There are 5 scientists that are recognized as major astronomical figures in Europe:
- Nicholas Copernicus (February 19, 1473-May 24, 1543)
- Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564-January 8, 1642)
- Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571-November 15, 1630)
- Tycho Brahe (December 14, 1546-October 24, 1601)
- Isaac Newton (December 25, 1642-March 20, 1727)
Of the 5 of these people, 3 of them were alive and active at the same time (Galelio, Kepler and Brahe).
Nicholas Copernicus, in particular contributed a lot to out understanding of the Solar system. It was he who popularized the idea of a Heliocentric model of the solar system. He gave a series of assumptions which explained things such as Sunrise, sunset, star motion, retrograde motion etc. Even though some of his assumptions are incorrect according to modern science, they were still such good approximations that all that was needed was Galileo’s little struggles to put the final nail in geocentric theory’s coffin.
During his time, the world was undergoing some serious changes. The Americas were discovered in 1492, a discovery that literally changed the face of the earth (according to humans, at least). In 1526 King Babur, the great grandson of Tamerlane defeated the Lodhi Dynasty to establish the mighty Mughal Empire in the Indian Subcontinent. His victory marked the first use of cannons in India (that was why he won, mostly). While Copernicus was busy reforming our view of the universe, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was writing what would become one of the most recognized pieces of literature in the world. He is considered to be the greatest writer in English language and a trendsetter in literature of many other languages as well.
What I found so interesting was how differently I perceived scientific history from political history. Comparing astronomers to Columbus’s voyage makes astronomy seem really old (and the Americas really new). It was also a surprise to realize that the heliocentric model of the solar system was proposed before such a famous Empire was formed. Now the Taj Mahal seems like it was built yesterday.