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Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies

Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies

On May 24, 1543, Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies in what is now Frombork, Poland. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.

Prior to the publication of his major astronomical work, “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs,” in 1543, European astronomers argued that Earth lay at the center of the universe, the view also held by most ancient philosophers and biblical writers. In addition to correctly postulating the order of the known planets, including Earth, from the sun, and estimating their orbital periods relatively accurately, Copernicus argued that Earth turned daily on its axis and that gradual shifts of this axis accounted for the changing seasons.

He died the year his major work was published, saving him from the outrage of some religious leaders who later condemned his heliocentric view of the universe as heresy. By the late 18th century, the Copernican view of the solar system was almost universally accepted.


Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies - HISTORY

The pioneer astronomer credited with placing the sun at the center of the solar system was Nicolaus Copernicus. This short biography will discuss Copernicus’ life and highlight some of his notable accomplishments.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born during the Renaissance on February 19, 1473. His birthplace was in the Kingdom of Poland, in a town called Toruń (Thorn). Toruń is a very old city in northern Poland located on the Vistula River. His father was a merchant and his mother was the daughter of a merchant. He had one brother and two sisters.

Copernicus attended the University of Krakow where he studied astronomy, mathematics, and geometry. He was also exposed to the philosophical and physical science teachings of Aristotle and Ptolemy. These early influences shaped his thinking of the structure of the heavens.

Copernicus' Heliocentric System

In 1497 Copernicus enrolled in the University of Bologna in Italy to study canon law. In 1500 he traveled to Rome where he studied medicine and law. After he finished his university studies, he practiced medicine for about six years – from 1506 until 1512 in Heilsberg.

His real passion, however, was astronomy. Throughout his life, he was intent on understanding how the earth, sun and stars moved in the sky. He spent much of his free time in observatories watching the heavens. In 1513, he began writing his first thoughts about his heliocentric system, which stated that the Sun – not the Earth was at the center of the Universe. His thinking culminated in a book he published on the subject in 1543. The book was called On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.

To his credit, Nicolaus Copernicus was many years ahead of his time. The current thinking at the time was that the Earth was the center of the Universe and all the stars and planets revolved around it. It wasn’t until the mid 1600’s that the works of Galileo, Newton, and Kepler provided strong theoretical evidence that he was, in fact, right.


Today in History: Nicolaus Copernicus Dies (1543)

Galileo gets a lot of the credit for publicizing the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around. A lot of the reason why he gets so much press about that &lsquodiscovery&rsquo is because of his persecution by the Catholic Church. The theory of Heliocentrism was around for well over a decade before Galileo was even born.

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer and mathematician amongst many other things. According to history, he was the first to publicly come out with evidence that the Sun was the center of the universe. Up until that point, it had been widely believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and every other star revolved around our planet.

And while Copernicus gets the credit for publicizing the theory of Heliocentrism, he wasn&rsquot the first to posit such a theory. In fact, as early as the 3rd Century BCE, the theory had been posited by Aristarchus of Samos. What was different about Copernicus was that he provided mathematical evidence that Heliocentrism was scientific fact.

Heliocentric Theory. Inverse

Copernicus published his theory in the book De Revolutionibus in 1543. It was only published a few months before he died on May 24, 1543. The problem with Heliocentrism isn&rsquot that it was unbelievable so much as the Catholic Church was in denial about the whole thing. It wasn&rsquot until 1822 when the Catholic Church finally agreed to the idea that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

Because Copernicus&rsquo work was published close to his death, he didn&rsquot have to put up with the same problems Galileo had to in 1632. His work was published, however, with a forward that basically wrote the whole thing off. Because of the foreword that was published with the book, it was basically ignored for the next 60 years.

In 1616, after several publications by Galileo agreeing with Copernicus based on observations with his newly invented telescope, the Church banned what it termed &ldquoCopernicanism&rdquo The committee that decided on the matter wrote: &ldquofoolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.&rdquo

By this time, Copernicus had been dead for over seventy years. If it hadn&rsquot been for the forward that was placed on his work, it is almost undeniable that he would have faced the same criticism from the Church that Galileo faced in 1616.

Galileo Galilei. Emaze

By the time of Galileo, Copernicus was seen as the father of Heliocentrism so much that it was named after him. It was his model of the universe that helped propel the theory beyond simple ideas on paper. The debate between the Church and scientists would not curtail scientific advancement in this area, as men like Kepler would continue to build on the works of Copernicus. By the 1700s, Heliocentrism was accepted in much of the world, regardless of the wants of the Catholic Church.

Copernicus is a name that the scientific community will never forget. His works are some of the first in the scientific revolution that would take place between his death and the late 1700s. Men like Galileo, Kepler, and Issac Newton would all build off his work, which would prove true no matter what the Church might have continued to claim well into the 19th century.


Was the famous astronomer Copernicus also a nephrologist

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), world-famous astronomer, born in Toruń, was also a Warmian canon (senior priest) and a physician to 4 consecutive prince-bishops of Warmia and of other Warmian canons. What medical conditions preoccupied Nicolaus Copernicus and whether they included kidney diseases can only be inferred from the extant prescriptions of Copernicus, as no record remains of any treatises by Copernicus regarding medicine. While no prescription penned by him is dated, several are traced to the period of his studies in Padua, Italy. The prescriptions indicate that he was concerned with conditions afflicting virtually all systems and organs of the human body including the kidneys. His personal library included at least 45 books, of which 14 dealt with medical issues. Copernicus used to write his prescriptions in the margins or on the blank pages of the treatises. They were mostly based on Avicenna's original prescriptions. The most common herbal ingredients used by Copernicus as remedies for symptoms of renal colic, hematuria and diuresis were common nettle (Urtica dioica), goosegrass (Galium aparine), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), cubeb (Piper cubeba), common pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo), almond seeds and many others. It is hard to ascertain how effective the medical methods utilized by Copernicus may have been.


Astronomy

His Life:
Throughout history people have always looked up at the sky and wondered about the universe. Some just wonder while others attempt to solve this mystery. One of the people who had endeavored to solve it was Nicolaus Copernicus.
Copernicus was born in the present day town of Torun, Poland in February of 1473. While still a young boy, Copernicus was put in custody of his uncle when his father died. His uncle made sure that his nephew got the best education they could obtain. This is how Copernicus was able to enter the University of Krakow, which was well known for its mathematics, and astronomy programs. After finishing in Krakow, he was inspired to further his education by going to the University of Bologna in Italy. While there, he roomed with Domenico Maria de Novara, the mathematics professor. In 1500, Copernicus lectured in Rome and in the next year, obtained permission to study medicine at Padua. Before returning to Poland, he received a doctorate in canon law from the University of Ferrara.
Copernicus lived with his uncle in his bishopric palace. While he stayed there he published his first book which was a translation of letters written by the 7th century writer, Theophylactus of Simocatta. After that he wrote an astronomical discourse that laid the foundation of his heliocentric theory the theory that the sun is the center of our solar system. However, it was 400 years before it was published.
After leaving his uncle, he wrote a treatise on money, and began the work for which he is most famous, On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, which took him almost 15 years to write. It is ironic that what he devoted a good part of his life would not be published until he was on his deathbed.

His Theory:
To understand the contribution Copernicus made to the astrological community, you first need to understand the theory that had been accepted at the time of Copernicus.
The question of the arrangement of the planets arose about 4000 BC. At this time the Mesopotamians believed that the earth was at the center of the universe and that other heavenly bodies moved around the earth. This belief was synonymously know as geocentric. They believed this, but they had no scientific proof to support it.
It was not until the 2nd century that the famous astronomer, Ptolemy, gave an explanation for the movement of the stars across the sky, that the geocentric theory began to become creditable.
That was the theory that existed at the time of Copernicus. Copernicus was not the first one to come up with the idea of a sun-centered (heliocentric) universe. Not too long after Ptolemy theorized about the movement of the stars there was a man by the name of Aristarchus of Samos. He was the first one to propose the idea of a sun-centered universe.
The stipulations of Copernicus's theory are:
· The earth rotates on its axis daily and rotates around the sun yearly
· The other planets circle the earth
· As the earth rotates it wobbles like a top
· The stars are stationary
· The greater the radius of a planet's orbit, the more time it takes to make one complete circuit around the sun
All these concepts seem totally logical to us, however most 16th century readers were not ready to accept that the earth rotated around the sun. It may seem weird but the calculations that Copernicus made were not much more accurate than his predecessors, however most of his theory was accepted, while the radical ones were omitted.
The one concept that was not liked was that the earth moved around the sun. To deal with this dilemma, Tycho Brahe met Copernicus and Ptolemy halfway by making the earth a stationary object while the planets orbited the sun in the center.
The rotating earth idea was not revived until the English philosopher Isaac Newton started explaining celestial mechanics.
Nicolaus Copernicus

His Life:
Throughout history people have always looked up at the sky and wondered about the universe. Some just wonder while others attempt to solve this mystery. One of the people who had endeavored to solve it was Nicolaus Copernicus.
Copernicus was born in the present day town of Torun, Poland in February of 1473. While still a young boy, Copernicus was put in custody of his uncle when his father died. His uncle made sure that his nephew got the best education they could obtain. This is how Copernicus was able to enter the University of Krakow, which was well known for its mathematics, and astronomy programs. After finishing in Krakow, he was inspired to further his education by going to the University of Bologna in Italy. While there, he roomed with Domenico Maria de Novara, the mathematics professor. In 1500, Copernicus lectured in Rome and in the next year, obtained permission to study medicine at Padua. Before returning to Poland, he received a doctorate in canon law from the University of Ferrara.
Copernicus lived with his uncle in his bishopric palace. While he stayed there he published his first book which was a translation of letters written by the 7th century writer, Theophylactus of Simocatta. After that he wrote an astronomical discourse that laid the foundation of his heliocentric theory the theory that the sun is the center of our solar system. However, it was 400 years before it was published.
After leaving his uncle, he wrote a treatise on money, and began the work for which he is most famous, On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, which took him almost 15 years to write. It is ironic that what he devoted a good part of his life would not be published until he was on his deathbed.

