her own experiences as part of a general
philosophical framework. Her novels can be seen as metaphysical novels,
as presenting a ﬁctional narrative in which her own experience is drawn
heavily upon, but through a philosophical or metaphysical grill (see
further, Pilardi, 1999).
There can be little doubt that she did not abandon her philosophical
background and grounding, for she even extended it - for example, she
notes her "discovery" and extended reading of Hegel in 1940 in her
letters to Sartre (eg, 13,14,16,19,24, 29 July; 29 October) to whom she
would explain Hegel in return for him reminding her of Husserl (13 July).
The frontispiece of She Came to Stay features a quotation from Hegel
(`Each consciousness pursues the death of the other'.) and she uses
some of his ideas in The Second Sex, ﬁrst published in 1949 ( eg, part I).
However she expresses early doubts on Hegel for by 8 January 1941, he
"no longer consoles me", though she begins to teach his ideas (23
January). But without Sartre to talk to on such issues as Hegel, she says
(ibid): "If I were condemned for long never to talk, I'd end up writing
philosophy, from the need to express myself." So doing philosophy was
still important at a time when She Came to Stay was completed;
philosophy in an oral dialogue was acceptable but writing it - as
academic philosophy - was for her a last resort. Writing it in some other
form, however, was far from being a last resort. For Beauvoir this meant
insight into her own life. As Hazel Barnes says of She Came to Stay
...the analysis of human relationships and personalities is more
philosophical than psychological. Perhaps de Beauvoir and her ﬁctional
counterpart [Françoise] are accustomed to think in this way about
themselves and their reactions, but most people are not as metaphysically
Beauvoir believed then that human experience and problems of personal
life should be presented to exemplify, or to show, philosophical ideas.
Although she features or appears at points in her own novels, as do her
~ 51 ~
close friends, conﬁdants and lovers, her narrative is not presented from
one personal viewpoint. The experiences and personal views of the major
characters are seen also from each of their viewpoints. In She Came to
Stay whilst her personal experiences form part of the viewpoint of
Françoise (Beauvoir) she is not necessarily writing the novel from one
personal viewpoint, for the viewpoint of each of the main characters is
presented in the ﬁrst person. In The Blood of Others however whilst all of
the viewpoints of the main characters are presented, only the viewpoint
of the main character, Jean Blomart, is presented in the ﬁrst person, and
this was probably for stylistic reasons. Nevertheless in both novels the
viewpoints of the Others are necessary for each character to be a self or
subject. The philosophical point is that the Other is necessary for the
constitution of the self or subject.
Beauvoir is to reject the notion of a solipsistic isolated self. Writing just
prior to the outbreak of WW II she says:
Little by little I had abandoned the quasi-solipsism and illusionary
autonomy I cherished as a girl of twenty; though I had come to recognise
the fact of other people's existence, it was still my individual relationships
with separate people that mattered most to me, and I still yearned ﬁercely
for freedom. Then suddenly, History burst over me, and I dissolved into
fragments. I woke to ﬁnd myself scattered over the four corners of the
globe, linked by every nerve in me to each and every other individual
(Beauvoir, 1965: 369)
In She Came to Stay the body is not a mere object or thing but is always
experienced reality -"my heart is beating - I am here". Elsewhere and
some years later she is to say explicitly: "It is not the body-object
described by biologists that actually exists but the body as lived in by the
subject" (Beauvoir, 1989: 38). So a human being exists not merely in a
body as an object, but as a body subject to human institutions and
constraints so that the subject is both conscious of itself as a subject and
obtains fulﬁlment. For her one can never be a mere biological body as
there is always a dimension of meaning. Thus:
...we must view the facts of biology in the light of an ontological,
economic, social and psychological context...there is no true living reality
except as manifested by the conscious individual through activities and in
the bosom of society (Beauvoir, 1989: 36f.).
In a nightclub scene in She Came to Stay she explores various
possibilities for "experiencing" the body. First we can identify the notion
of consciousness of the body as lived in by the subject when Xavière does
things to her arm and, whilst touching her eyelashes, talks to herself.
