World Cosmologies


Source and Date



Hindu cosmology

Rigveda (c. 1700–1100 BC)

Cyclical or oscillating, Infinite in time

One cycle of existence is around 311 trillion years and the life of one universe around 8 billion years. This Universal cycle is preceded by an infinite number of universes and to be followed by another infinite number of universes. Includes an infinite number of universes at one given time.

Jain cosmology

Jain Agamas (written around 500 AD as per the teachings of Mahavira 599–527 BC)

Cyclical or oscillating, eternal and finite

Jain cosmology considers the loka, or universe, as an uncreated entity, existing since infinity, the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with legs apart and arm resting on his waist. This Universe, according to Jainism, is broad at the top, narrow at the middle and once again becomes broad at the bottom.

Babylonian cosmology

Babylonian literature (c. 3000 BC)

Flat earth floating in infinite "waters of chaos"

The Earth and the Heavens form a unit within infinite "waters of chaos"; the earth is flat and circular, and a solid dome (the "firmament") keeps out the outer "chaos"-ocean.

Eleatic cosmology

Parmenides (c. 515 BC)

Finite and spherical in extent

The Universe is unchanging, uniform, perfect, necessary, timeless, and neither generated nor perishable. Void is impossible. Plurality and change are products of epistemic ignorance derived from sense experience. Temporal and spatial limits are arbitrary and relative to the Parmenidean whole.

Biblical cosmology

Genesis creation narrative (c. 500 BC)

Flat earth floating in infinite "waters of chaos"

Based on Babylonian cosmology. The Earth and the Heavens form a unit within infinite "waters of chaos"; the earth is flat and circular, and a solid dome (the "firmament") keeps out the outer "chaos"-ocean.

Atomist universe

Anaxagoras (500–428 BC) & later Epicurus

Infinite in extent

The universe contains only two things: an infinite number of tiny seeds (atoms) and the void of infinite extent. All atoms are made of the same substance, but differ in size and shape. Objects are formed from atom aggregations and decay back into atoms. Incorporates Leucippus' principle of causality: "nothing happens at random; everything happens out of reason and necessity". The universe was not ruled by gods.

Pythagorean universe

Philolaus (d. 390 BC)

Existence of a "Central Fire" at the center of the Universe.

At the center of the Universe is a central fire, around which the Earth, Sun, Moon and planets revolve uniformly. The Sun revolves around the central fire once a year, the stars are immobile. The earth in its motion maintains the same hidden face towards the central fire, hence it is never seen. First known non-geocentric model of the Universe.[15]

De Mundo

Pseudo-Aristotle (d. 250 BC or between 350 and 200 BC)

The Universe

is a system made up of heaven and earth and the elements which are contained in them.

Thus then five elements, situated in spheres in five regions, the less being in each case surrounded by the greater — namely, earth surrounded by water, water by air, air by fire, and fire by ether — make up the whole Universe.[16]

Stoic universe

Stoics(300 BC – 200 AD)

Island universe

The cosmos is finite and surrounded by an infinite void. It is in a state of flux, and pulsates in size and undergoes periodic upheavals and conflagrations.

Aristotelian universe

Aristotle(384–322 BC)

Geocentric, static, steady state, finite extent, infinite time

Spherical earth is surrounded by concentric celestial spheres. Universe exists unchanged throughout eternity. Contains a fifth element, called aether, that was added to the four classical elements.

Aristarchean universe

Aristarchus(circa 280 BC)


Earth rotates daily on its axis and revolves annually about the sun in a circular orbit. Sphere of fixed stars is centered about the sun.

Ptolemaic model

Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

Geocentric (based on Aristotelian universe)

Universe orbits around a stationary Earth. Planets move in circular epicycles, each having a center that moved in a larger circular orbit (called an eccentric or a deferent) around a center-point near Earth. The use of equants added another level of complexity and allowed astronomers to predict the positions of the planets. The most successful universe model of all time, using the criterion of longevity. Almagest (the Great System).

Aryabhatan model


Geocentric or Heliocentric

The Earth rotates and the planets move in elliptical orbits around either the Earth or Sun; uncertain whether the model is geocentric or heliocentric due to planetary orbits given with respect to both the Earth and Sun.

