Missing Person

Contemporary portraits from the sixteenth century depict nearly all of the key figures in Copernicus's life story - his fellow astronomers and churchmen, the printer who published his magnum opus, a few friends and family, the enemies who opposed him, and the royalty who commanded his allegiance. The sole and surprising exception -  the missing face in the portrait gallery - belongs to his lone disciple, Georg Joachim Rheticus, the brilliant mathematician who traveled five hundred miles from Germany to northern Poland to seek out Copernicus and convince him to publish his novel cosmology. The absence of any such likeness belies the fact that Rheticus authored several of his own well regarded mathematical treatises, paid formal visits to prominent scholars in foreign countries, and lived, despite his own dire predictions, to the age of sixty years.

Last week I thought I saw him in Bristol at The Watershed.

The actor from the Show of Strength Theatre Company who took the part of Rheticus in a staged reading of scenes from "And the Sun Stood Still" gave such an earnest portrayal as to imprint his face on the character.

The actor who played the Bishop, on the other hand, was far too handsome for the part, though his performance perfectly captured the character's demanding attitude and demeaning treatment of Copernicus.

As for our stage Copernicus, a retired physicist with no previous acting experience, his zeal for the role was exceeded only by his mastery of the subject matter. Many thanks to Andrew Kelly of the Bristol Festival of Ideas for organizing this most enjoyable event.