Science history at its best is passionate, original, and controversial - a perfect description of the work of Owen Gingerich. Physicist, historian of science, and tireless sleuth, Gingerich is internationally respected for his rigorous scholarship and well-known for his challenging views. His work has had a profound effect on the history of science, disputing prevalent notions of the Copernican revolution, revising interpretations of Kepler's work, and redefining Newton.
The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler is a provocative Gingerich collection, focusing on the transformation of astronomy from Ptolemy's geocentrism to Kepler's remolding of Copernican cosmology. In 25 bracing essays, it uncovers the subtle and surprising ways in which raw data, interpretation, and creativity propel science.
Several of Gingerich's favorite themes are illuminated: the importance of historical context, the careful examination of scientific work habits, and the role of creativity and artistry in science.
Did Ptolemy fake his data or merely, as many other scientists have done, mold them into a consistent form without intent to deceive? Was Copernicus's heliocentrism an inevitable response to crisis-ridden Ptolemaic cosmology, or was it an original, unexpected leap of imagination? Are scientific discoveries merely the unveiling of physical reality, or are they more akin to artists' creativity?
The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler includes Gingerich's influential essay on crisis versus aesthetic in the Copernican revolution, a thought-provoking look at Newton's Principia as a work of art, and one of Gingerich's most popular pieces, "The Computer versus Kepler," in which an IBM 7094 handles in seconds a computational problem that occupied the German astronomer for years.
Here is science history at its best: astute detective work that demolishes popular notions, sensitivity to context and personality, meticulous scholarship, and elegant writing. In short, classic Gingerich.