Portrait, 1580, Toruń Old Town City Hall
19 February 1473|
Toruń (Thorn), Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland
|Died||24 May 1543
Frombork (Frauenburg), Prince-Bishopric of Warmia, Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland
|Fields||Mathematics, astronomy, canon law, medicine, economics|
|Alma mater||Kraków University
University of Padua
University of Ferrara
Nicolaus Copernicus  (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Polish astronomer. People know Copernicus for his ideas about the sun and the earth. His main idea was that our world is heliocentric (helios = sun). His theory was that the sun is in the middle of the solar system, and the planets go around it. This was published in his book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres).
Copernicus was born in 1473 in the city of Thorn (Toruń), in Royal Prussia, a mainly German-speaking region that a few years earlier had become a part of the Kingdom of Poland. He was taught first in Cracow and then in Italy, where he graduated as a lawyer of the church. He also studied medicine to serve his fellow clerics. Copernicus spent most of his life working and researching in Frauenburg (Frombork), Warmia, where he died in 1543.
Copernicus was one of the great polymaths of his age. He was a priest, mathematician, astronomer, doctor, jurist, physician, classical scholar, governor, administrator, diplomat, economist, and soldier. During all these jobs, he treated astronomy as a hobby. However, his formula of how the sun, rather than the earth, is at the center of the solar system, is still one of the most important scientific hypotheses in history. It was the beginning of modern astronomy.
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- Primary sources
- Portraits of Copernicus: Portrait; Nicolaus Copernicus
- Copernicus and Astrology — Cambridge University: Copernicus had – of course – teachers with astrological activities and his tables were later used by astrologers.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
- Find-A-Grave profile for Nicolaus Copernicus
- 'Body of Copernicus' identified — BBC article including image of Copernicus using facial reconstruction based on located skull
- About De Revolutionibus
- The Copernican Universe from the De Revolutionibus
- De Revolutionibus, 1543 first edition — Full digital facsimile, Lehigh University
- The text of the De Revolutionibus
- Chasing Copernicus: The book nobody read — was one of the greatest scientific works really ignored? All things considered. NPR
- Copernicus and his Revolutions — A detailed critique of the rhetoric of De Revolutionibus
- Article which discusses Copernicus's debt to the Arabic tradition