Posts Tagged 'table talk'

Copernicus and the Lutherans

Luther's room where he engaged in 'table talk' over meals with his students

It never ceases to amaze how scientific myths manage to get recycled ad nauseam. We have all heard the absurd myth that people once believed the earth was flat, but then (since characters are involved) there is the more mischievous myth that the Protestant Reformers, Luther and Calvin, vehemently opposed Copernicus. In truth, you will find nothing in their writings, their letters, their sermons or any other productions where Copernicus is even mentioned. But, amazingly, in textbooks you will find that “Luther attacked Copernicus” (Berman and Evans, Exploring the Cosmos).

I recently read a comment stating that Martin Luther called Copernicus “the fool who will turn the whole science of astronomy upside down” and that Copernicus found it difficult to get his work published by the University at Wittenberg, and that his supporters found it difficult to get or retain jobs there.

You will search in vain within the large corpus of Luther’s works to find the abovementioned quote, or anything like it. If anyone has the candour to give a reference it will finally be traced back to an entry in the Tischreden or ‘table talk’, which contains a lot of highly entertaining but doubtless embellished and spurious material that purports to be things Luther said at the dinner table. These sayings were written down by dinner guests decades later and are practically worthless as a historical source.

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