Nicolaus Copernicus (/koʊˈpɜːrnɪkəs, kə-/; Polish:
Mikołaj Kopernik; German: Nikolaus Kopernikus; Niklas Koppernigk;
19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance-era
mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe
that placed the
Sun rather than the
Earth at the center of the
universe, likely independently of Aristarchus of Samos, who had
formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.[a]
The publication of Copernicus' model in his book De revolutionibus
orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just
before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science,
Copernican Revolution and making an important
contribution to the Scientific Revolution.
Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been
part of the Kingdom of
Poland since 1466. A polyglot and polymath, he
obtained a doctorate in canon law and was also a mathematician,
astronomer, physician, classics scholar, translator, governor,
diplomat, and economist. In 1517 he derived a quantity theory of money
– a key concept in economics – and in 1519 he formulated
an economics principle that later came to be called Gresham's law.
1.1 Father's family
1.2 Mother's family
1.5.1 In Poland
1.5.2 In Italy
1.6 Planetary observations
1.9 The book
2 Copernican system
55 Cancri A
6 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in the city of Thorn
(modern Toruń), in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Crown of the
Kingdom of Poland. His father was a merchant from
his mother was the daughter of a wealthy
Toruń merchant. Nicolaus
was the youngest of four children. His brother Andreas (Andrew) became
Augustinian canon at
Frombork (Frauenburg). His sister Barbara,
named after her mother, became a
Benedictine nun and, in her final
years, prioress of a convent in
Chełmno (Kulm); she died after
1517. His sister Katharina married the businessman and
councilor Barthel Gertner and left five children, whom Copernicus
looked after to the end of his life. Copernicus never married and
is not known to have had children, but from at least 1531 until 1539
his relations with Anna Schilling, a live-in housekeeper, were seen as
scandalous by two bishops of
Warmia who urged him over the years to
break off relations with his "mistress".
Toruń birthplace (ul. Kopernika 15, left). Together with the house at
no. 17 (right), it forms the Muzeum Mikołaja Kopernika.
Copernicus' father's family can be traced to a village in
Nysa (Neiße). The village's name has been variously spelled
Kopernik, Copernik, Copernic, Kopernic, Coprirnik, and today
Koperniki. In the 14th century, members of the family began moving
to various other Silesian cities, to the Polish capital, Kraków
(1367), and to
Toruń (1400). The father, Mikołaj the Elder,
likely the son of Jan, came from the
Nicolaus was named after his father, who appears in records for the
first time as a well-to-do merchant who dealt in copper, selling it
Danzig (Gdańsk). He moved from
Kraków to Toruń
around 1458. Toruń, situated on the Vistula River, was at that
time embroiled in the Thirteen Years' War, in which the Kingdom of
Poland and the Prussian Confederation, an alliance of Prussian cities,
gentry and clergy, fought the
Teutonic Order over control of the
region. In this war, Hanseatic cities like
Danzig and Toruń, Nicolaus
Copernicus's hometown, chose to support the Polish King, Casimir IV
Jagiellon, who promised to respect the cities' traditional vast
independence, which the
Teutonic Order had challenged. Nicolaus'
father was actively engaged in the politics of the day and supported
Poland and the cities against the Teutonic Order. In 1454 he
mediated negotiations between Poland's Cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki
and the Prussian cities for repayment of war loans. In the Second
Peace of Thorn (1466), the
Teutonic Order formally relinquished all
claims to its western province, which as
Royal Prussia remained a
region of the
Crown of the Kingdom of Poland
Crown of the Kingdom of Poland until the First (1772)
and Second (1793) Partitions of Poland.
Copernicus's father married Barbara Watzenrode, the astronomer's
mother, between 1461 and 1464. He died about 1483.
