Nicolaus Copernicus

Joceline Bautista ; Hr2

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The Early Years

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torum, Poland, in the Prince-Bishopric of Warnia on February 19, 1473. His name was Mikolaj Kopernik, named after his father, but started calling himself the Latin form of his name (Nicolaus Copernicus) when he entered the university. Copernicus was the fourth and youngest child born to his parents. He belonged to a family of merchants, his father being a merchant as well as a local official. His dad died when Nicolaus was only 10, and his uncle (Lucas Watzenrode, who was Copernicus' mother's brother), a priest, ensured that Nicolaus got a good education. Nicolaus owes his education, career, and security to his uncle.

Interested In Science

In 1491, Copernicus entered the University of Cracow and stayed studying there until 1494. Even though he wasn't taking classes about astronomy, he became interested in the cosmos, and started collecting books on the subject. After there, he returned to Torun in 1494, but set out to Italy not soon after to study canon law. In Bologna, Italy, he became acquainted with Domenico Maria de Novara, who was an atronomer. He encouraged Copernicus' interests in geography and astronomy. "In establishing close contact with Novara, Copernicus met, perhaps for the first time in his life, a mind that dared to challenge the authority of [Ptolemy]..." -Historian Edward Rosen (
Many years later, he joined his uncle at a residence called Lidzbark-Warminski. During the seven years of his stay, Copernicus read several books on the subject of astronomy. Among those books was Regiomontus's "Epitome of the Almagest", which presented an alternative to astrologist Claudius Ptolemy's model of the universe (and also influenced greatly his research).

The Heliocentric System

In 1508, Copernicus began developing his own model pf the cosmos, which was a heliocentric planetary system. The heliocentric model basically placed the Sun as the center of the universe, and the planets orbiting around it. The heliocentric model replaced geocentrism, which was the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.
In this early 16th century, Copernicus published his theory in his book "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies". In this book, he placed the Earth as the third planet from the Sun, and in his model, the Moon orbits the Earth, not the sun itself. Also, he hypothesized that the stars do not orbit the Earth, but instead that the Earth rotates, which makes the stars look like they have moved in the sky.
Further on, Copernicus developed his heliocentric models by designing AND applying a complex mathematical system for proving his theory.

Hardships (La lutte est vrai.)

Although Copernicus' theory was viewed as revolutionary, it was met with some controversy. For example, heavy objects were always assumed to fall to the ground because Earth was the center of the universe. Now, people were asking, "Why would they do so in a sun-centered system?" Another man, German religious reformer Martin Luther stated, "(Copernicus) is the fool who will turn the whole science of astronomy upside down."Also, the heliocentric system went against the Roman Catholic Church, as the Roman Catholic Church considered this view heretical. This could have been one of the reasons Copernicus did not publish his theory until his deathbed. Even after Copernicus died, the Church worked even harder to suppress the heliocentric view.

Of course Copernicus didn't get much recognition since his view/system went against everything that was established on the cosmos for his time.
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Extra Credit

I believe that Nicolaus Copernicus was the MOST influential scientist in history because he was able to think outside of the box. Even though his ideas went completely against everything that was established in his era, especially the Roman Catholic Church, which was the biggest power then, he was able to put his ideas out there. Also, the telescope had not been invented back then, so it was a great advancement to have discovered. Another thing would be his legacy. Even though, he wasn't the first one to propose that idea, and not the last either, his legacy still live with us. Actually, it is the root of what we believe about the systems now.
I also think Nicolaus Copernicus was the MOST influential scientist in history because besides going against everything, and putting his ideas out there, he was also able to support everything he was saying. He developed a mathematical system for proving his theory. This means that not only did he propose a whole new idea, but he also had the proof behind it. Also, yes, he may have not gotten everything correct, but his discoveries paved the way for a "revolutionary" view. Another thing, was that he got his book published up until his deathbed, so his legacy especially got to live on.


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