Nicolaus Copernicus, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. Nuremburg, 1543. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

In 1543, a book was published which would radically transform human understanding of the universe and of our place within it. When the Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus conjectured that the Sun and not the Earth lay at the centre of the cosmos, he challenged not only humankind’s relationship to space, but also to God: if the earth was not at the centre of His creation, were its creatures not as important in His eyes as they had thought?

This page of his De Revolutionibus draws a model of the planetary motions in which ‘Sol’ makes up the fixed central point of the cosmographical sphere. The model suffered much resistance and suppression, but ultimately came to replace the geocentric model that had prevailed for centuries.