Then there is the body of a young women in feathers as perceived by her
~ 52 ~
male companion who has pounced on her hand, ie, the body as an object
for the other subject. Her body is perceived by the other, the man, but
she rejects this "objectiﬁcation" of her body as being part of her
experience of her body because it becomes a thing. And a young woman
talking about ﬂirting is perceiving the body of the man - she is staring at
him - but at the same time rejecting the notion of her body as potential
object for the other subjectivity. This is again the body as object for a
subject. Now the reality of the subject's lived experience must include
both the experience of the lived body as part of one's own subjectivity,
and the experience of the lived body as object of another subjectivity. To
dissociate or to deny this dual aspect of experience was to be in bad faith
for Beauvoir. (Sartre is later to use the girl in the feathers example as an
illustration of bad faith, unacknowledged, in Being and Nothingnes).
The ideal coordination for the exempliﬁcation of good faith would take
place when there was an identity between the two subjectivities - the
body as lived in and as part of one's own subjectivity, and the body as an
object belonging to another subjectivity. The young woman in feathers
presents an example of a severe disjunction between the two
subjectivities. For Beauvoir the self is a fusion of mind and body and
consciousness is prereﬂective and intentional, directed to objects in the
external world, including her body. But this consciousness does not
require talk between subjects. The subject is aware of the other body as
object and is aware from the look of the other that her or his body is an
object of the other subject. The social Other sees both subjectivity and
objectivity in the other as a reciprocal relationship.This is not the Other
as alienated from the self as in the early Sartre.
In The Blood of Others Beauvoir develops similar themes on the self but
the situation of this novel is heightened because of the involvement of
the main characters in the resistance. Beauvoir was disappointed that
this, her second published novel, was to be interpreted as a resistance
novel. In other words, from my reading, the philosophical content on the
self and the other was not seen as important. This is a metaphysical novel
but one which progresses from her ﬁrst novel because the notion of
identity must now include some political commitment which is not merely
intellectual and inert, for there must be some active participation in
accordance with that intellectual commitment.
At the end of the novel Hélène, the lover of Jean Blomart is dying from
wounds suffered in a resistance attack upon the German forces occupying
Paris. As Jean sits with her in almost total silence as she is dying, he not
only recognises his love for her but also recognises from her, and in her
silence, that in order to establish his own identity he must commit
~ 53 ~
himself to the next planned resistance operation, that is, that he must
abandon forever his own intellectual but non-participatory stance
towards political matters, held because of a fatal accident caused to a
friend in an earlier demonstration. In realising that her approbation of
him is so important for his own identity, and for her identity too, as he
recognises both his love for her and what he has to become, Jean deﬁnes
himself as both politically committed and actively involved in the
resistance, even though the activities of the resistance will lead to
pointless reprisals upon innocent French people. To a certain extent this
represents existentialist angst, and to that extent the novel can be seen
as both existentialist and philosophical. But any such restricted reading
ignores the metaphysical aspects in this novel which impinge upon the
deﬁnition of the self and the other.
Was it Beauvoir then who had laid out some of the crucial philosophical
concepts of "Sartrean" existentialism by at least 1940, for it is in the ﬁrst
opening pages of her ﬁrst novel that her own philosophical ideas are to
be found and outlined? And these ideas are repeated and further
developed in her second novel – The Blood of Others, and they continue
into The Mandarins and All Men are Mortal. No doubt it can be countered
that it was Sartre's ideas that were developed for they had collaborated
for several years by then, and Sartre had read and commented upon the
drafts her manuscript. And they were discussing Sartre's philosophical
ideas (eg, The Prime of Life [Beauvoir, 1965:434). In any case it might be
argued that what Beauvoir was later to develop in The Second Sex was a
notion of the gendered self.
Existential Primer: Jean-Paul Sartre
Before commenting upon Jean-Paul Sartre's published works, it is
important to offer some background information. Sartre's philosophical
position evolved, along with his politics. Any attempt to place Sartre's
works in context is likely to fail in the limited space available, due to his
complex nature. Further complicating matters, Sartre, like most
philosophers, developed his own lexicon. While Sartre might use the
same terms as another writer, he often intended a unique deﬁnition. The
most important term promoted by Sartre was "existentialism," a term
borrowed from Karl Jaspers.