His Theory:
To understand the contribution Copernicus made to the astrological community, you first need to understand the theory that had been accepted at the time of Copernicus.
The question of the arrangement of the planets arose about 4000 BC. At this time the Mesopotamians believed that the earth was at the center of the universe and that other heavenly bodies moved around the earth. This belief was synonymously know as geocentric. They believed this, but they had no scientific proof to support it.
It was not until the 2nd century that the famous astronomer, Ptolemy, gave an explanation for the movement of the stars across the sky, that the geocentric theory began to become creditable.
That was the theory that existed at the time of Copernicus. Copernicus was not the first one to come up with the idea of a sun-centered (heliocentric) universe. Not too long after Ptolemy theorized about the movement of the stars there was a man by the name of Aristarchus of Samos. He was the first one to propose the idea of a sun-centered universe.
The stipulations of Copernicus's theory are:
· The earth rotates on its axis daily and rotates around the sun yearly
· The other planets circle the earth
· As the earth rotates it wobbles like a top
· The stars are stationary
· The greater the radius of a planet's orbit, the more time it takes to make one complete circuit around the sun
All these concepts seem totally logical to us, however most 16th century readers were not ready to accept that the earth rotated around the sun. It may seem weird but the calculations that Copernicus made were not much more accurate than his predecessors, however most of his theory was accepted, while the radical ones were omitted.
The one concept that was not liked was that the earth moved around the sun. To deal with this dilemma, Tycho Brahe met Copernicus and Ptolemy halfway by making the earth a stationary object while the planets orbited the sun in the center.
The rotating earth idea was not revived until the English philosopher Isaac Newton started explaining celestial mechanics.


Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus is the Latin version of the famous astronomer's name which he chose later in his life. The original form of his name was Mikolaj Kopernik or Nicolaus Koppernigk but we shall use Copernicus throughout this article. His father, also called Nicolaus Koppernigk, had lived in Kraków before moving to Toruń where he set up a business trading in copper. He was also interested in local politics and became a civic leader in Toruń and a magistrate. Nicolaus Koppernigk married Barbara Watzenrode, who came from a well off family from Toruń, in about 1463 . They moved into a house in St Anne's Street in Toruń, but they also had a summer residence with vineyards out of town. Nicolaus and Barbara Koppernigk had four children, two sons and two daughters, of whom Nicolaus Copernicus was the youngest.

You can see a picture of the house in which Copernicus was born at THIS LINK.

When young Nicolaus was ten years old his father died. His uncle Lucas Watzenrode, who was a canon at Frauenburg Cathedral, became guardian to Nicolaus and Barbara Koppernigk's four children.

You can see a picture of Lucas Watzenrode at THIS LINK.

Nicolaus and his brother Andreas remained in Toruń, continuing their elementary education there. In 1488 Nicolaus was sent by his uncle to the cathedral school of Włocławek where he received a good standard humanist education. After three years of study at Włocławek he entered the University of Kraków ( situated in what was then the capital of Poland ) . By this time Lucas Watzenrode was Bishop of Ermland and he envisaged a church career for both of his nephews. Andreas, Nicolaus's brother, entered the University of Kraków at the same time, and both their names appear on the matriculation records of 1491 - 92 .

University education at Kraków was, Copernicus later wrote, a vital factor in everything that he went on to achieve. There he studied Latin, mathematics, astronomy, geography and philosophy. He learnt his astronomy from Tractatus de Sphaera by Johannes de Sacrobosco written in 1220 . One should not think, however, that the astronomy courses which Copernicus studied were scientific courses in the modern sense. Rather they were mathematics courses which introduced Aristotle and Ptolemy's view of the universe so that students could understand the calendar, calculate the dates of holy days, and also have skills that would enable those who would follow a more practical profession to navigate at sea. Also taught as a major part of astronomy was what today we would call astrology, teaching students to calculate horoscopes of people from the exact time of their birth.

While a student in Kraków, Copernicus purchased a copy of the Latin translation of Euclid's Elements published in Venice in 1482 , a copy of the second edition of the Alfonsine Tables ( which gives planetary theory and eclipses ) printed in Venice in 1492 , and Regiomontanus's Tables of Directions ( a work on spherical astronomy ) published in Augsburg in 1490 . Remarkably Copernicus's copies of these works, signed by him, are still preserved.

It was while he was a student at Kraków that Copernicus began to use this Latin version of his name rather than Kopernik or Koppernigk. He returned to Toruń after four years of study at Kraków but, as was common at the time, did not formally graduate with a degree. His uncle Lucas Watzenrode was still determined that Copernicus should have a career in the Church and indeed this was a profession which would allow security for someone wanting to pursue leaning. So that he might have the necessary qualifications Copernicus decided to go to the University of Bologna to take a degree in canon law. In the autumn of 1496 he travelled to Italy, entering the University of Bologna on 19 October 1496 , to start three years of study. As a native German speaker he joined the "German Nation of Bologna University". Each student contributed to the "German Nation" an amount they could afford and the small contribution that Copernicus made indicates his poor financial position at that time.

While he was there his uncle put his name forward for the position of canon at Frauenburg Cathedral. On 20 October 1497 , while in Bologna, Copernicus received official notification of his appointment as a canon and of the comfortable income he would receive without having to return to carry out any duties. At Bologna University Copernicus studied Greek, mathematics and astronomy in addition to his official course of canon law. He rented rooms at the house of the astronomy professor Domenico Maria de Novara and began to undertake research with him, assisting him in making observations. On 9 March 1497 he observed the Moon eclipse the star Aldebaran.

In 1500 Copernicus visited Rome, as all Christians were strongly encouraged to do to celebrate the great jubilee, and he stayed there for a year lecturing to scholars on mathematics and astronomy. While in Rome he observed an eclipse of the Moon which took place on 6 November 1500 . He returned to Frauenburg ( also known as Frombork ) in the spring of 1501 and was officially installed as a canon of the Ermland Chapter on 27 July. He had not completed his degree in canon law at Bologna so he requested his uncle that he be allowed to return to Italy both to take a law degree and to study medicine. Copernicus was granted leave on 27 July 1501 [ 13 ] :-

As this quotation indicates, the Cathedral Chapter liked his proposal to study medicine and provided the necessary funds. He set off again for Italy, his time going to Padua. Copernicus had another reason to return to Italy, which he almost certainly did not disclose, and that was to continue his studies of astronomy.

Padua was famous for its medical school and while he was there Copernicus studied both medicine and astronomy. At that time astronomy was essentially astrology and, as such, considered relevant to medicine since physicians made use of astrology. In the spring of 1503 he decided formally to obtain his doctorate in Canon Law, but he did not return to Bologna but rather took the degree at the University of Ferrara. After receiving his doctorate, Copernicus stayed in Ferrara for a few months before returning to Padua to continue his studies of medicine. There is no record that he ever graduated from Padua.

When he returned to his native land, Copernicus was again granted leave from his official duties as a canon in the Ermland Chapter at Frauenburg. This was allow him to be physician to his maternal uncle Lucas Watzenrode, the Bishop of Ermland, but he carried out far more duties for his uncle than medical ones becoming essentially his private secretary and personal advisor. For about five years he undertook these duties and during this period he lived at Heilsberg Castle, a few miles from Frauenburg, the official residence of the Bishop of Ermland.

In 1509 Copernicus published a work, which was properly printed, giving Latin translations of Greek poetry by the obscure poet Theophylactus Simocattes. While accompanying his uncle on a visit to Kraków, he gave a manuscript of the poetry book to a publisher friend there. Lucas Watzenrode died in 1512 and following this Copernicus resumed his duties as canon in the Ermland Chapter at Frauenburg. He now had more time than before to devote to his study of astronomy, having an observatory in the rooms in which he lived in one of the towers in the town's fortifications.

You can see a picture of Copernicus's observatory in Frauenburg at THIS LINK.

  1. There is no one centre in the universe.
  2. The Earth's centre is not the centre of the universe.
  3. The centre of the universe is near the sun.
  4. The distance from the Earth to the sun is imperceptible compared with the distance to the stars.
  5. The rotation of the Earth accounts for the apparent daily rotation of the stars.
  6. The apparent annual cycle of movements of the sun is caused by the Earth revolving round it.
  7. The apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the motion of the Earth from which one observes.

It is likely that he wrote the Little Commentary in 1514 and began writing his major work De revolutionibus Ⓣ in the following year.

