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Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus Photo

Born on 19 February 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish Scientist of Great intellect. The fourth and youngest child born to Nicolaus Copernicus Sr. and Barbara Watzenrode, an affluent copper merchant family in Torun, West Prussia, Copernicus was technical of German heritage. His father had died earlier, and therefore, his education and career were overseen by his maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode the Younger. There is no clear information as to where Nicolaus had his primary education, but it is seen from some of his biographers that he attended school in Toruń. In 1491, at the age of 18, he entered the University of Krakówalong his brother Andrew. Here, He studied arts and also pursued the laws of Mathematics. During his time at the Campus, Nicolaus developed a great liking to Astronomy, and would often attend private lectures of Albert Brudzewski and other famous astronomical teachers. Over the years in Kraków, Nicolaus built a great understanding of mathematical astronomy, philosophy, the natural laws of the universe and a thorough study of Aristotle’s writings. He also collected a lot of books on these topics.

In 1496, Nicolaus moved to Bologna, Italy. In 1497, He was officially granted the position of Warmia canonry. It is believed that he was never ordained as a priest, and therefore, spent his entire life as a canon. In the three years he spent in Bologna, Nicolaus did not seem to be as interested in Canon law as he was in astronomy. He met an astronomer Domenico Maria Novara — a momentous encounter, as the two began exchanging astronomical ideas and observations. The two of them attached deeply resulting in Nicolaus later becoming his disciple and a fellow assistant. They were even believed to be housemates. Nicolaus received his doctorate in law in 1503 after his second visit to Italy, which was prosecuted so that Nicolaus could study practical medicine in the University of Padua, and be of help to his uncle in Warmia.

In 1503, Nicolaus arrived back in Poland, where he took his job as a Canon, and of tending his aging uncle. From 1503-1512, Nicolaus stayed mostly in Warmia, apart from occasional small visits he did on account of his uncle. During these years Nicolaus translated some poems and writings from Greek into Latin and published his version as Theophilacti scolastici Simocati epistolae morales, rurales et amatoriae interpretation latina, which he dedicated for his uncle for all the kindness he’d bestowed upon him. Nicolaus also wrote an outline of his heliocentric theory during this time period. This theory contradicted the theory of the early scientists such as Aristotle, who claimed that celestial bodies moved in a fixed circular motion around the earth and that it was earth, and not the sun, that was the center of the universe. Around 1514, Nicolaus distributed this hand-written book to his friends, informing them about his research and development in astronomical ideas. The book was called Commentariolus, and it stated that sun was the center of the universe and that all other planets revolved around it. It also stated that the movement of the earth relative to other planets made it appear as if they were moving in opposite directions. He further commented that the stars are stationary, and any movement observed it the movement of the earth. Nicolaus also wrote a second book, ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’, which was published just before his death in May 1543. Both these books aroused great controversies. His work was especially frowned upon by the Roman Catholic Church, who called his ideas heretical. By and by Nicolaus found an important position in the history of astronomy, and though his works contained many flaws, he was able to lead a significant path for those who followed him.

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