Copernicus' maternal uncle,
Lucas Watzenrode the Younger
Nicolaus' mother, Barbara Watzenrode, was the daughter of a wealthy
Toruń patrician and city councillor,
Lucas Watzenrode the Elder
(deceased 1462), and Katarzyna (widow of Jan Peckau), mentioned in
other sources as Katarzyna Rüdiger gente Modlibóg (deceased
1476). The Modlibógs were a prominent Polish family who had been
well known in Poland's history since 1271. The Watzenrode family,
like the Kopernik family, had come from
Silesia from near Świdnica
(Schweidnitz), and after 1360 had settled in Toruń. They soon became
one of the wealthiest and most influential patrician families.
Through the Watzenrodes' extensive family relationships by marriage,
Copernicus was related to wealthy families of
Toruń (Thorn), Gdańsk
Elbląg (Elbing), and to prominent Polish noble families
of Prussia: the Czapskis, Działyńskis, Konopackis and
Kościeleckis. Lucas and Katherine had three children: Lucas
Watzenrode the Younger (1447–1512), who would become
Warmia and Copernicus's patron; Barbara, the astronomer's mother
(deceased after 1495); and Christina (deceased before 1502), who in
1459 married the
Toruń merchant and mayor, Tiedeman von Allen.
Lucas Watzenrode the Elder, a wealthy merchant and in 1439–62
president of the judicial bench, was a decided opponent of the
Teutonic Knights. In 1453 he was the delegate from
Toruń at the
Grudziądz (Graudenz) conference that planned the uprising against
them. During the ensuing Thirteen Years' War (1454–66), he
actively supported the Prussian cities' war effort with substantial
monetary subsidies (only part of which he later re-claimed), with
political activity in
Toruń and Danzig, and by personally fighting in
Łasin (Lessen) and
Malbork (Marienburg). He died in
Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, the astronomer's maternal uncle and
patron, was educated at the University of
Kraków (now Jagiellonian
University) and at the universities of
Cologne and Bologna. He was a
bitter opponent of the Teutonic Order, and its Grand Master
once referred to him as "the devil incarnate". In 1489 Watzenrode
Bishop of Warmia
Bishop of Warmia (Ermeland, Ermland) against the
preference of King Casimir IV, who had hoped to install his own son in
that seat. As a result, Watzenrode quarreled with the king until
Casimir IV's death three years later. Watzenrode was then able to
form close relations with three successive Polish monarchs: John I
Albert, Alexander Jagiellon, and Sigismund I the Old. He was a friend
and key advisor to each ruler, and his influence greatly strengthened
the ties between
Poland proper. Watzenrode came to be
considered the most powerful man in Warmia, and his wealth,
connections and influence allowed him to secure Copernicus' education
and career as a canon at
German-language letter from Copernicus to Duke Albert of Prussia,
giving medical advice for
George von Kunheim (1541)
Copernicus is postulated to have spoken
Latin and German with equal
fluency. He also spoke Polish, Greek and Italian.[b]
The vast majority of Copernicus's surviving works are in Latin, which
in his lifetime was the language of academia in Europe.
Latin was also
the official language of the Roman
Catholic Church and of Poland's
royal court, and thus all of Copernicus's correspondence with the
Church and with Polish leaders was in Latin.
There survive a few documents written by Copernicus in German. The
German philosophy professor Martin Carrier mentions this as a reason
to consider Copernicus's native language to have been German.