Given Copernicus's nature it is clear that he would have liked to have lived a quiet life at Frauenburg, carrying out his ( relatively few ) duties conscientiously and devoting all his spare time to observing, developing his theories of the universe, and writing De revolutionibus Ⓣ . It is equally clear that his fame as an astronomer was well known for when the Fifth Lateran Council decided to improve the calendar, which was known to be out of phase with the seasons, the Pope appealed to experts for advice in 1514 , one of these experts was Copernicus. Many experts went to Rome to advise the Council, but Copernicus chose to respond by letter. He did not wish to contribute more to the discussions on the calendar since he felt that the motions of the heavenly bodies was still not understood with sufficient precision.

The peace which Copernicus wished, however, was not easy to find in a period of frequent wars. The fortifications of Frauenburg that formed Copernicus's home had been built to protect the town which had been captured by various opposing groups over the years. In 1516 Copernicus was given the task of administering the districts of Allenstein ( also known as Olsztyn ) and Mehlsack. He lived for four years in Allenstein Castle while carrying out these administrative duties.

You can see a picture of Allenstein Castle where Copernicus lived at THIS LINK.

Always keen to make observations, Copernicus returned to his home/observatory in Frauenburg whenever there was a reason to attend a meeting or consult with the other canons, always taking the opportunity to further his researches. However when war broke out between Poland and the Teutonic Knights towards the end of 1519 Copernicus was back in Frauenburg. After a period of war, Copernicus was sent to participate in peace talks in Braunsberg as one of a two man delegation representing the Bishop of Ermland. The peace talks failed and the war continued. Frauenburg came under siege but Copernicus continued making his observations even at this desperate time. By the autumn of 1520 Copernicus was back living in Allenstein Castle and had to organise its defence against attacking forces. The castle resisted the attack and by 1521 an uneasy peace had returned.

As a reward for his defence of Allenstein, Copernicus was appointed Commissar of Ermland and given the task of rebuilding the district after the war. His close friend, Tiedemann Giese, another canon in the Chapter, was given the task of assisting him.

You can see a picture of Tiedemann Giese at THIS LINK.

As part of the recovery plan, Copernicus put forward a scheme for the reform of the currency which he presented to the Diet of Graudenz in 1522 . However, despite attending the Diet and arguing strongly for his sensible proposals, they were not acted on.

Copernicus returned to Frauenburg where his life became less eventful and he had the peace and quiet that he longed for to allow him to make observations and to work on details of his heliocentric theory. Having said that he now had the peace he wanted, one should also realise that he was undertaking his mathematical and astronomical work in isolation with no colleagues with whom to discuss matters. Although Copernicus was a canon, he had never become a priest. In fact on 4 February 1531 his bishop threatened to take away his income if he did not enter the priesthood, yet Copernicus still refused.

A full account of Copernicus's theory was apparently slow to reach a state in which he wished to see it published, and this did not happen until the very end of Copernicus's life when he published his life's work under the title De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Ⓣ ( Nuremberg, 1543) . In fact had it not been for Georg Joachim Rheticus, a young professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Wittenberg, Copernicus's masterpiece might never have been published. In May 1539 Rheticus arrived at Frauenburg where he spent about two years with Copernicus. Rheticus wrote of his visit:-

By 29 August De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Ⓣ was ready for the printer. Rheticus took the manuscript with him when he returned to his teaching duties at Wittenberg, and gave it the printer Johann Petreius in Nürnberg. This was a leading centre for printing and Petreius was the best printer in town. However, since he was unable to stay to supervise the printing he asked Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran theologian with considerable experience of printing mathematical texts, to undertake the task. What Osiander did was to write a letter to the reader, inserted in place of Copernicus's original Preface following the title page, in which he claimed that the results of the book were not intended as the truth, rather that they merely presented a simpler way to calculate the positions of the heavenly bodies. The letter was unsigned and the true author of the letter was not revealed publicly until Kepler did so 50 years later. Osiander also subtly changed the title to make it appear less like a claim of the real world. Some are appalled at this gigantic piece of deception by Osiander, as Rheticus was at the time, others feel that it was only because of Osiander's Preface that Copernicus's work was read and not immediately condemned.

In De revolutionibus Ⓣ Copernicus states several reasons why it is logical that the sun would be at the centre of the universe:-

Its notable defenders included Kepler and Galileo while theoretical evidence for the Copernican theory was provided by Newton's theory of universal gravitation around 150 years later.

Copernicus is said to have received a copy of the printed book, consisting of about 200 pages written in Latin, for the first time on his deathbed. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage.

Brahe, who did not accept Copernicus's claim that the Earth moved round the sun, nevertheless wrote:-


FREE Printables and Resources About Nicolaus Copernicus

Are you studying about famous people in the Renaissance era? Make sure that you don’t miss out on learning about this famous mathematician and astronomer. Nicolaus Copernicus is known as the initiator of the Scientific Revolution and so much can be learned while studying about him.

Initiator of the Scientific Revolution:

Nicolaus Copernicus proposed that the sun was stationary in the center of the universe and the earth revolved around it. This is known as the heliocentric model or heliocentric theory. This was an unproved theory in the time that he was living. He challenged another famous scientist Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe. At the time, his questioning of the astronomy beliefs of that day as well as his heliocentric idea was pretty controversial. It was also brand new and never heard of.

I love that he was so willing to challenge and question ideas. That really did put him in quite a tough position in the time that the lived in. Copernicus fought hard for what he believed in, even though he didn’t have the ability to prove his theory. It really is a great lesson that can be learned and taught to our children as you are learning about this scientific pioneer. His thoughts and ideas challenged others to prove that what he believed was true. He really did initiate the beginning of the Scientific Revolution!

Biography of Nicolaus Copernicus:

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn, Poland on February 19, 1473. He was the son of a very wealthy merchant. His father died when he was ten years old. He was raised by his uncle, a bishop in the Catholic church. He studied mathematics and astronomy at the University of Krakow. Then he went on to study law and medicine at the universities of Bologna, Padua, and Ferrara in Italy. Copernicus lived in the home of a mathematics professor while studying at the University of Bologna. This professor is who influenced him to question the astronomy beliefs of the day.

His observations of the heavens were made with the naked eye. 50 years before Galileo discovered and invented the telescope! He did not have the tools needed to prove this theories. These would be proven true later with more discoveries and famous astronomers to follow. He died on May 24, 1543.

Are you learning about astronomy in your science studies, or the Renaissance time period in history? If so, you will enjoy learning about this famous scientist. Check out our round up of free printables and resources about Nicolaus Copernicus!

FREE Printables and Resources About Nicolaus Copernicus:

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Contents

Copernicus initially outlined his system in a short, untitled, anonymous manuscript that he distributed to several friends, referred to as the Commentariolus. A physician's library list dating to 1514 includes a manuscript whose description matches the Commentariolus, so Copernicus must have begun work on his new system by that time. [1] Most historians believe that he wrote the Commentariolus after his return from Italy, possibly only after 1510. At this time, Copernicus anticipated that he could reconcile the motion of the Earth with the perceived motions of the planets easily, with fewer motions than were necessary in the Alfonsine Tables, the version of the Ptolemaic system current at the time. [ citation needed ] In particular, the heliocentric Copernican model made use of the Urdi Lemma developed in the 13th century by Mu'ayyad al-Din al-'Urdi, the first of the Maragha astronomers to develop a non-Ptolemaic model of planetary motion. [2]

Observations of Mercury by Bernhard Walther (1430–1504) of Nuremberg, a pupil of Regiomontanus, were made available to Copernicus by Johannes Schöner, 45 observations in total, 14 of them with longitude and latitude. Copernicus used three of them in De revolutionibus, giving only longitudes, and erroneously attributing them to Schöner. [ citation needed ] Copernicus' values differed slightly from the ones published by Schöner in 1544 in Observationes XXX annorum a I. Regiomontano et B. Walthero Norimbergae habitae, [4°, Norimb. 1544].

A manuscript of De revolutionibus in Copernicus' own hand has survived. After his death, it was given to his pupil, Rheticus, who for publication had only been given a copy without annotations. Via Heidelberg, it ended up in Prague, where it was rediscovered and studied in the 19th century. Close examination of the manuscript, including the different types of paper used, helped scholars construct an approximate timetable for its composition. Apparently Copernicus began by making a few astronomical observations to provide new data to perfect his models. [ citation needed ] He may have begun writing the book while still engaged in observations. By the 1530s a substantial part of the book was complete, but Copernicus hesitated to publish. [ citation needed ] In 1536, Cardinal Nikolaus von Schönberg wrote to Copernicus and urged him to publish his manuscript. [3]

In 1539 Georg Joachim Rheticus, a young mathematician from Wittenberg, arrived in Frauenburg (Frombork) to study with him. Rheticus read Copernicus' manuscript and immediately wrote a non-technical summary of its main theories in the form of an open letter addressed to Schöner, his astrology teacher in Nürnberg he published this letter as the Narratio Prima in Danzig in 1540. Rheticus' friend and mentor Achilles Gasser published a second edition of the Narratio in Basel in 1541. Due to its friendly reception, Copernicus finally agreed to publication of more of his main work—in 1542, a treatise on trigonometry, which was taken from the second book of the still unpublished De revolutionibus. Rheticus published it in Copernicus' name.

Under strong pressure from Rheticus, and having seen that the first general reception of his work had not been unfavorable, Copernicus finally agreed to give the book to his close friend, Bishop Tiedemann Giese, to be delivered to Rheticus in Wittenberg for printing by Johannes Petreius at Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It was published just before Copernicus' death, in 1543.

