Nicolaus Copernicus

Founder of the Copernican Revolution

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Lived: February 19, 1473 - May 24, 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus, fourth and final son of Nicolaus Copernicus Sr. and Barbara Watzenrode, though technically born under the Polish crown, was born of German heritage. Copernicus' first language was German, but many believe that he familiarized himself with the Polish language as well.

Born in a prosperous family of copper merchants, Copernicus had little to no issues within his family. However, with the death of Nicolaus Copernicus Sr. when Copernicus was just 10 years old, his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, assumed the paternal role in order to ensure that the children were given a suitable education.

After Copernicus graduated from the University of Cracow in 1494 with a degree in mathematics, he returned to his hometown in Torun, Poland where he would live as a canon at Frombork's cathedral for the remainder of his life. This enabled Copernicus to have sufficient time and funds to continue pursuing his intellectual interests in his free time.



Nicolaus Copernicus is most famous for his establishment of the heliocentric planetary model. Up until the early 16th century, the Earth had been adamantly asserted as the center of the known universe with every other cosmological object rotating around that fixed point. However, Copernicus approached the inconsistencies presented by this previous model with an intricate mathematical system and discovered that the fixated point was indeed our Sun.

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Contrary to popular belief, Copernicus was not the first astronomer to propose a heliocentric model of our solar system. In 270 BC, Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos presented his planetary theory which placed the Sun as the center of the solar system with the other planets revolving around it. However, the idea was immediately rebuffed by the immensely influential Roman Catholic Church as it directly contradicted Claudius Ptolemy's widely favored theory that placed the Earth as the central unit of everything. Therefore, Copernicus' ideas were inevitably met with controversy. Copernicus, unlike Aristarchus, however, supported his theory with extensive mathematical research. Even considering his seeming infallibility, the Roman Catholic Church remained adamantly against his ideas until long after his death.

"Finally, we shall place the sun himself at the center of the universe."

-the chemical element, Copernicum, was named after Nicolaus Copernicus.

-Copernicus never officially studied astronomy, but rather treated it as a hobby. Aside from being an astronomer in his spare time, Copernicus was also a physician, scholar, economist, translator, mathematician, artist, and diplomat.

-the true spelling of Copernicus' name is still a debated issue to this day.