Medieval universe

Medieval philosophers(500–1200)

Finite in time

A universe that is finite in time and has a beginning is proposed by the Christian philosopher John Philoponus, who argues against the ancient Greek notion of an infinite past. Logical arguments supporting a finite universe are developed by the early Muslim philosopher Alkindus, the Jewish philosopher Saadia Gaon, and the Muslim theologian Algazel.

Multiversal cosmology

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi(1149–1209)

Multiverse, multiple worlds and universes

There exists an infinite outer space beyond the known world, and God has the power to fill the vacuum with an infinite number of universes.

Maragha models

Maragha school (1259–1528)


Various modifications to Ptolemaic model and Aristotelian universe, including rejection of equant and eccentrics at Maragheh observatory, and introduction of Tusi-couple by Al-Tusi. Alternative models later proposed, including the first accurate lunar model by Ibn al-Shatir, a model rejecting stationary Earth in favor of Earth's rotation by Ali Kuşçu, and planetary model incorporating "circular inertia" by Al-Birjandi.

Nilakanthan model

Nilakantha Somayaji(1444–1544)

Geocentric and heliocentric

A universe in which the planets orbit the Sun, which orbits the Earth; similar to the later Tychonic system

Copernican universe

Nicolaus Copernicus(1473–1543)

Heliocentric with circular planetary orbits

First described in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.

Tychonic system

Tycho Brahe(1546–1601)

Geocentric and Heliocentric

A universe in which the planets orbit the Sun and the Sun orbits the Earth, similar to the earlier Nilakanthan model.

Bruno's cosmology

Giordano Bruno (1548–1600)

Infinite extent, infinite time, homogeneous, isotropic, non-hierarchical

Rejects the idea of a hierarchical universe. Earth and Sun have no special properties in comparison with the other heavenly bodies. The void between the stars is filled with aether, and matter is composed of the same four elements (water, earth, fire, and air), and is atomistic, animistic and intelligent.


Johannes Kepler (1571–1630)

Heliocentric with elliptical planetary orbits

Kepler's discoveries, marrying mathematics and physics, provided the foundation for our present conception of the Solar system, but distant stars were still seen as objects in a thin, fixed celestial sphere.

Static Newtonian

Isaac Newton(1642–1727)

Static (evolving), steady state, infinite

Every particle in the universe attracts every other particle. Matter on the large scale is uniformly distributed. Gravitationally balanced but unstable.

Cartesian Vortex universe

René Descartes, 17th century

Static (evolving), steady state, infinite

System of huge swirling whirlpools of aethereal or fine matter produces what we would call gravitational effects. But his vacuum was not empty; all space was filled with matter.

Hierarchical universe

Immanuel KantJohann Lambert, 18th century

Static (evolving), steady state, infinite

Matter is clustered on ever larger scales of hierarchy. Matter is endlessly recycled.

Einstein Universe with a cosmological constant

Albert Einstein, 1917

Static (nominally). Bounded (finite)

"Matter without motion". Contains uniformly distributed matter. Uniformly curved spherical space; based on Riemann's hypersphere. Curvature is set equal to Λ. In effect Λ is equivalent to a repulsive force which counteracts gravity. Unstable.

De Sitter universe

Willem de Sitter, 1917

Expanding flat space.

Steady state. Λ > 0

"Motion without matter." Only apparently static. Based on Einstein's general relativity. Space expands with constant accelerationScale factor increases exponentially (constant inflation).

MacMillan universe

William Duncan MacMillan1920s

Static and steady state

New matter is created from radiation; starlight perpetually recycled into new matter particles.

Friedmann universe, spherical space

Alexander Friedmann1922

Spherical expanding space.

k= +1 ; no Λ

Positive curvature. Curvature constant k = +1

Expands then recollapsesSpatially closed (finite).

Friedmann universe, hyperbolic space

Alexander Friedmann, 1924

Hyperbolic expanding space.

k= -1 ; no Λ

Negative curvature. Said to be infinite (but ambiguous). Unbounded. Expands forever.

Dirac large numbers hypothesis

Paul Dirac1930s


Demands a large variation in G, which decreases with time. Gravity weakens as universe evolves.

