Quotation for the week: Copernicus

A famous phrase here from Copernicus’s Preface to De Revolutionibus, in which he encourages Pope Paul III not to listen to “babblers” who criticise his work without being qualified:

Mathemata mathematicis scribuntur.

Mathematics is written for mathematicians.

(Actually, the word here translated as “mathematics” doesn’t mean what we now call “mathematics” — as with that St Augustine quotation, it might be better to render the phrase as “Astronomy is written for astronomers”, as in this translation. That, however, would deprive the long-suffering partners and families of mathematicians of the pleasure of capping the quotation with “and that’s the precisely the problem with it.”)

(DP)

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