Walter Kaufmann recognized Sartre's occasional lack of clarity, stating
~ 54 ~
that "at times he is misled by words and writes what is no longer
meaningful." Maybe Sartre tried too hard to express his views in some
instances, in part due to an enthusiasm for philosophical debate.
Being misled is one matter. Misleading others is quite different. It is
important to understand that Sartre alternately valued intentions, actions,
and results; at least in his writings and lectures. Evidence exists,
however, demonstrating a personal profound lack of respect for
intentions and, at times, even the truth. Sartre found nothing wrong in
lying or intentionally misrepresenting the theories of others. Among the
victims of Sartre's willingness to avoid facts were Martin Heidegger, Karl
Jaspers, and other philosophers. Sartre stated Jaspers was a Catholic,
which he wasn't, and that Heidegger was an existential atheist, which
Heidegger denied in a series of angry letters. Sartre wanted so much to
solidify his own positions, that truth was sometimes sacriﬁced.
If he was not always honest, it was partly because honesty was a luxury
he could not afford. - Sartre; Hayman, p. 13
Why was, and is, Sartre inﬂuential? As biographer Ronald Hayman
explains, it was not due to the quality of his literary works, even though
Sartre is usually considered a "writer" by most scholars.
As a playwright Sartre was highly successful but less innovative and less
signiﬁcant than Beckett or Ionesco. As a novelist Sartre completed only
one work, Nausea, his other three novels being parts of an unﬁnished
tetralogy. The bulk of his writing time was devoted to political journalism
and biography, but he can hardly be called a journalist, while his
biographies of Baudelaire, Genet, and Flaubert are not biographies in the
usual sense of the term.... he had to earn his living as a schoolteacher
until 1944, when he was almost forty. - Sartre; Hayman, p. 16
Sartre's fame and inﬂuence are the result of self-promotion. He was a
celebrity, especially in France.
The Core of Sartre's Existentialism
Trying to deﬁne the core of Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism is beyond
my abilities. Instead, I have chosen to rely upon the efforts of others. As
previously mentioned, I place the confusion concerning Sartre's works at
the philosopher's own feet -- I could easily tangle his various deﬁnitions
of "existentialism" into an incoherent mass of words. Still, Sartre
popularized the term. Sartre's inﬂuence upon the school of philosophy
broadly known as "existentialism" has been summarized by professor
Walter Kaufmann as follows:
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It is mainly through the work of Jean-Paul Sartre that existentialism has
come to the attention of a wide international audience. Even Heidegger's
great prestige in Germany after the second World War is due, in no small
part, to his tremendous impact on French Thought. Nevertheless, Sartre is
widely considered a mere littérateur, and in the nineteen hundred and
ﬁfties is has become much more fashionable to criticize him, or rather
dismiss him, than to take him seriously, let alone praise him. Oddly, it is
widely argued against him that he is in some way strikingly unacademic,
as it academic existentialism were not a contradiction in terms. -
Existentialism; Kaufmann, p. 40
What often troubles academic audiences is that Sartre deﬁned
existentialism in a simplistic manner. One must question if something
must be complex to be accepted by this audience. However, the over-
simpliﬁcation of Sartre's own philosophical system is often apparent:
Existentialism maintains that in man, and in man alone, existence
This simply means that man ﬁrst is, and only subsequently is this or that.
In a word, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into
the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually deﬁnes
himself. And the deﬁnition always remains open ended: we cannot say
what this man is before he dies, or what mankind is before it has
disappeared. - From "A propos de l'existentialisme: Mise au point," Action
Magazine, December 29, 1944
Many people wrongly quote "existence precedes essence" as if that
summarizes existentialism. Sartre was merely stating that man, as the
only sentient being on earth, was forced to deﬁne who he was through
living, while objects are what they are until destroyed. With our ability to
think, grow, and change, mankind is in the unique position of deﬁning
itself. We are each in charge of deﬁning our own lives.
