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“Finally we shall place the Sun himself at the center of the Universe. All this is suggested by the systematic procession of events and the harmony of the whole Universe, if only we face the facts, as they say, ‘with both eyes open’.”
Nicolaus Copernicus
Cleric and Astronomer, 1473 - 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus (Mikolai Kopernik) was born February 19, 1473 in Torun, Poland. Copernicus was a proponent of the theory that the Sun, and not the Earth, is at rest in the center of the Universe.

Copernicus received his education, first at the University of Krakow, and then at various universities in Italy. While attending Padua University in Italy, Copernicus studied medicine, the Greek language, and mathematical sciences. He eventually received a degree in Canon Law at the University of Ferrara. When Copernicus returned to Poland he practiced medicine, though his official employment was as a canon in the cathedral chapter run by his uncle, the Bishop of Olsztyn.

Copernicus was never a professional Astronomer. The great work that made him famous was written in his spare time. It was for friends he met in Rome while pursuing his education that, in about 1513, Copernicus first wrote a short account his heliocentric (sun centered) cosmology. His heliocentric system states that the Sun (not the Earth) is at rest in the center of the Universe, with the other heavenly bodies (planets and stars) revolving around it in circular orbits. A full account of the theory titled, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium) was published in 1543, very near the end of Copernicus’s life. He is said to have received a copy of the printed book on his deathbed.

Copernicus’s heliocentric system was considered implausible by the vast majority of his contemporaries, and by most astronomers and natural philosophers until the middle of the seventeenth century. Its notable defenders included Johannes Kepler (1571 -1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642). Strong theoretical underpinning for the Copernican theory was finally provided by Sir Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation (1687).

Copernicus died on May 24, 1543 in Frombork, Poland.

Copernicus' grave was discovered in Frombork Cathedral in 2005. 15 skeletons were found in an unmarked grave at the foot of an altar. DNA analysis confirmed one set of remains were those of Copernicus. On May 22, 2010, the remains were reburied with great ceremony in the same spot where they were discovered.

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Nicolaus Copernicus or related subjects, or if you would like to comment, please contact us.

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Books About Copernicus

The Book Nobody Read The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus
by Owen Gingerich

The story of Harvard University astrophysicist, Owen Gingerich's, 30-year quest to track down and examine every first edition he could find of Copernicus’s revolutionary scientific work, “On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres.” Part detective thriller and part historical biography of Copernicus.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Book Nobody Read

On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres
by Nicolaus Copernicus, Charles G. Wallis (Translator)

Copernicus explains his a heliocentric (sun at the center) model of the universe.

Purchase this hardcover edition of On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican
by Galileo Galilei, Stillman Drake (Translator)

Galileo compares Ptolomy and Copernicus.

Purchase this paperback edition of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

The Eye of Heaven The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler
by Owen Gingerich

Twenty-five papers originally published over a 25-year period, examine the evolution of astronomy.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Eye of Heaven

Doctor Copernicus Doctor Copernicus: A Novel
by John Banville

A novelization of the life of Copernicus.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Doctor Copernicus

Copernicus Online Videos

Pope Bans Copernicus' Theory of Sun-Centered Universe

Copernicus Reburied

Copernicus eTexts

Full text of “On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres”

Related Websites

MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive Copernicus Biography

Nicolaus Copernicus
Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence, Italy

The Heliocentric System

Report on the positive identification of Copernicus' remains

Nicolaus Copernicus University
Torun, Poland

Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center
Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland


Other Astronomers in the Lucidcafé Library

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