By: Taylor MacFarlane
Died: May 24, 1543, Frombork, Poland
Copernicus was the fourth and youngest child of Nicolaus Copernicus Sr. and Barbra Watzenrode. When he was 10 years old his father passed away leaving his Uncle, Bishop of Varmia Lucas Watzenrode in charge of him. His Uncle took it upon himself to ensure that Copernicus got the best education possible. Growing up Copernicus went to many schools (University of Padua, University of Cracow, University of Ferrara, University of Bologna) and got educated in various topics but it wasn't until 1496 when he traveled to Italy where he enrolled in a religious law program at the University of Bologna. Here he met Domenico Maria Novara who he eventually exchanged astronomical ideas and observations. In 1503 Copernicus quickly took the canon law exam then hurried back home to Poland. Copernicus remained at the Libzbark-Warminski residence for the next seven years, working and tending to his uncle and exploring astronomy whenever he could when he wasn't busy continuing his job of being a scientist and mathematician. Through out the seven years Copernicus read several books on astronomy, among the sources he consulted with was Regiomontus's Epitome of the Almagest which showed an alternative to the model of the universe and significantly influenced his research.
By 1508, he had began developing his own model, a heliocentric planetary system where instead of the Earth the Sun was the center of the Universe. Around 1514, Copernicus completed a written work, Commentariolus (Latin for "Small Commentary"), a 40-page manuscript that he referred to as the "Sketch of Hypothesis Made by Nicolaus Copernicus on the Heavenly Motions." Commentariolus summarized Copernicus's heliocentric planetary system and strove to provide systematic proof—in the form of both astronomical observations and mathematical formulas—of the model.
The sketch set forth seven axioms, each describing an aspect of the heliocentric solar system: 1) Planets don't revolve around one fixed point; 2) the earth is at the center of the moon's orbit; 3) The sun is at the center of the universe, and all celestial bodies rotate around it; 4) The distance between the earth and sun is only a tiny fraction of stars' distance from the earth and sun; 5) Stars do not move, and if they appear to, it is only because the earth itself is moving; 6) Earth moves in a sphere around the sun, causing the sun's perceived yearly movement; and 7) Earth's orbit around the sun causes the planets to orbit in the opposite direction.
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