Friedmann zero-curvature

Einstein and DeSitter, 1932

Expanding flat space

k= 0 ; Λ = 0 Critical density

Curvature constant k = 0. Said to be infinite (but ambiguous). "Unbounded cosmos of limited extent". Expands forever. "Simplest" of all known universes. Named after but not considered by Friedmann. Has a deceleration term q =½, which means that its expansion rate slows down.

The original Big Bang (Friedmann-Lemaître)

Georges Lemaître 1927–29


Λ > 0 Λ > |Gravity|

Λ is positive and has a magnitude greater than gravity. Universe has initial high-density state ("primeval atom"). Followed by a two-stage expansion. Λ is used to destabilize the universe. (Lemaître is considered the father of the big bang model.)

Oscillating universe (Friedmann-Einstein)

Favored by Friedmann, 1920s

Expanding and contracting in cycles

Time is endless and beginningless; thus avoids the beginning-of-time paradox. Perpetual cycles of big bang followed by big crunch. (Einstein's first choice after he rejected his 1917 model.)

Eddington universe

Arthur Eddington1930

First static then expands

Static Einstein 1917 universe with its instability disturbed into expansion mode; with relentless matter dilution becomes a DeSitter universe. Λ dominates gravity.

Milne universe of kinematic relativity

Edward Milne, 1933, 1935;

William H. McCrea, 1930s

Kinematic expansion without space expansion

Rejects general relativity and the expanding space paradigm. Gravity not included as initial assumption. Obeys cosmological principle and special relativity; consists of a finite spherical cloud of particles (or galaxies) that expands within an infinite and otherwise empty flat space. It has a center and a cosmic edge (surface of the particle cloud) that expands at light speed. Explanation of gravity was elaborate and unconvincing.

Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker class of models

Howard Robertson, Arthur Walker, 1935

Uniformly expanding

Class of universes that are homogeneous and isotropic. Spacetime separates into uniformly curved space and cosmic time common to all co-moving observers. The formulation system is now known as the FLRW or Robertson–Walker metrics of cosmic time and curved space.

Steady-state expanding

Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, 1948

Expanding, steady state, infinite

Matter creation rate maintains constant density. Continuous creation out of nothing from nowhere. Exponential expansion. Deceleration term q = -1.

Steady-state expanding

Fred Hoyle1948

Expanding, steady state; but unstable

Matter creation rate maintains constant density. But since matter creation rate must be exactly balanced with the space expansion rate the system is unstable.


Hannes Alfvén 1965Oskar Klein

Cellular universe, expanding by means of matter–antimatter annihilation

Based on the concept of plasma cosmology. The universe is viewed as "meta-galaxies" divided by double layers and thus a bubble-like nature. Other universes are formed from other bubbles. Ongoing cosmic matter-antimatterannihilations keep the bubbles separated and moving apart preventing them from interacting.

Brans–Dicke theory

Carl H. Brans, Robert H. Dicke


Based on Mach's principle. G varies with time as universe expands.

Cosmic inflation

Alan Guth1980

Big Bang modified to solve horizon and flatness problems

Based on the concept of hot inflation. The universe is viewed as a multiple quantum flux—hence its bubble-like nature. Other universes are formed from other bubbles. Ongoing cosmic expansion kept the bubbles separated and moving apart.

Eternal inflation (a multiple universe model)

Andreï Linde, 1983

Big Bang with cosmic inflation

Multiverse based on the concept of cold inflation, in which inflationary events occur at random each with independent initial conditions; some expand into bubble universes supposedly like our entire cosmos. Bubbles nucleate in a spacetime foam.

Cyclic model

Paul Steinhardt; Neil Turok2002

Expanding and contracting in cycles; M-theory.

Two parallel orbifold planes or M-branes collide periodically in a higher-dimensional space. With quintessence or dark energy.

Conscious  model

Deepak Chopra; Menas Kafatos 2017

Participatory, experiential universe defined by consciousness

In a modern synthesis of quantum mechanics and Vedanta, the reality experienced by conscious entities is only cemented by perceptual awareness, thus consciousness is the defining filter of known reality.