Other arguments for German being Copernicus's native tongue are that
he was born in a predominantly German-speaking city and that, while
studying canon law at
Bologna in 1496, he signed into the German natio
(Natio Germanorum)—a student organization which, according to its
1497 by-laws, was open to students of all kingdoms and states whose
mother-tongue was German. However, according to French philosopher
Alexandre Koyré, Copernicus's registration with the Natio Germanorum
does not in itself imply that Copernicus considered himself German,
since students from
Silesia were routinely so categorized,
which carried certain privileges that made it a natural choice for
German-speaking students, regardless of their ethnicity or
The surname Copernik, Koppernigk is recorded in
Kraków from c. 1350,
in various spellings, apparently given to people from the village of
Köppernigk (prior to 1845 rendered Koppirnik or Copirnik, Copernik)
in the Silesian Duchy of Nysa. The
Nuremberg Chronicle, published in
1493, describes of the town of Nysa population as plebs rustica
polonici ydeomatis ... ("the vernacular language of the rural
population is Polish"). Nicolas Copernicus' great-grandfather is
recorded as having received citizenship in
Kraków in 1386. The
toponym Köppernig (modern Koperniki) has variously been tied to the
German word for copper (Kupfer) and the Polish word for dill
(koper). The suffix
-nik (or plural -niki) denotes a Slavic and
Polish agent noun.
As was common in the period, the spellings of both the toponym and the
surname vary greatly. Copernicus "was rather indifferent about
orthography". During his childhood, about 1480, the name of his
father (and thus of the future astronomer) was recorded in Thorn as
Niclas Koppernigk. At
Kraków he signed himself, in Latin,
Nicolaus Nicolai de Torunia (Nicolaus, son of Nicolaus, of
Toruń). At Bologna, in 1496, he registered in the Matricula
Nobilissimi Germanorum Collegii, resp. Annales Clarissimae Nacionis
Germanorum, of the Natio Germanica Bononiae, as Dominus Nicolaus
Kopperlingk de Thorn – IX grosseti. At
Padua he signed
himself "Nicolaus Copernik", later "Coppernicus". The astronomer
thus Latinized his name to Coppernicus, generally with two "p"s (in 23
of 31 documents studied), but later in life he used a single "p".
On the title page of De revolutionibus,
Rheticus published the name
(in the genitive, or possessive, case) as "Nicolai Copernici".[c]
Upon his father's death, young Nicolaus' maternal uncle, Lucas
Watzenrode the Younger (1447–1512), took the boy under his wing and
saw to his education and career. Watzenrode maintained contacts
with leading intellectual figures in
Poland and was a friend of the
influential Italian-born humanist and
Kraków courtier, Filippo
Buonaccorsi. There are no surviving primary documents on the early
years of Copernicus's childhood and education. Copernicus
biographers assume that Watzenrode first sent young Copernicus to St.
John's School, at Toruń, where he himself had been a master.
Later, according to Armitage,[d] the boy attended the Cathedral School
at Włocławek, up the
Vistula River from Toruń, which prepared
pupils for entrance to the University of Kraków, Watzenrode's alma
mater in Poland's capital.
Nicolaus Copernicus Monument in Kraków
Collegium Maius at
Kraków University, Copernicus' Polish alma mater
In the winter semester of 1491–92 Copernicus, as "Nicolaus Nicolai
de Thuronia", matriculated together with his brother Andrew at the
Kraków (now Jagiellonian University). Copernicus
began his studies in the Department of Arts (from the fall of 1491,
presumably until the summer or fall of 1495) in the heyday of the
Kraków astronomical-mathematical school, acquiring the foundations
for his subsequent mathematical achievements. According to a later
but credible tradition (Jan Brożek), Copernicus was a pupil of Albert
Brudzewski, who by then (from 1491) was a professor of Aristotelian
philosophy but taught astronomy privately outside the university;
Copernicus became familiar with Brudzewski's widely read commentary to
Georg von Peuerbach's Theoricæ novæ planetarum and almost certainly
attended the lectures of Bernard of Biskupie and Wojciech Krypa of
Szamotuły, and probably other astronomical lectures by Jan of
Głogów, Michał of
Wrocław (Breslau), Wojciech of Pniewy, and
Marcin Bylica of Olkusz.