Copernicus kept a copy of his manuscript which, sometime after his death, was sent to Rheticus in the attempt to produce an authentic, unaltered version of the book. The plan failed but the copy was found during the 18th.c. and it has been published later. [4] It is kept at the Jagiellonian University Library in Kraków where it remains bearing the library number BJ 10 000.

The book is dedicated to Pope Paul III in a preface by Lutheran preacher Andreas Osiander, which argues that the system is only one of mathematical contrivance, not physical truth. [5] De revolutionibus is divided into six "books" (sections or parts), following closely the layout of Ptolemy's Almagest which it updated and replaced: [6]

  • Book I chapters 1–11 are a general vision of the heliocentric theory, and a summarized exposition of his cosmology. The world (heavens) is spherical, as is the Earth, and the land and water make a single globe. The celestial bodies, including the Earth, have regular circular and everlasting movements. The Earth rotates on its axis and around the Sun. [5] Answers to why the ancients thought the Earth was central. The order of the planets around the Sun and their periodicity. Chapters 12–14 give theorems for chord geometry as well as a table of chords.
  • Book II describes the principles of spherical astronomy as a basis for the arguments developed in the following books and gives a comprehensive catalogue of the fixed stars. [5]
  • Book III describes his work on the precession of the equinoxes and treats the apparent movements of the Sun and related phenomena.
  • Book IV is a similar description of the Moon and its orbital movements.
  • Book V explains how to calculate the positions of the wandering stars based on the heliocentric model and gives tables for the five planets.
  • Book VI deals with the digression in latitude from the ecliptic of the five planets.

Copernicus argued that the universe comprised eight spheres. The outermost consisted of motionless, fixed stars, with the Sun motionless at the center. The known planets revolved about the Sun, each in its own sphere, in the order: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The Moon, however, revolved in its sphere around the Earth. What appeared to be the daily revolution of the Sun and fixed stars around the Earth was actually the Earth's daily rotation on its own axis.

Copernicus adhered to one of the standard beliefs of his time, namely that the motions of celestial bodies must be composed of uniform circular motions. For this reason, he was unable to account for the observed apparent motion of the planets without retaining a complex system of epicycles similar to those of the Ptolemaic system. Despite Copernicus' adherence to this aspect of ancient astronomy, his radical shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric cosmology was a serious blow to Aristotle's science—and helped usher in the Scientific Revolution.

Rheticus left Nürnberg to take up his post as professor in Leipzig. Andreas Osiander had taken over the task of supervising the printing and publication. [5] In an effort to reduce the controversial impact of the book Osiander added his own unsigned letter Ad lectorem de hypothesibus huius operis (To the reader concerning the hypotheses of this work) [7] printed in front of Copernicus' preface which was a dedicatory letter to Pope Paul III and which kept the title "Praefatio authoris" (to acknowledge that the unsigned letter was not by the book's author). Osiander's letter stated that Copernicus' system was mathematics intended to aid computation and not an attempt to declare literal truth:

it is the duty of an astronomer to compose the history of the celestial motions through careful and expert study. Then he must conceive and devise the causes of these motions or hypotheses about them. Since he cannot in any way attain to the true causes, he will adopt whatever suppositions enable the motions to be computed correctly . The present author has performed both these duties excellently. For these hypotheses need not be true nor even probable. On the contrary, if they provide a calculus consistent with the observations, that alone is enough . For this art, it is quite clear, is completely and absolutely ignorant of the causes of the apparent [movement of the heavens]. And if any causes are devised by the imagination, as indeed very many are, they are not put forward to convince anyone that they are true, but merely to provide a reliable basis for computation. However, since different hypotheses are sometimes offered for one and the same . the astronomer will take as his first choice that hypothesis which is the easiest to grasp. The philosopher will perhaps rather seek the semblance of the truth. But neither of them will understand or state anything certain, unless it has been divinely revealed to him . Let no one expect anything certain from astronomy, which cannot furnish it, lest he accept as the truth ideas conceived for another purpose, and depart this study a greater fool than when he entered. [8]

As even Osiander's defenders point out, the Ad lectorem "expresses views on the aim and nature of scientific theories at variance with Copernicus' claims for his own theory". [9] Many view Osiander's letter as a betrayal of science and Copernicus, and an attempt to pass his own thoughts off as those of the book's author. An example of this type of claim can be seen in the Catholic Encyclopedia, which states "Fortunately for him [the dying Copernicus], he could not see what Osiander had done. This reformer, knowing the attitude of Luther and Melanchthon against the heliocentric system . without adding his own name, replaced the preface of Copernicus by another strongly contrasting in spirit with that of Copernicus." [10]

While Osiander's motives behind the letter have been questioned by many, he has been defended by historian Bruce Wrightsman, who points out he was not an enemy of science. Osiander had many scientific connections including "Johannes Schoner, Rheticus's teacher, whom Osiander recommended for his post at the Nurnberg Gymnasium Peter Apian of Ingolstadt University Hieronymous Schreiber. Joachim Camerarius. Erasmus Reinhold. Joachim Rheticus. and finally, Hieronymous Cardan." [9]

The historian Wrightsman put forward that Osiander did not sign the letter because he "was such a notorious [Protestant] reformer whose name was well-known and infamous among Catholics", [9] so that signing would have likely caused negative scrutiny of the work of Copernicus (a loyal Catholic canon and scholar). Copernicus himself had communicated to Osiander his "own fears that his work would be scrutinized and criticized by the 'peripatetics and theologians'," [9] and he had already been in trouble with his bishop, Johannes Dantiscus, on account of his former relationship with his mistress and friendship with Dantiscus's enemy and suspected heretic, Alexander Scultetus. It was also possible that Protestant Nurnberg could fall to the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor and since "the books of hostile theologians could be burned. why not scientific works with the names of hated theologians affixed to them? [9] " Wrightsman also holds that this is why Copernicus did not mention his top student, Rheticus (a Lutheran) in the book's dedication to the Pope. [9]

Osiander's interest in astronomy was theological, hoping for "improving the chronology of historical events and thus providing more accurate apocalyptic interpretations of the Bible. [he shared in] the general awareness that the calendar was not in agreement with astronomical movement and therefore, needed to be corrected by devising better models on which to base calculations." In an era before the telescope, Osiander (like most of the era's mathematical astronomers) attempted to bridge the "fundamental incompatibility between Ptolemaic astronomy and Aristotlian physics, and the need to preserve both", by taking an 'instrumentalist' position. Only the handful of "Philosophical purists like the Averroists. demanded physical consistency and thus sought for realist models." [9]

Copernicus was hampered by his insistence on preserving the idea that celestial bodies had to travel in perfect circles — he "was still attached to classical ideas of circular motion around deferents and epicycles, and spheres." [11] This was particularly troubling concerning the Earth because he "attached the Earth's axis rigidly to a Sun-centered sphere. The unfortunate consequence was that the terrestrial rotation axis then maintained the same inclination with respect to the Sun as the sphere turned, eliminating the seasons." [11] To explain the seasons, he had to propose a third motion, "an annual contrary conical sweep of the terrestrial axis". [11] It was not until the Great Comet of 1577, which moved as if there were no spheres to crash through, that the idea was challenged. In 1609, Kepler fixed Copernicus' theory by stating that the planets orbit the sun not in circles, but ellipses. Only after Kepler's refinement of Copernicus' theory was the need for deferents and epicycles abolished.

In his work, Copernicus "used conventional, hypothetical devices like epicycles. as all astronomers had done since antiquity. . hypothetical constructs solely designed to 'save the phenomena' and aid computation". [9] Ptolemy's theory contained a hypothesis about the epicycle of Venus that was viewed as absurd if seen as anything other than a geometrical device (its brightness and distance should have varied greatly, but they don't). "In spite of this defect in Ptolemy's theory, Copernicus' hypothesis predicts approximately the same variations." [9] Because of the use of similar terms and similar deficiencies, Osiander could see "little technical or physical truth-gain" [9] between one system and the other. It was this attitude towards technical astronomy that had allowed it to "function since antiquity, despite its inconsistencies with the principles of physics and the philosophical objections of Averroists." [9]

Writing Ad lectorem, Osiander was influenced by Pico della Mirandola's idea that humanity "orders [an intellectual] cosmos out of the chaos of opinions." [9] From Pico's writings, Osiander "learned to extract and synthesize insights from many sources without becoming the slavish follower of any of them." [9] The effect of Pico on Osiander was tempered by the influence of Nicholas of Cusa's and his idea of coincidentia oppositorum. Rather than having Pico's focus on human effort, Osiander followed Cusa's idea that understanding the Universe and its Creator only came from divine inspiration rather than intellectual organization. From these influences, Osiander held that in the area of philosophical speculation and scientific hypothesis there are "no heretics of the intellect", but when one gets past speculation into truth-claims the Bible is the ultimate measure. By holding Copernicianism was mathematical speculation, Osiander held that it would be silly to hold it up against the accounts of the Bible.

Pico's influence on Osiander did not escape Rheticus, who reacted strongly against the Ad lectorem. As historian Robert S. Westman puts it, "The more profound source of Rheticus's ire however, was Osiander's view of astronomy as a disciple fundamentally incapable of knowing anything with certainty. For Rheticus, this extreme position surely must have resonated uncomfortably with Pico della Mirandola's attack on the foundations of divinatory astrology." [12]

In his Disputations, Pico had made a devastating attack on astrology. Because those who were making astrological predictions relied on astronomers to tell them where the planets were, they also became a target. Pico held that since astronomers who calculate planetary positions could not agree among themselves, how were they to be held as reliable? While Pico could bring into concordance writers like Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Averroes, Avicenna, and Aquinas, the lack of consensus he saw in astronomy was a proof to him of its fallibility alongside astrology. Pico pointed out that the astronomers' instruments were imprecise and any imperfection of even a degree made them worthless for astrology, people should not trust astrologists because they should not trust the numbers from astronomers. Pico pointed out that astronomers couldn't even tell where the Sun appeared in the order of the planets as they orbited the Earth (some put it close to the Moon, others among the planets). How, Pico asked, could astrologists possibly claim they could read what was going on when the astronomers they relied on could offer no precision on even basic questions?

As Westman points out, to Rheticus "it would seem that Osiander now offered new grounds for endorsing Pico's conclusions: not merely was the disagreement among astronomers grounds for mistrusting the sort of knowledge that they produced, but now Osiander proclaimed that astronomers might construct a world deduced from (possibly) false premises. Thus the conflict between Piconian skepticism and secure principles for the science of the stars was built right into the complex dedicatory apparatus of De Revolutionibus itself." [12] According to the notes of Michael Maestlin, "Rheticus. became embroiled in a very bitter wrangle with the printer [over the Ad lectorem]. Rheticus. suspected Osiander had prefaced the work if he knew this for certain, he declared, he would rough up the fellow so violently that in future he would mind his own business." [13]

Objecting to the Ad lectorem, Tiedemann Giese urged the Nuremberg city council to issue a correction, but this was not done, and the matter was forgotten. Jan Broscius, a supporter of Copernicus, also despaired of the Ad lectorem, writing "Ptolemy's hypothesis is the earth rests. Copernicus' hypothesis is that the earth is in motion. Can either, therefore, be true? . Indeed, Osiander deceives much with that preface of his . Hence, someone may well ask: How is one to know which hypothesis is truer, the Ptolemaic or the Copernican?" [9]

Petreius had sent a copy to Hieronymus Schreiber, an astronomer from Nürnberg who had substituted for Rheticus as professor of mathematics in Wittenberg while Rheticus was in Nürnberg supervising the printing. Schreiber, who died in 1547, left in his copy of the book a note about Osiander's authorship. Via Michael Mästlin, this copy came to Johannes Kepler, who discovered what Osiander had done [14] [15] and methodically demonstrated that Osiander had indeed added the foreword. [16] The most knowledgeable astronomers of the time had realized that the foreword was Osiander's doing.

Owen Gingerich gives a slightly different version: Kepler knew of Osiander's authorship since he had read about it in one of Schreiber's annotations in his copy of De Revolutionibus Maestlin learned of the fact from Kepler. Indeed, Maestlin perused Kepler's book, up to the point of leaving a few annotations in it. However, Maestlin already suspected Osiander, because he had bought his De revolutionibus from the widow of Philipp Apian examining his books, he had found a note attributing the introduction to Osiander. [17]

Johannes Praetorius (1537–1616), who learned of Osiander's authorship from Rheticus during a visit to him in Kraków, wrote Osiander's name in the margin of the foreword in his copy of De revolutionibus.

All three early editions of De revolutionibus included Osiander's foreword.

Even before the 1543 publication of De revolutionibus, rumors circulated about its central theses. Martin Luther is quoted as saying in 1539:

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon . This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy but sacred Scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth. [18]

When the book was finally published, demand was low, with an initial print run of 400 failing to sell out. [19] Copernicus had made the book extremely technical, unreadable to all but the most advanced astronomers of the day, allowing it to disseminate into their ranks before stirring great controversy. [20] And, like Osiander, contemporary mathematicians and astronomers encouraged its audience to view it as a useful mathematical fiction with no physical reality, thereby somewhat shielding it from accusations of blasphemy. [21]

Among some astronomers, the book "at once took its place as a worthy successor to the Almagest of Ptolemy, which had hitherto been the Alpha and Omega of astronomers". [22] Erasmus Reinhold hailed the work in 1542 and by 1551 had developed the Prutenic Tables ("Prussian Tables" Latin: Tabulae prutenicae German: Preußische Tafeln) using Copernicus' methods. The Prutenic Tables, published in 1551, were used as a basis for the calendar reform instituted in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. They were also used by sailors and maritime explorers, whose 15th-century predecessors had used Regiomontanus' Table of the Stars. In England, Robert Recorde, John Dee, Thomas Digges and William Gilbert were among those who adopted his position in Germany, Christian Wurstisen, Christoph Rothmann and Michael Mästlin, the teacher of Johannes Kepler in Italy, Giambattista Benedetti and Giordano Bruno whilst Franciscus Patricius accepted the rotation of the Earth. In Spain, rules published in 1561 for the curriculum of the University of Salamanca gave students the choice between studying Ptolemy or Copernicus. [23] [24] One of those students, Diego de Zúñiga, published an acceptance of Copernican theory in 1584. [25]

Very soon, nevertheless, Copernicus' theory was attacked with Scripture and with the common Aristotelian proofs. In 1549, Melanchthon, Luther's principal lieutenant, wrote against Copernicus, pointing to the theory's apparent conflict with Scripture and advocating that "severe measures" be taken to restrain the impiety of Copernicans. [26] The works of Copernicus and Zúñiga—the latter for asserting that De revolutionibus was compatible with Catholic faith—were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of March 5, 1616 (more than 70 years after Copernicus' publication):

This Holy Congregation has also learned about the spreading and acceptance by many of the false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture, that the earth moves and the sun is motionless, which is also taught by Nicholaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and by Diego de Zúñiga's In Job . Therefore, in order that this opinion may not creep any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth, the Congregation has decided that the books by Nicolaus Copernicus [De revolutionibus] and Diego de Zúñiga [In Job] be suspended until corrected. [27]

De revolutionibus was not formally banned but merely withdrawn from circulation, pending "corrections" that would clarify the theory's status as hypothesis. Nine sentences that represented the heliocentric system as certain were to be omitted or changed. After these corrections were prepared and formally approved in 1620 the reading of the book was permitted. [28] But the book was never reprinted with the changes and was available in Catholic jurisdictions only to suitably qualified scholars, by special request. [ citation needed ] It remained on the Index until 1758, when Pope Benedict XIV (1740–58) removed the uncorrected book from his revised Index. [29]

Arthur Koestler described De revolutionibus as "The Book That Nobody Read" saying the book "was and is an all-time worst seller", despite the fact that it was reprinted four times. [30] Owen Gingerich, a writer on both Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, disproved this after a 35-year project to examine every surviving copy of the first two editions. Gingerich showed that nearly all the leading mathematicians and astronomers of the time owned and read the book however, his analysis of the marginalia shows that they almost all ignored the cosmology at the beginning of the book and were only interested in Copernicus' new equant-free models of planetary motion in the later chapters. Also, Nicolaus Reimers in 1587 translated the book into German.

Gingerich's efforts and conclusions are recounted in The Book Nobody Read, published in 2004 by Walker & Co. His census [31] included 276 copies of the first edition (by comparison, there are 228 extant copies of the First Folio of Shakespeare) and 325 copies of the second. [32] The research behind this book earned its author the Polish government's Order of Merit in 1981. Due largely to Gingerich's scholarship, De revolutionibus has been researched and catalogued better than any other first-edition historic text except for the original Gutenberg Bible. [33] One of the copies now resides at the Archives of the University of Santo Tomas in the Miguel de Benavides Library. In January 2017, a second-edition copy was stolen as part of a heist of rare books from Heathrow Airport and remains unrecovered. [34]


Copernicus Unearthed

Nicolaus Copernicus was the first to demonstrate that the earth orbited the sun, upsetting the prevailing notion that the earth was the center of the cosmos. But the Polish astronomer died in obscurity in 1543 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Five centuries later, archaeologists say they have located his long-sought resting place, under the marble floor tiles of a church.

In a sense, the search for Copernicus’ grave always led down the narrow cobblestone road into Frombork, a sleepy Polish town of about 2,500 on the Baltic coast where Copernicus lived and worked. The Frombork Cathedral, atop one of the region’s few hills, has red brick walls and a simple design. Towers built into the surrounding defensive walls, testaments to centuries of border conflicts, rise almost as high as the church, commanding a view of the town below, the Baltic Sea and sometimes a sliver of Russia ten miles to the north. A Communist-era sign with rusting planetary orbs proclaims Frombork’s former resident.

Mikolaj Kopernik (he later used the Latinized version of his name) was born in 1473 in Torun, in eastern Poland, to a comfortable merchant family. When his father died ten years later, the boy’s uncle, a bishop, oversaw his wide-ranging education, sending him to elite universities in Krakow, Bologna and Padua to prepare him for a career in the church.

In 1503, after establishing himself as a respected astronomer, Copernicus returned to Poland to work for his uncle, who found him a job as a church administrator and lawyer in Frombork. (Then, as now, it was easier to study astronomy as a hobby than to make a living at it.) From his rooms in a brick tower a few hundred feet from the cathedral’s front door, he collected rents, oversaw the region’s defenses and practiced medicine. He spent his spare time translating poetry from Greek into Latin, suggesting currency reforms, painting—and revising humanity’s sense of its place in the universe.