In a certain sense, Sartre's deﬁnition of existentialism simply radicalizes a
view that is very common among most social scientists: that there are no
instincts that cause speciﬁc actions.
There are always alternatives to anything that counts as human action.
For Sartre, this is always true, even when we feel that there are no
alternatives. - Sartre for Beginners; Palmer, p. 26
In today's world of "New Age" beliefs and enthusiasm for Eastern
philosophies, it is interesting that in 1956 Kaufmann compared Sartre's
existentialism to the teachings of the Buddha. Not that the two
personalities are alike, Kaufmann carefully noted. Sartre was never at
peace; he challenged anything and thought an existentialist must pursue
~ 56 ~
life. The Buddha's teachings are more disposed toward accepting life and
adapting to it.
Nevertheless, the Buddha, too, opposed any reliance on the divine
because he wanted men to realize their complete responsibility. His ﬁnal,
and perhaps most characteristic, words, according to tradition were:
"Work out your own salvation with diligence." And if the diligence is rather
uncharacteristic of the existentialists, the Buddha's still more radical
dictum with which the Dhammapada opens is nothing less than the
quintessence of Sartre's thought: "All that we are is the result of what we
Few words in world literature equal the impact of this saying. All man's
alibis are unacceptable: no gods are responsible for his condition; no
original sin; no heredity and no environment.... - Existentialism;
Kaufmann, p. 46
If you can think, you have free will. Sartre viewed this as the human
condition. While concerned primarily with human beings -- or at least
sentient beings -- Sartre's existentialism does address other creatures
and objects. It is obvious that to understand humans one must ﬁrst
understand other objects. Sartre's study of the universe grew from the
phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. Take Sartre's notion that "in man,
and in man alone" there is ﬁrst the body, then an essence is deﬁned
through actions. Now, reverse this for all other objects and Sartre's view
of the universe is clear: essence precedes existence for all objects; they
have meaning then form.
~ 57 ~
Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein
1. He Liked His Feet Naked
"When I was young, I found out that the big toe always ends up making a
hole in the sock," he once said. "So I stopped wearing socks." Einstein was
also a fanatical slob, refusing to "dress properly" for anyone. Either
people knew him or they didn't, he reasoned - so it didn't matter either
2. He Hated Scrabble
Aside from his favourite past-time sailing ("the sport which demands the
least energy"), Einstein shunned any recreational activity that required
mental agility. As he told the New York Times, "When I get through with
work I don't want anything that requires the working of the mind."
3. He Was A Rotten Speller
Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully
bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of
"the treacherous spelling". He never lost his distinctive German accent
either, summed up by his catch-phrase "I vill a little t'ink".
4. He Loathed Science Fiction
Lest it distort pure science and give people the false illusion of scientiﬁc
understanding, he recommended complete abstinence from any type of
science ﬁction. "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." He
also thought people who claimed to have seen ﬂying saucers should keep
it to themselves.
5. He Smoked Like A Chimney
A life member of the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club, Einstein was quoted as
saying: "Pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective
judgment of human affairs." He once fell into the water during a boating
expedition but managed heroically to hold on to his pipe.
6. He Wasn't Much Of A Musician
Einstein would relax in his kitchen with his trusty violin, stubbornly trying
~ 58 ~
to improvise something of a tune. When that didn't work, he'd have a
crack at Mozart.
7. Alcohol Was Not His Preferred Drug
At a press conference upon his arrival to New York in 1930, he said
jokingly of Prohibition: "I don't drink, so it's all the same to me." In fact,
Einstein had been an outspoken critic of "passing laws which cannot be
8. He Equated Monogamy With Monotony
"All marriages are dangerous," he once told an interviewer. "Marriage is
the unsuccessful attempt to make something lasting out of an incident."
He was notoriously unfaithful as a husband, prone to falling in love with
somebody else directly after the exchanging of vows.
9. His Memory Was Shot
Believing that birthdays were for children, his attitude is summed up in a
letter he wrote to his girlfriend Mileva Maric: "My dear little sweetheart ...
ﬁrst, my belated cordial congratulations on your birthday yesterday,
which I forgot once again."
10. His Cat Suffered Depression
Fond of animals, Einstein kept a housecat which tended to get depressed
whenever it rained. Ernst Straus recalls him saying to the melancholy cat:
"I know what's wrong, dear fellow, but I don't know how to turn it off."
Tycho Brahe's Nose And The Story Of His Pet Moose
Since the autumn 1566 Tycho Brahe was studying at the university of
Rostock in Germany.
Here happened an accident that is very famous.
A part of the bridge of his nose was cut off in a duel by rapiers, and he
had a metal piece attached in its place.
This gave Tycho Brahe a very special look for the rest of his life.
~ 59 ~
A detailed account of the nose incident can also be found in the book
"Tycho Brahe, the man and his work" (original in latin), by Pierre Gassendi
1654. This book was translated to swedish and commented by Wilhelm
"The 10th of december 1566 there was a dance at Lucas Bacmeisters
house in the connection to a wedding. Lucas Bacmeister was a professor
of theology at the univeristy of Rostock where Tycho studied. Among the
guests were Tycho Brahe and another danish nobleman, Manderup
Parsberg. They started an argument and they separated in anger. The
27th of december this argument started again, and in the evening of the
29th of december a duel was held. It was around 7 in the evening and in
darkness. Parsberg gives Tycho a cut over his nose that took away almost
the front part of his nose. Tycho had an artiﬁcial nose made, not from
wax, but from an alloy of gold and silver[*] and put it on so skillfully, that
it looked like a real nose Wilhelm Janszoon Blaeu, who spent time with
Tycho for nearly two years, also said that Tycho used to carry a small box
with a paste or glue, with which he often would put on the nose."
Gassendi also writes that Laurus (a professor in Perugia, and later
protonotarius for the pope) gives the reason for the argument between
Tycho and Parsberg in one of his letters. The reason should have been an
argument about who was most skilled in mathmatics. However, Norlind
points out that Gassendi has either received a wrong account of this
letter, or misinterpreted it, because Laurus only writes that "Not so long
ago, Tycho Brahe and a danish nobleman had competed in studying
mathematics and other higher sciences". There is nothing mentioned
however that this should have been the reason for the argument and later
the duel. Gassendis statement that it was an argument about who was the
most skilled mathematician has however been cited many times in later
The hostility between Tycho and Parsberg was however not lasting, and
Parsberg was one of Tychos supporters under the danish king Christian
[*] Per Sörbom adds in "Tycho Brahe - a passionate astronomer" (see
links) that when Tycho Brahe's grave was opened June 24 1901, there
were clear green marks at the front of his cranium, so the metal piece of
his artiﬁcial nose must have had a signiﬁcant amount of copper also.
~ 60 ~
Tycho Brahe's Pet Moose
Another famous story about Tycho Brahe is about his tame moose.
Gassendi is one of the biographers who writes about this. The following
is an edited translation from Gassendi.
Lantgrave Wilhelm of Kassel in Germany, with whom Tycho Brahe had an
extensive mail correspondence and astronomical discussions, asked
Tycho in a letter 1591 about an animal he had heard about called "Rix",
which was faster than a deer, but with smaller horns. Tycho replied that
such an animal did not exist, but maybe he meant the norwegian animal
called reindeer. Tycho wrote that he would check further details about
such animals and if he could perhaps send one. He wrote that he had a
young moose, that he could send if the Lantgrave would like. The
Lantgrave replied that he had owned reindeers before but they had died
of the heat, he also had a moose, which was tame and followed him like a
dog. He would gladly accept a tame moose from Tycho, and would in
such case reward Tycho with a riding horse for the trouble.
Tycho replies that he would order additional moose, and he would have
sent his tame one, had it not died shortly before. It had been transported
to the castle of Landskrona, a city close to Hven, to entertain a nobleman
there. But it had happened that during the dinner, the moose had
ascended the castle stairs and drunk of the beer in such amounts, that it
had fallen down the stairs, and broken a leg. Despite the best care, the
moose had died shortly thereafter.