Kraków studies gave him a thorough grounding in the
mathematical astronomy taught at the University (arithmetic, geometry,
geometric optics, cosmography, theoretical and computational
astronomy) and a good knowledge of the philosophical and
natural-science writings of
Aristotle (De coelo, Metaphysics) and
Averroes (which in the future would play an important role in the
shaping of Copernicus' theory), stimulating his interest in learning
and making him conversant with humanistic culture. Copernicus
broadened the knowledge that he took from the university lecture halls
with independent reading of books that he acquired during his Kraków
years (Euclid, Haly Abenragel, the Alfonsine Tables, Johannes
Regiomontanus' Tabulae directionum); to this period, probably, also
date his earliest scientific notes, now preserved partly at Uppsala
Kraków Copernicus began collecting a large library
on astronomy; it would later be carried off as war booty by the Swedes
during the Deluge in the 1650s and is now at the Uppsala University
Copernicus' four years at
Kraków played an important role in the
development of his critical faculties and initiated his analysis of
logical contradictions in the two "official" systems of
astronomy—Aristotle's theory of homocentric spheres, and Ptolemy's
mechanism of eccentrics and epicycles—the surmounting and discarding
of which would be the first step toward the creation of Copernicus'
own doctrine of the structure of the universe.
Without taking a degree, probably in the fall of 1495, Copernicus left
Kraków for the court of his uncle Watzenrode, who in 1489 had been
elevated to Prince-
Bishop of Warmia
Bishop of Warmia and soon (before November 1495)
sought to place his nephew in the
Warmia canonry vacated by the 26
August 1495 death of its previous tenant, Jan Czanow. For unclear
reasons—probably due to opposition from part of the chapter, who
appealed to Rome—Copernicus' installation was delayed, inclining
Watzenrode to send both his nephews to study canon law in Italy,
seemingly with a view to furthering their ecclesiastic careers and
thereby also strengthening his own influence in the Warmia
Warmia in mid-1496—possibly with the retinue of the
chapter's chancellor, Jerzy Pranghe, who was going to Italy—in the
fall, possibly in October, Copernicus arrived in
Bologna and a few
months later (after 6 January 1497) signed himself into the register
Bologna University of Jurists' "German nation", which included
young Poles from Silesia,
Pomerania as well as students of
It was only on 20 October 1497 that Copernicus, by proxy, formally
succeeded to the
Warmia canonry which had been granted to him two
years earlier. To this, by a document dated 10 January 1503 at Padua,
he would add a sinecure at the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in
Wrocław, Silesia, Bohemia. Despite having been granted a papal indult
on 29 November 1508 to receive further benefices, through his
ecclesiastic career Copernicus not only did not acquire further
prebends and higher stations (prelacies) at the chapter, but in 1538
he relinquished the
Wrocław sinecure. It is unclear whether he was
ever ordained a priest.
Edward Rosen asserts that he was
not. Copernicus did take minor orders, which sufficed for
assuming a chapter canonry. The
Catholic Encyclopedia proposes
that his ordination was probable, as in 1537 he was one of four
candidates for the episcopal seat of Warmia, a position which required
Via Galliera 65, Bologna, site of house of Domenico Maria Novara.
Plaque on portico commemorates Copernicus.
During his three-year stay at Bologna, between fall 1496 and spring
1501, Copernicus seems to have devoted himself less keenly to studying
canon law (he received his doctorate in law only after seven years,
following a second return to Italy in 1503) than to studying the
humanities—probably attending lectures by Filippo Beroaldo, Antonio
Urceo, called Codro, Giovanni Garzoni, and Alessandro Achillini—and
to studying astronomy. He met the famous astronomer Domenico Maria
Ferrara and became his disciple and assistant.
Copernicus was developing new ideas inspired by reading the "Epitome
of the Almagest" (Epitome in Almagestum Ptolemei) by George von
Johannes Regiomontanus (Venice, 1496). He verified its
observations about certain peculiarities in Ptolemy's theory of the
Moon's motion, by conducting on 9 March 1497 at
Bologna a memorable
observation of the occultation of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the
Taurus constellation, by the moon. Copernicus the humanist sought
confirmation for his growing doubts through close reading of Greek and
Latin authors (Pythagoras, Aristarchos of Samos, Cleomedes, Cicero,
Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Philolaus, Heraclides, Ecphantos, Plato),
gathering, especially while at Padua, fragmentary historic information
about ancient astronomical, cosmological and calendar systems.