A 30-year project, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, or On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, was Copernicus’ response to the unwieldy mathematics used since the days of the ancient Greeks to explain the motion of the sun, moon and five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). Astronomers had worked from the assumption that the earth was the center of the universe, forcing them to draw convoluted orbits for the planets, which even had to reverse directions for the theory to be consistent with their observed trajectories. Once Copernicus put the sun at the center of the picture and adjusted the mathematics, the planetary orbits became regular, smooth and elegant. His inspiration came early, but the cautious scholar took half a lifetime to check his figures before publishing them in 1543, the year he died at age 70. “The scorn which I had to fear on account of the newness and absurdity of my opinion,” he admitted in the book’s preface, “almost drove me to abandon a work already undertaken.”

True to his prediction, his contemporaries found his massive logical leap “patently absurd,” says Owen Gingerich, professor emeritus of astronomy and the history of science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus. “It would take several generations to sink in. Very few scholars saw it as a real description of the universe.” His book remained obscure for dec-ades. The Catholic Church censored Coelestium in 1616 only after Galileo drew their attention to it.

Copernicus’ death wasn’t even noted in the cathedral’s records. “We know when Copernicus died only because somebody replaced him” as canon of the Frombork Cathedral, says Jerzy Gassowski, an archaeologist at the Pultusk School of Humanities in central Poland. In 2004, Frombork’s bishop approached Gassowski and proposed a new search for the scientist. At least four other excavation teams, the first digging as early as 1802, had looked in vain for Copernicus’ body. A ground-penetrating radar survey showed more than 100 possible graves underneath the cathedral’s gray-and-black marble tiles. “I wasn’t enthusiastic,” Gassowski recalls. “I just thought we’d dig year after year and never find him.”

But the bishop, Jacek Jezierski, was more optimistic, thanks to a historian’s hunch that Copernicus might be buried near the altar where he prayed every day. The excavation was complicated. Digging had to stop several times a day for masses, concerts, weddings and funerals. When the workers lifted the cathedral’s marble floor tiles to dig a square pit about ten feet on a side, they found loose, shifting sand. The bass note vibrations of the cathedral’s organ twice caused the pit’s sand walls to collapse.
Two weeks of exploratory digging in August 2004 turned up three skeletons. Two were too young, and the other had been buried in a labeled coffin. Then, last summer, the archaeologists uncovered parts of more than a dozen bodies. Some were encased in coffins, others had been wrapped in shrouds long since decayed most had been damaged or mixed up over the centuries.

In August, Pultusk archaeologist Beata Jurkiewicz carefully lifted a skull from the bottom of the pit. Forensic anthropologist Karol Piasecki said the skull, which lacked a jawbone, was that of a roughly 70-year-old male. “It was an amazing moment, but I’m a skeptical person,” says Jurkiewicz.

The researchers sent the partial skull to the Warsaw police department’s main crime lab, where police artist Dariusz Zajdel did a forensic reconstruction, the same technique police use to flesh out and help identify decomposed murder victims. From detailed measurements of the shape of the skull and its grooves and deformations, Zajdel used a computer program to create a portrait of a severe old man with a long face, a nose that had been broken decades before his death and a scar above his right eye. Subtract 30 years, and the likeness Zajdel created bears a strong resemblance to the surviving portraits of a middle-aged Copernicus, all based on a much copied self-portrait that has been lost. It was enough for Gassowski and Jurkiewicz. “When I found out who it was, I called him Nicky and treated him like my best buddy,” Zajdel says.

Still, doubts linger. “There’s a high probability it’s Copernicus, but to be sure we have to make a DNA test,” Gassowski says. The scientists would like to compare the skull fragment’s DNA with that of a descendant—but the bachelor academic had no known children. The next best chance is to test DNA from the bones of Copernicus’ uncle, Lucas Waczenrode, who was buried in the same cathedral.

Alas, Waczenrode’s burial site is also lost to history. Locating his body underneath the cathedral floor could take years—if it’s even there. In the final days of World War II, Soviet soldiers burned most of Frombork and looted the church as they marched toward Germany, and the cathedral’s crypts would have been a prime target for treasure hunters. (More than 60 years later, Frombork’s old town square is still in ruins.) Researchers plan to study church archives as well as interview Frombork residents who remember the war years to get a better fix on where Copernicus’ uncle might be buried.

The Polish team’s professional reserve—their insistence on verifying every possibility—is in keeping with the cautious nature of their quarry. In the search for a man who solved one of science’s great puzzles, perhaps it’s fitting that they want no mystery to remain.

About Andrew Curry

Andrew Curry is a Berlin-based journalist who writes about science and history for a variety of publications, including National Geographic, Nature, and Wired. He is a contributing editor at Archaeology and has visited archaeological excavations on five continents. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Porto)


2. Astronomical Ideas and Writings

2.1 Pre-Copernican Astronomy

Classical astronomy followed principles established by Aristotle. Aristotle accepted the idea that there were four physical elements &ndash earth, water, air, and fire. He put the earth in the center of the universe and contended that these elements were below the moon, which was the closest celestial body. There were seven planets, or wandering stars, because they had a course through the zodiac in addition to traveling around the earth: the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, Mars, Jupiter. Beyond that were the fixed stars. The physical elements, according to Aristotle moved vertically, depending on their &lsquoheaviness&rsquo or &lsquogravity&rsquo the celestial bodies were not physical but a &lsquofifth element&rsquo or &lsquoquintessence&rsquo whose nature was to move in perfect circles around the earth, making a daily rotation. Aristotle envisioned the earth as the true center of all the circles or &lsquoorbs&rsquo carrying the heavenly bodies around it and all motion as &lsquouniform,&rsquo that is, unchanging.

But observers realized that the heavenly bodies did not move as Aristotle postulated. The earth was not the true center of the orbits and the motion was not uniform. The most obvious problem was that the outer planets seemed to stop, move backwards in &lsquoretrograde&rsquo motion for a while, and then continue forwards. By the second century, when Ptolemy compiled his Almagest (this common name of Ptolemy&rsquos Syntaxis was derived from its Arabic title), astronomers had developed the concept that the orbit moves in &lsquoepicycles&rsquo around a &lsquodeferrent,&rsquo that is, they move like a flat heliacal coil around a circle around the earth. The earth was also off-center, on an &lsquoeccentric,&rsquo as the heavenly bodies moved around a central point. Ptolemy added a point on a straight line opposite the eccentric, which is called the &lsquoequalizing point&rsquo or the &lsquoequant,&rsquo and around this point the heavenly bodies moved uniformly. Moreover, unlike the Aristotelian model, Ptolemy&rsquos Almagest did not describe a unified universe. The ancient astronomers who followed Ptolemy, however, were not concerned if his system did not describe the &lsquotrue&rsquo motions of the heavenly bodies their concern was to &lsquosave the phenomena,&rsquo that is, give a close approximation of where the heavenly bodies would be at a given point in time. And in an age without professional astronomers, let alone the telescope, Ptolemy did a good job plotting the courses of the heavenly bodies.

Not all Greek astronomical ideas followed this geocentric system. Pythagoreans suggested that the earth moved around a central fire (not the sun). Archimedes wrote that Aristarchus of Samos actually proposed that the earth rotated daily and revolved around the sun. [3]

During the European Middle Ages, the Islamic world was the center of astronomical thought and activity. During the ninth century several aspects of Ptolemy&rsquos solar theory were recalculated. Ibn al-Haytham in the tenth-eleventh century wrote a scathing critique of Ptolemy&rsquos work: &ldquoPtolemy assumed an arrangement that cannot exist, and the fact that this arrangement produces in his imagination the motions that belong to the planets does not free him from the error he committed in his assumed arrangement, for the existing motions of the planets cannot be the result of an arrangement that is impossible to exist&rdquo (quoted in Rosen 1984, 174). Swerdlow and Neugebauer (46&ndash48) stressed that the thirteenth-century Maragha school was also important in finding errors and correcting Ptolemy: &ldquoThe method of the Maragha planetary models was to break up the equant motion in Ptolemy&rsquos models into two or more components of uniform circular motion, physically the uniform rotation of spheres, that together control the direction and distance of the center of the epicycle, so that it comes to lie in nearly the same position it would have in Ptolemy&rsquos model, and always moves uniformly with respect to the equant.&rdquo They found that Copernicus used devices that had been developed by the Maragha astronomers Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274), Muayyad al-Din al-Urdi (d. 1266), Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311), and Ibn al-Shatir (1304&ndash1375). In addition, Ragep, 2005, has shown that a theory for the inner planets presented by Regiomontanus that enabled Copernicus to convert the planets to eccentric models had been developed by the fifteenth-century, Samarqand-trained astronomer ali Qushji (1403&ndash1474). [4]

Renaissance humanism did not necessarily promote natural philosophy, but its emphasis on mastery of classical languages and texts had the side effect of promoting the sciences. Georg Peurbach (1423&ndash1461) and (Johannes Müller) Regiomontanus (1436&ndash1476) studied Greek for the purpose of producing an outline of Ptolemaic astronomy. By the time Regiomontanus finished the work in 1463, it was an important commentary on the Almagest as well, pointing out, for example, that Ptolemy&rsquos lunar theory did not accord with observations. He noted that Ptolemy showed the moon to be at various times twice as far from the earth as at other times, which should make the moon appear twice as big. At the time, moreover, there was active debate over Ptolemy&rsquos deviations from Aristotle&rsquos requirement of uniform circular motion.