Fun Astronomy Facts
Humans have watched the skies since ancient times, engaging in an early
form of astronomy since at least 2000 B.C.E. The earliest astronomers
came from Babylon, China, Greece, Italy, India, and Egypt, and observed
the skies solely with the naked eye.
Astronomers thought our solar system was the center of the universe
until 1918, when American astronomer Harlow Shapley determined this
was false by studying the distribution of star clusters. The existence of
other galaxies was not proved until 1924, when American astronomer
Edwin Powell Hubble identiﬁed the Andromeda galaxy, and others, with
the aid of a powerful 100-inch telescope.
~ 61 ~
A star begins as a cloud of dust and gas, which condenses to form a
single star, a two-star system also known as a binary star, or a star
The ﬁrst telescope was built in the early 1600s, by Dutch lens-grinder
The ﬁrst asteroid to be discovered was Ceres, in 1801. It is believed there
are millions of asteroids in our solar system, but only about 264,000
have been identiﬁed, and only about 12,136 of those have been named.
A comet looks like a dirty snowball until it approaches the Sun--a
comet’s nucleus only shines when reﬂecting the Sun’s light, and the
comet’s head and tail don’t form until the Sun’s heat causes dust and gas
According to some estimates, approximately 19,000 meteorites weighing
about 3.5 ounces each shower the Earth every day, but only about 10 are
recovered each year.
The ﬁrst solar ﬂares were recorded on Sept. 1, 1859, by scientists
Richard C. Carrington and Richard Hodgson.
The Sun is the largest object in the solar system, and constitutes over 99
percent of the solar system’s mass.
A star’s color depends on its temperature: blue stars have the highest
temperatures, followed by yellow-white stars, and ﬁnally by red stars,
which have the coolest temperatures.
Quotes by Galileo
➢ I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us
with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
➢ Wine is sunlight, held together by water.
➢ I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something
➢ In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the
humble reasoning of a single individual.
~ 62 ~
➢ All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is
to discover them.
➢ I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the
most eminent degree; 'That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach
us how one goes to heaven, not how the heaven goes.'
➢ And yet ... it moves. Galileo (Attributed after signing a recantation of
the theory that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar
➢ Philosophy is written in this grand book - I mean the universe - which
stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood
unless one ﬁrst learns to comprehend the language and interpret the
characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of
mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other
geometrical ﬁgures, without which it is humanly impossible to
understand a single word of it.
Quotes by Simone de Beauvoir
➢ If her functioning as a female is not enough to deﬁne woman, if we
decline also to explain her through 'the eternal feminine', and if
nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we
must face the question "what is a woman"?
➢ Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once
setting up the Other over against itself. If three travellers chance to
occupy the same compartment, that is enough to make vaguely hostile
'others' out of all the rest of the passengers on the train. In small-town
eyes all persons not belonging to the village are 'strangers' and
suspect; to the native of a country all who inhabit other countries are
'foreigners'; Jews are 'different' for the anti-Semite, Negroes are
'inferior' for American racists, aborigines are 'natives' for colonists,
proletarians are the 'lower class' for the privileged.
➢ The parallel drawn by Bebel between women and the proletariat is valid
in that neither ever formed a minority or a separate collective unit of
mankind. And instead of a single historical event it is in both cases a
historical development that explains their status as a class and
accounts for the membership of particular individuals in that class. But
proletarians have not always existed, whereas there have always been
~ 63 ~
women. They are women in virtue of their anatomy and physiology.
Throughout history they have always been subordinated to men, and
hence their dependency is not the result of a historical event or a social
change - it was not something that occurred. The reason why
otherness in this case seems to be an absolute is in part that it lacks
the contingent or incidental nature of historical facts.
➢ Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven
to show that the subordinate position of woman is willed in heaven and
advantageous on earth. The religions invented by men reﬂect this wish
for domination. In the legends of Eve and Pandora men have taken up
arms against women. They have made use of philosophy and theology,
as the quotations from Aristotle and St Thomas have shown.
➢ .... yesterday night, I felt I was falling in the bottom of a dark deadly pit
and I struggled for two hours in fever and anguish and a kind of
➢ Woman's brain is smaller; yes, but it is relatively larger. Christ was
made a man; yes, but perhaps for his greater humility. Each argument
at once suggests its opposite, and both are often fallacious.(the second
"Einstein and Copernicus"
Thomas Einstein liked to dabble in science. Although he spent his days
teaching fourth graders how to do long division and understand
fractions, his nights were spent in his basement where he mixed
solutions, joined wires, solved 23-inch long mathematical problems, and
did all the other various scientiﬁc experiments necessary to be a famous
~ 64 ~
Einstein was currently working on his latest project, the time travel
telephone, when he heard the doorbell ring. He pushed a button, which
allowed Gertrude Copernicus, his ﬁancé, to enter. She found him minutes
later with his head draped over circuits and telephone wire.
"Einstein, do stop your inventing now, dear, and take me to dinner," she
said. "It is way past our agreed upon time."
Einstein's head remained at the very same position, for in truth, he was
seriously wrapped up in his telephone wire.
"Einstein, dear, do come out from there," Copernicus insisted. With an
elaborate sigh, she carefully extricated his head from the wire. She led
him gently away from his basement lab and up into the world of
McDonald's and food.
The two enjoyed their evening out, but were startled and horriﬁed to
discover when they returned that a burglar had stolen all the plans for the
almost ﬁnished time travel telephone.
Einstein was calm. He tried to comfort poor Copernicus. "It's all right,
dear. I don't mind," he said. "I had already solved all the telephone's
He patted Copernicus' shoulder. "Actually, it's quite lucky in fact. Now I
can start in at once on my spaceship capable of speed of light travel."
Copernicus began to cry harder. "But darling. You forget! The time travel
telephone was to have provided us with enough money to get married!"
She gulped back another sob.
Einstein told her excitedly about his newest research into space travel. "It
will make us rich. Don't worry, my darling."
At once he set to work. Poor Copernicus had to let herself out. She was
upset and frustrated, but she trusted Einstein.
Time passed. A man named Albert Edison invented the world's ﬁrst time
traveling telephone. He grew rich on the proceeds. Gertrude Copernicus
Meanwhile, Einstein invented his spaceship capable of traveling faster
than the speed of light. Copernicus was thrilled! Now they could get
~ 65 ~
That night they celebrated. When they returned, they found that the
spaceship and all its plans had disappeared!
Copernicus was desolated! She knew Albert Edison was the spy who had
ferreted out her beloved Einstein's plans.
That night while Einstein began work on his latest invention, the world's
ﬁrst robotic cook, Copernicus set out to trap the horrid thief. She used
one of Einstein's previous inventions, the sonic beautiﬁer to change her
hair and eye coloring and to give her that special allure that all heroines
have. Then, quickly she rode her bicycle to Edison's house.
When she arrived, she knocked at the door. Edison opened it, and was
immediately captivated by Copernicus' beauty and style. He invited her in
Copernicus sat down to chat. Within minutes Edison was under her spell.
He could not keep his lips from dribbling out their secrets. Lost in love,
he admitted to stealing the telephone and the space ship.
"I have chosen the life of the villain, Sweet Copernicus," he told her. "It is
true, all true." He wept on her shoulder, and then continued. "It is
because, alas, I could never ﬁnd a woman like you. I thought if I were rich
and famous that someone wonderful would ﬁnally love me."
~ 66 ~
Copernicus felt sorry for Edison, but she called the police, anyway. They
arrived with their sirens screaming, their lights ﬂashing, and their
officiousness in residence. A tear fell from Copernicus' eyes as they
carted poor, wicked Edison off to jail.
When Einstein heard the whole story, he gladly traded his spaceship and
time traveling telephone to Edison in exchange for a promise that the
villain would never again do evil.
Due to such leniency (and the fact that all charges were dropped)
Copernicus introduced Edison to her sister, Galileo, and the four of them
became the best of friends (of course, the sisters were already friends).
The next day Einstein sold the new robotic cook. And just as he had
promised, it brought Copernicus and Einstein so much money that they
were able to marry and live happily ever after.
~ 67 ~