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Throughout New Heavens and a New Earth are deft historical studies of such colorful figures as Joseph Delmedigo, the first Jewish Copernican and a student of Galileo's; Tuviah Cohen, who called Copernicus the "Son of Satan;" Zelig Slonimski, author of a collection of essays on Halley's Comet; and contemporary Jewish thinkers who use Einstein's Theory of Relativity to argue that the Earth does not actually revolve around the sun. Brown also provides insightful comparisons of concurrent Jewish and Christian writings on Copernicus, demonstrating that the Jewish reception of Copernicus was largely dependent on local factors and responses.
The book concludes with the important lessons to be learned from the history of the Jewish reception of Copernican thought, and shows how religions make room for new scientific descriptions of reality while upholding their most cherished beliefs.
Jeremy Brown is associate professor of emergency medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington DC. He has written for Discover Magazine, and his op-ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.