2.2 The Commentariolus

It is impossible to date when Copernicus first began to espouse the heliocentric theory. Had he done so during his lecture in Rome, such a radical theory would have occasioned comment, but there was none, so it is likely that he adopted this theory after 1500. Further, Corvinus, who helped him print his Latin translation in 1508&ndash09, expressed admiration for his knowledge of astronomy, so that Copernicus&rsquos concept may have still been traditional at this point. His first heliocentric writing was his Commentariolus. It was a small manuscript that was circulated but never printed. We do not know when he wrote this, but a professor in Cracow cataloged his books in 1514 and made reference to a &ldquomanuscript of six leaves expounding the theory of an author who asserts that the earth moves while the sun stands still&rdquo (Rosen, 1971, 343 MW 75). Thus, Copernicus probably adopted the heliocentric theory sometime between 1508 and 1514. Rosen (1971, 345) suggested that Copernicus&rsquos &ldquointerest in determining planetary positions in 1512&ndash1514 may reasonably be linked with his decisions to leave his uncle&rsquos episcopal palace in 1510 and to build his own outdoor observatory in 1513.&rdquo In other words, it was the result of a period of intense concentration on cosmology that was facilitated by his leaving his uncle and the attendant focus on church politics and medicine.

It is impossible to know exactly why Copernicus began to espouse the heliocentric cosmology. Despite his importance in the history of philosophy, there is a paucity of primary sources on Copernicus. His only astronomical writings were the Commentariolus, the Letter against Werner, and On the Revolutions he published his translation of Theophylactus&rsquos letters and wrote the various versions of his treatise on coinage other writings relate to diocesan business, as do most of the few letters that survive. Sadly, the biography by Rheticus, which should have provided scholars with an enormous amount of information, has been lost. Therefore, many of the answers to the most interesting questions about Copernicus&rsquos ideas and works have been the result of conjecture and inference, and we can only guess why Copernicus adopted the heliocentric system.

Most scholars believe that the reason Copernicus rejected Ptolemaic cosmology was because of Ptolemy&rsquos equant. [5] They assume this because of what Copernicus wrote in the Commentariolus:

Goddu (381&ndash84) has plausibly maintained that while the initial motivation for Copernicus was dissatisfaction with the equant, that dissatisfaction may have impelled him to observe other violations of uniform circular motion, and those observations, not the rejection of the equant by itself, led to the heliocentric theory. Blumenberg (254) has pointed out that the mobility of the earth may have been reinforced by the similarity of its spherical shape to those of the heavenly bodies.

As the rejection of the equant suggests a return to the Aristotelian demand for true uniform circular motion of the heavenly bodies, it is unlikely that Copernicus adopted the heliocentric model because philosophies popular among Renaissance humanists like Neoplatonism and Hermetism compelled him in that direction. [6] Nor should we attribute Copernicus&rsquos desire for uniform circular motions to an aesthetic need, for this idea was philosophical not aesthetic, and Copernicus&rsquos replacing the equant with epicyclets made his system more complex than Ptolemy&rsquos. Most importantly, we should bear in mind what Swerdlow and Neugebauer (59) asserted:

In the Commentariolus Copernicus listed assumptions that he believed solved the problems of ancient astronomy. He stated that the earth is only the center of gravity and center of the moon&rsquos orbit that all the spheres encircle the sun, which is close to the center of the universe that the universe is much larger than previously assumed, and the earth&rsquos distance to the sun is a small fraction of the size of the universe that the apparent motion of the heavens and the sun is created by the motion of the earth and that the apparent retrograde motion of the planets is created by the earth&rsquos motion. Although the Copernican model maintained epicycles moving along the deferrent, which explained retrograde motion in the Ptolemaic model, Copernicus correctly explained that the retrograde motion of the planets was only apparent not real, and its appearance was due to the fact that the observers were not at rest in the center. The work dealt very briefly with the order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the only planets that could be observed with the naked eye), the triple motion of the earth (the daily rotation, the annual revolution of its center, and the annual revolution of its inclination) that causes the sun to seem to be in motion, the motions of the equinoxes, the revolution of the moon around the earth, and the revolution of the five planets around the sun.

2.3 On the Revolutions

The Commentariolus was only intended as an introduction to Copernicus&rsquos ideas, and he wrote &ldquothe mathematical demonstrations intended for my larger work should be omitted for brevity&rsquos sake&hellip&rdquo (MW 82). In a sense it was an announcement of the greater work that Copernicus had begun. The Commentariolus was never published during Copernicus&rsquos lifetime, but he sent manuscript copies to various astronomers and philosophers. He received some discouragement because the heliocentric system seemed to disagree with the Bible, but mostly he was encouraged. Although Copernicus&rsquos involvement with official attempts to reform the calendar was limited to a no longer extant letter, that endeavor made a new, serious astronomical theory welcome. Fear of the reaction of ecclesiastical authorities was probably the least of the reasons why he delayed publishing his book. [7] The most important reasons for the delay was that the larger work required both astronomical observations and intricate mathematical proofs. His administrative duties certainly interfered with both the research and the writing. He was unable to make the regular observations that he needed and Frombork, which was often fogged in, was not a good place for those observations. Moreover, as Gingerich (1993, 37) pointed out,

The manuscript of On the Revolutions was basically complete when Rheticus came to visit him in 1539. The work comprised six books. The first book, the best known, discussed what came to be known as the Copernican theory and what is Copernicus&rsquos most important contribution to astronomy, the heliocentric universe (although in Copernicus&rsquos model, the sun is not truly in the center). Book 1 set out the order of the heavenly bodies about the sun: &ldquo[The sphere of the fixed stars] is followed by the first of the planets, Saturn, which completes its circuit in 30 years. After Saturn, Jupiter accomplishes its revolution in 12 years. The Mars revolves in 2 years. The annual revolution takes the series&rsquo fourth place, which contains the earth&helliptogether with the lunar sphere as an epicycle. In the fifth place Venus returns in 9 months. Lastly, the sixth place is held by Mercury, which revolves in a period of 80 days&rdquo (Revolutions, 21&ndash22). This established a relationship between the order of the planets and their periods, and it made a unified system. This may be the most important argument in favor of the heliocentric model as Copernicus described it. [8] It was far superior to Ptolemy&rsquos model, which had the planets revolving around the earth so that the sun, Mercury, and Venus all had the same annual revolution. In book 1 Copernicus also insisted that the movements of all bodies must be circular and uniform, and noted that the reason they may appear nonuniform to us is &ldquoeither that their circles have poles different [from the earth&rsquos] or that the earth is not at the center of the circles on which they revolve&rdquo (Revolutions, 11). Particularly notable for Copernicus was that in Ptolemy&rsquos model the sun, the moon, and the five planets seemed ironically to have different motions from the other heavenly bodies and it made more sense for the small earth to move than the immense heavens. But the fact that Copernicus turned the earth into a planet did not cause him to reject Aristotelian physics, for he maintained that &ldquoland and water together press upon a single center of gravity that the earth has no other center of magnitude that, since earth is heavier, its gaps are filled with water&hellip&rdquo (Revolutions, 10). As Aristotle had asserted, the earth was the center toward which the physical elements gravitate. This was a problem for Copernicus&rsquos model, because if the earth was no longer the center, why should elements gravitate toward it?

The second book of On the Revolutions elaborated the concepts in the first book book 3 dealt with the precession of the equinoxes and solar theory book 4 dealt with the moon&rsquos motions book 5 dealt with the planetary longitude and book 6 with latitude. [9] Copernicus depended very much on Ptolemy&rsquos observations, and there was little new in his mathematics. He was most successful in his work on planetary longitude, which, as Swerdlow and Neugebauer (77) commented, was &ldquoCopernicus&rsquos most admirable, and most demanding, accomplishment&hellipIt was above all the decision to derive new elements for the planets that delayed for nearly half a lifetime Copernicus&rsquos continuation of his work &ndash nearly twenty years devoted to observation and then several more to the most tedious kind of computation &ndash and the result was recognized by his contemporaries as the equal of Ptolemy&rsquos accomplishment, which was surely the highest praise for an astronomer.&rdquo Surprisingly, given that the elimination of the equant was so important in the Commentariolus, Copernicus did not mention it in book 1, but he sought to replace it with an epicyclet throughout On the Revolutions. Nevertheless, he did write in book 5 when describing the motion of Mercury:

2.4 Rheticus and the Narratio prima

Although Copernicus received encouragement to publish his book from his close friend, the bishop of Chelmo Tiedemann Giese (1480&ndash1550), and from the cardinal of Capua Nicholas Schönberg (1472&ndash1537), it was the arrival of Georg Joachim Rheticus in Frombork that solved his needs for a supportive and stimulating colleague in mathematics and astronomy and for access to an appropriate printer. Rheticus was a professor of mathematics at the University of Wittenberg, a major center for the student of mathematics as well as for Lutheran theology. In 1538 Rheticus took a leave of absence to visit several famous scholars in the fields of astronomy and mathematics. It is not known how Rheticus learned about Copernicus&rsquos theory he may have been convinced to visit Copernicus by one of the earlier scholars he had visited, Johann Schöner, though, as Swerdlow and Neugebauer (16) noted, by &ldquothe early 1530&rsquos knowledge of Copernicus&rsquos new theory was circulating in Europe, even reaching the high and learned circles of the Vatican.&rdquo Rheticus brought with him some mathematical and astronomical volumes, which both provided Copernicus with some important material and showed him the quality of the mathematical printing available in the German centers of publishing. [10] Rheticus&rsquos present of the 1533 edition of Regiomontanus&rsquos On all Kinds of Triangles (De triangulis omnimodis), for example, convinced Copernicus to revise his section on trigonometry. But Rheticus was particularly interested in showing Copernicus the work of the Nuremberg publisher Johann Petreius as a possible publisher of Copernicus&rsquos volume. Swerdlow and Neugebauer (25) plausibly suggested that &ldquoPetreius was offering to publish Copernicus&rsquos work, if not advertising by this notice that he was already committed to do so.&rdquo Rheticus wrote the Narratio prima in 1540, an introduction to the theories of Copernicus, which was published and circulated. This further encouraged Copernicus to publish his Revolutions, which he had been working on since he published the Commentariolus.

