‘Full of misgivings as to what might be the result, he refrained from publishing his book for thirty-six years, thinking that “perhaps it might be better to follow the examples of the Pythagoreans and others, who delivered their doctrine only by tradition and to friends.” At the entreaty of Cardinal Schomberg he at length published it in 1543. A copy of it was brought to him on his death-bed. Its fate was such as he had anticipated. The Inquisition condemned it as heretical. In their decree, prohibiting it, the Congregation of the Index denounced his system as “that false Pythagorean doctrine utterly contrary to the Holy Scriptures.”
Astronomers justly affirm that the book of Copernicus, “De Revolutionibus,” changed the face of their science. It incontestably established the heliocentric theory. It showed that the distance of the fixed stars is infinitely great, and that the earth is a mere point in the heavens. Anticipating Newton, Copernicus imputed gravity to the sun, the moon, and heavenly bodies, but he was led astray by assuming that the celestial motions must be circular. Observations on the orbit of Mars, and his different diameters at different times, had led Copernicus to his theory.’
History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. By John William Draper. Published 1875 by D. Appleton and company, New York.. Ch. VI.