Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer. He is most famous for having been the first person to have stated that the Sun, rather than the Earth is the center of the solar system. His model of the universe was published in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. This moment was considered a monumental event in the history of science.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in the city Toruń located in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. His father was a from Kraków and his mother was the daughter of a merchant from Toruń. Copernicus was the youngest of four children.
His father died when the astronomer was only ten years old. His maternal uncle, the Bishop of Varmia Lucas Watzenrode, took over the child’s education, ensuring he received only the best. In 1491, Copernicus attended the University of Cracow. There he studied painting and mathematics. Although he did not pursue astronomy, he took an interest in the cosmos at that exact time. The young Copernicus started collecting books on the topic.
Upon graduating from university in 1494, he took a position as a canon at Frombork’s Cathedral. He held this position his entire life. In 1946 he started a religious law program at the University of Bologna. There he met astronomer Domenico Maria Novara with whom he started a close friendship. Nicolaus Copernicus continued his study of astronomy for the following years. By 1508 he had begun developing his own celestial model, a heliocentric planetary system. He stated that the Sun rather than the Earth was the center of the solar system.
His theory caused a controversy and was seen as heretical by the Catholic Church. Scholars criticized his work bitterly and the Church banned his works for the following three centuries. As a result, Nicolaus Copernicus remained a symbol of a brave scientist defending his discoveries against the mentalities of that period. He died, in May 24, 1543, clutching his newly published book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
Did you know that besides Latin and German which he spoke with equal fluency, Nicolaus Copernicus was also well versed in Polish, Greek and Italian?
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