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.
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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.
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.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican
by Galileo Galilei, Stillman Drake (Translator)
Galileo compares Ptolomy and Copernicus.
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.
Doctor Copernicus: A Novel
by John Banville
A novelization of the life of Copernicus.
Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence, Italy
Nicolaus Copernicus University
Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center
Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland