Nicolaus Copernicus - More than an Astronomer

Copernicus statue warsaw watermarkNicolaus Copernicus, born February 19, 1473, is best known for his theory that our planetary system revolves around the sun, and not the earth. He also determined that the Earth rotates daily on its axis and that the Earth’s motion affected what people saw in the heavens. Yet, astronomy was primarily a hobby for this talented man.

Copernicus’ father died when he was ten years old, but the local bishop watched over him and sponsored his education. Copernicus entered the University of Krakow (now the Jagiellonian University) in 1491 where he studied painting and mathematics. Upon graduation he took an administrative job with the church, which he would hold the rest of his life. In essence, his day job at the church funded additional studies, but generally the studies had to be conducted outside of work.

He studied religious law in Italy and wrote a treatise on monetary reforms. He studied and practiced medicine for a few years. He was so well respected by the church, that in 1514 when the Pope wanted to improve the calendar, Copernicus was one of the experts the Pope called in. Copernicus had to rely strictly on observations as his only tools. He died more than fifty years before Galileo became the first person to study the skies with a telescope and prove Copernicus’ theories.

There are many monuments to Copernicus in Poland, as a noted Pole to be proud of, and who made a major contribution to science.

???????????????????????????????The Catholic Church did not oppose Copernicus’ ideas in his lifetime, although Martin Luther vehemently objected. Years later the Church would oppose Galileo’s theories which were first put forth by Copernicus’.

Interestingly, Copernicus and Galileo have made recent international news. More than 500 historic books and documents that were stolen three years ago are being returned to the library in Italy that housed the valuable documents. The total value of the stolen collection is estimated at $2.8 million.

The former director of the library, Massimo De Caro, was able to use his position to remove the works after hours, and use his position to turn off/bypass security measures. The works were seized at an auction house in Munich in 2012, and they are only now being returned. De Caro has been sentenced to seven years in prison; the managing director of the auction house has also been prosecuted for participating in the theft scheme.

Quiz yourself: Can you name at least one other famous Pole whose last name begins with “C”? I have three in mind and they are all well-known. Leave a comment if you have any ideas.

Photos taken in Warsaw, October 2013.

News link on stolen works

Share Post

Tags: Notable Poles, Polish History

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed