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The programme is about the conflict of the pantheistic idea that the heavens themselves were divine and an alternative idea - that the universe is a machine whose intricacy and immensity testified... to the goodness and glory of God who created it. Following this theme, Dr. Colin Russell, Reader in the History of Science and Technology at the Open University examines various pre-Copernican interpretations of the motion of heavenly bodies. With the aid of models he demonstrates the Greek concepts of circular motion of the excentric, the equant and the epicycle as well as the views of Plato and Aristotle.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AMST283, Science and belief: from Copernicus to Darwin
Item code: AMST283; 01
First transmission date: 06-02-1974
Published: 1974
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:20
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Producer: David Jackson
Contributor: Colin Russell
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Astronomical models; Astronomy; Pantheism; Ptolemy; Universe
Footage description: Titles over graphics showing moon and stars. Music from Haydn's 'Creation' - 'The Heavens are telling...' Colin Russell introduces the theme of the programme, which is to set the scene for the 'Copernican Revolution'. A film sequence shows stars, sunset and sunrise over a cornfield, and Stonehenge. Russell first discusses Babylonian astronomy. Shots of a cuneiform tablet, and the Ziggurat of Ur. An animated sequence shows the retrograde motion of Mars against the sky. Shots of a 15th century Armillary Sphere. (Details of the seven astronomical models used in the programme are given in the Broadcast notes.) Russell next considers the achievement of the Greeks. First he mentions the ideas of Democritus. Shots of a kinetic simulator in which ball bearings are used to show the movement of atoms. He outlines Pythagorean mathematics and the astronomical theories it produced. Another model demonstrates this. A third model shows the celestial sphere and the ecliptic, giving the motion of the sun. He explains the Eudoxan theory of retrograde motion. Model of this. Graphics of lunar eclipses. Next Russell explains the three main planetary devices introduced by Ptolemy; the excentric and equant, demonstrated on one model, and the epicycle, on another. The Ptolemaic system accounted for- all observed phenomena. Popular views of the universe in the Middle Ages were derived from Aristotle. Russell summarises them with the aid of the seventh model. He describes Dante's vision of the universe: shots from a plate illustrating the 'Divine Comedy'. Summarising the position of Renaissance man, he leads into discussion of Copernicus. Portrait of him, and diagrams of the Copernican universe. Credits, closing music from 'The Creation'.
Master spool number: 6HT/71194
Production number: 00525_3109
Videofinder number: 3348
Available to public: no