Giordano Bruno was a man long before his time when he suggested not only that the sun was the center of the solar system, but that the sun was only one of an infinite number of stars in the universe and that each of those stars had planets revolving around them. When did he say this stuff? He was arrested and imprisoned in 1592 for heresy and put to death by burning at the stake in 1600. This all happened before the telescope was invented and it wouldn't be until 1995 when the first extrasolar planet was discovered (51 Pegasi b). It is denied by the church that his astronomical beliefs were the reason for his arrest and execution, but his views were contrary to those taught in the bible. His works were placed on the List of Prohibited Books in 1603.
Why do I bring this up? I found this story to be fascinating when I heard on the Science Channel yesterday afternoon. It seems so ignorant by today's standards to think that somebody could be put to death for stating a hypothesis, but it happened. Many people were put to death in Europe during these days for making statements that disagreed with the church or contradicted dogma. Some of Bruno's ideas were eventually proven to be correct and eventually he would receive a posthumous apology (sort of) from the church on the 400th anniversary of his death.
We have the minds of the past to thank for the knowledge we have today. Even people like Ptolemy, who stated that the earth was the center of the universe, because it gave others a starting point. We started out living on a flat plane under a crystal dome in the center of the universe, but now we live on a spheroid in an infinite universe revolving around an unremarkable star. Our knowledge of our universe has changed and evolved over the centuries since the earliest philosophers dared to think outside of this plane. Today, we still have people with controversial ideas like João Magueijo who dares to propose that the speed of light was, at least for the first few moments after the "Big Bang", was faster than the currently accepted speed of light. Luckily, he won't be burned at the stake for his views. My, how the times have changed, keep thinking and evolving.