The Narratio prima was written in 1539 and took the form of a letter to Johann Schöner announcing Copernicus&rsquos findings and describing the contents of the Revolutions. He dealt with such topics as the motions of the fixed stars, the tropical year, the obliquity of the ecliptic, the problems resulting from the motion of the sun, the motions of the earth and the other planets, librations, longitude in the other five planets, and the apparent deviation of the planets from the ecliptic. He asserted that the heliocentric universe should have been adopted because it better accounted for such phenomena as the precession of the equinoxes and the change in the obliquity of the ecliptic it resulted in a diminution of the eccentricity of the sun the sun was the center of the deferents of the planets it allowed the circles in the universe to revolve uniformly and regularly it satisfied appearances more readily with fewer explanations necessary it united all the spheres into one system. Rheticus added astrological predictions and number mysticism, which were absent from Copernicus&rsquos work.

The Narratio prima was printed in 1540 in Gdansk (then Danzig) thus, it was the first printed description of the Copernican thesis. Rheticus sent a copy to Achilles Pirmin Gasser of Feldkirch, his hometown in modern-day Austria, and Gasser wrote a foreword that was published with a second edition that was produced in 1541 in Basel. It was published again in 1596 as an appendix to the first edition of Johannes Kepler&rsquos Mysterium cosmographicum (Secret of the Universe), the first completely Copernican work by an adherent since the publications by Copernicus and Rheticus.

2.5 Printing On the Revolutions and Osiander&rsquos Preface

The publication of Rheticus&rsquos Narratio prima did not create a big stir against the heliocentric thesis, and so Copernicus decided to publish On the Revolutions. He added a dedication to Pope Paul III (r. 1534&ndash1549), probably for political reasons, in which he expressed his hesitancy about publishing the work and the reasons he finally decided to publish it. He gave credit to Schönberg and Giese for encouraging him to publish and omitted mention of Rheticus, but it would have been insulting to the pope during the tense period of the Reformation to give credit to a Protestant minister. [11] He dismissed critics who might have claimed that it was against the Bible by giving the example of the fourth-century Christian apologist Lactantius, who had rejected the spherical shape of the earth, and by asserting, &ldquoAstronomy is written for astronomers&rdquo (Revolutions, 5). [12] In other words, theologians should not meddle with it. He pointed to the difficulty of calendar reform because the motions of the heavenly bodies were inadequately known. And he called attention to the fact that &ldquoif the motions of the other planets are correlated with the orbiting of the earth, and are computed for the revolution of each planet, not only do their phenomena follow therefrom but also the order and size of all the planets and spheres, and heaven itself is so linked together that in no portion of it can anything be shifted without disrupting the remaining parts and the universe as a whole&rdquo (Revolutions, 5).

Rheticus returned to Wittenberg in 1541 and the following year received another leave of absence, at which time he took the manuscript of the Revolutions to Petreius for publishing in Nuremberg. Rheticus oversaw the printing of most of the text. However, Rheticus was forced to leave Nuremberg later that year because he was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Leipzig. He left the rest of the management of printing the Revolutions to Andrew Osiander (1498&ndash1552), a Lutheran minister who was also interested in mathematics and astronomy. Though he saw the project through, Osiander appended an anonymous preface to the work. In it he claimed that Copernicus was offering a hypothesis, not a true account of the working of the heavens: &ldquoSince he [the astronomer] cannot in any way attain to the true causes, he will adopt whatever suppositions enable the motions to be computed correctly from the principles of geometry for the future as well as for the past &hellipthese hypotheses need not be true nor even probable&rdquo (Revolutions, xvi). This clearly contradicted the body of the work. Both Rheticus and Giese protested, and Rheticus crossed it out in his copy.

2.6 Sixteenth Century Reactions to On the Revolutions

Copernicus&rsquos fame and book made its way across Europe over the next fifty years, and a second edition was brought out in 1566. [13] As Gingerich&rsquos census of the extant copies showed, the book was read and commented on by astronomers. (For a fuller discussion of reactions, see Omodeo.) Gingerich (2004, 55) noted &ldquothe majority of sixteenth-century astronomers thought eliminating the equant was Copernicus&rsquo big achievement.&rdquo

While Martin Luther may have made negative comments about Copernicus because the idea of the heliocentric universe seemed to contradict the Bible, [14] Philip Melanchthon (1497&ndash1560), who presided over the curriculum at the University of Wittenberg, eventually accepted the importance of teaching Copernicus&rsquos ideas, perhaps because Osiander&rsquos preface made the work more palatable. His son-in-law Caspar Peucer (1525-1602) taught astronomy there and began teaching Copernicus&rsquos work. As a result, the University of Wittenberg became a center where Copernicus&rsquos work was studied. But Rheticus was the only Wittenberg scholar who accepted the heliocentric idea. Robert Westman (1975a, 166&ndash67 2011, chap. 5) suggested that there was a &lsquoWittenberg Interpretation&rsquo: astronomers appreciated and adopted some of Copernicus&rsquos mathematical models but rejected his cosmology, and some were pleased with his replacement of the equant by epicyclets. One of these was Erasmus Reinhold (1511&ndash1553), a leading astronomer at Wittenberg who became dean and rector. He produced a new set of planetary tables from Copernicus&rsquos work, the Prutenic Tables. Although, as Gingerich (1993, 232) pointed out, &ldquothere was relatively little to distinguish between the accuracy of the Alfonsine Tables and the Prutenic Tables,&rdquo the latter were more widely adopted Gingerich plausibly suggested that the fact that the Prutenic Tables more accurately predicted a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in 1563 made the difference. Reinhold did not accept the heliocentric theory, but he admired the elimination of the equant. The Prutenic Tables excited interest in Copernicus&rsquos work.

Tycho Brahe (1546&ndash1601) was the greatest astronomical observer before the invention of the telescope. He called Copernicus a &lsquosecond Ptolemy&rsquo (quoted in Westman 1975, 307) and appreciated both the elimination of the equant and the creation of a planetary system. But Tycho could not adopt the Copernican system, partly for the religious reason that it went against what the Bible seemed to preach. He, therefore, adopted a compromise, the &lsquogeoheliostatic&rsquo system in which the two inner planets revolved around the sun and that system along with the rest of the planets revolved around the earth.

Among Catholics, Christoph Clavius (1537&ndash1612) was the leading astronomer in the sixteenth century. A Jesuit himself, he incorporated astronomy into the Jesuit curriculum and was the principal scholar behind the creation of the Gregorian calendar. Like the Wittenberg astronomers, Clavius adopted Copernican mathematical models when he felt them superior, but he believed that Ptolemy&rsquos cosmology &ndash both his ordering of the planets and his use of the equant &ndash was correct.

Pope Clement VII (r. 1523&ndash1534) had reacted favorably to a talk about Copernicus&rsquos theories, rewarding the speaker with a rare manuscript. There is no indication of how Pope Paul III, to whom On the Revolutions was dedicated reacted however, a trusted advisor, Bartolomeo Spina of Pisa (1474&ndash1546) intended to condemn it but fell ill and died before his plan was carried out (see Rosen, 1975). Thus, in 1600 there was no official Catholic position on the Copernican system, and it was certainly not a heresy. When Giordano Bruno (1548&ndash1600) was burned at the stake as a heretic, it had nothing to do with his writings in support of Copernican cosmology, and this is clearly shown in Finocchiaro&rsquos reconstruction of the accusations against Bruno (see also Blumenberg&rsquos part 3, chapter 5, titled &ldquoNot a Martyr for Copernicanism: Giordano Bruno&rdquo).

Michael Maestlin (1550&ndash1631) of the University of Tübingen was the earliest astronomer after Rheticus to adopt Copernicus&rsquos heliocentricism. Although he wrote a popular textbook that was geocentric, he taught his students that the heliocentric system was superior. He also rejected Osiander&rsquos preface. Maestlin&rsquos pupil Johannes Kepler wrote the first book since the publication of On the Revolutions that was openly heliocentric in its orientation, the Mysterium cosmographicum (Secret of the Universe). And, of course, Kepler eventually built on Copernicus&rsquos work to create a much more accurate description of the solar system.


Watch the video: How did Nicolaus Copernicus and Heliocentrism spark the Scientific Revolution? (January 2022).