This week in history: Roman Catholic Church declares heliocentric theory wrong, Biosphere 2 begins its mission, and paper is invented Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.
March 5th, 1616– We are the center of the universe, right?
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) wrote the book “On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres” (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium) in 1543, stating that the sun is the middle of the universe. This heliocentric theory gained ire from the Catholic Church. They believed that the Earth, not the sun, was the center of the universe. The geocentric theory derives from the religious thoughts that the man was created by God as the center of all things. To avoid controversy, the book’s dedication is to the pope.
Copernicus died shortly after the publishing of his book, but Galileo took up the research and published his findings (which supported the Copernican theory) in 1616. Following this, the church issued a decree against the theories and put Galileo on trial by the Roman Inquisition.
Learn more about what the ancients knew with The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy
March 6th, 1994 — Biosphere 2 opened for exploration
Out of the dusty paths of the Oracle, Arizona landscape, a futuristic group of buildings called “Biosphere 2.” Owned by University of Arizona for the past six years, the complex serves as an ecological research lab (or vivarium). It hold the title for “largest closed system ever created.”
Originally built to demonstrate the viability of a closed ecosystem in outer space, the complex also explores the interactions of life systems in five different biomes. Split between rain forest, ocean with coral reef, mangrove wetlands, savannah grassland and a fog habitat, there are also areas for agriculture, human habitat and a below-ground infrastructure. Twice was the complex used as a closed-system experiment, the second mission starting on March 6, 1994.
Learn more about how Biosphere 2 works and more with The Big History of Civilizations
March 11th, 105 AD — Jot this down, will you?
Paper. Most folks use it in one form or another every day, be it in notebooks or as a sticky pad to leave a memo. Ancient Egyptians created papyrus and velum, early writing surfaces, but who invented paper as we know it today? That would be the Chinese.
The earliest form of paper has been dated back to the Western Han Dynasty out of hemp. This disintegrated quickly, and was difficult to write on. The Eastern Han Dynasty improved the mastery of paper creation in 105 AD by using bamboo fibers, tree bark and water to pound into a pulp and let dry. This created paper as known today.