"Here, where stood the house of Domenico Maria Novara, professor of
the ancient Studium of Bologna, NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, the Polish
mathematician and astronomer who would revolutionize concepts of the
universe, conducted brilliant celestial observations with his teacher
in 1497–1500. Placed on the 5th centenary of [Copernicus's] birth by
the City, the University, the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of
Bologna, the Polish Academy of Sciences. 1473 [—] 1973."
Copernicus spent the jubilee year 1500 in Rome, where he arrived with
his brother Andrew that spring, doubtless to perform an apprenticeship
at the Papal Curia. Here, too, however, he continued his astronomical
work begun at Bologna, observing, for example, a lunar eclipse on the
night of 5–6 November 1500. According to a later account by
Rheticus, Copernicus also—probably privately, rather than at the
Roman Sapienza—as a "Professor Mathematum" (professor of astronomy)
delivered, "to numerous... students and... leading masters of the
science", public lectures devoted probably to a critique of the
mathematical solutions of contemporary astronomy.
On his return journey doubtless stopping briefly at Bologna, in
mid-1501 Copernicus arrived back in Warmia. After on 28 July receiving
from the chapter a two-year extension of leave in order to study
medicine (since "he may in future be a useful medical advisor to our
Reverend Superior [
Bishop Lucas Watzenrode] and the gentlemen of the
chapter"), in late summer or in the fall he returned again to Italy,
probably accompanied by his brother Andrew and by Canon Bernhard
Sculteti. This time he studied at the University of Padua, famous as a
seat of medical learning, and—except for a brief visit to
May–June 1503 to pass examinations for, and receive, his doctorate
in canon law—he remained at
Padua from fall 1501 to summer 1503.
Copernicus studied medicine probably under the direction of leading
Padua professors—Bartolomeo da Montagnana, Girolamo Fracastoro,
Gabriele Zerbi, Alessandro Benedetti—and read medical treatises that
he acquired at this time, by Valescus de Taranta, Jan Mesue, Hugo
Senensis, Jan Ketham, Arnold de Villa Nova, and Michele Savonarola,
which would form the embryo of his later medical library.
One of the subjects that Copernicus must have studied was astrology,
since it was considered an important part of a medical education.
However, unlike most other prominent
Renaissance astronomers, he
appears never to have practiced or expressed any interest in
As at Bologna, Copernicus did not limit himself to his official
studies. It was probably the
Padua years that saw the beginning of his
Hellenistic interests. He familiarized himself with
Greek language and
culture with the aid of Theodorus Gaza's grammar (1495) and J.B.
Chrestonius' dictionary (1499), expanding his studies of antiquity,
begun at Bologna, to the writings of Basilius Bessarion, Lorenzo Valla
and others. There also seems to be evidence that it was during his
Padua stay that the idea finally crystallized, of basing a new system
of the world on the movement of the Earth. As the time approached
for Copernicus to return home, in spring 1503 he journeyed to Ferrara
where, on 31 May 1503, having passed the obligatory examinations, he
was granted the degree of doctor of canon law (Nicolaus Copernich de
Prusia, Jure Canonico ... et doctoratus). No doubt it was soon
after (at latest, in fall 1503) that he left Italy for good to return
Copernicus made three observations of Mercury, with errors of -3, -15
and -1 minutes of arc. He made one of Venus, with an error of -24
minutes. Four were made of Mars, with errors of 2, 20, 77, and 137
minutes. Four observations were made of Jupiter, with errors of 32,
51, -11 and 25 minutes. He made four of Saturn, with errors of 31, 20,
23 and -4 minutes.
Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. In
Having completed all his studies in Italy, 30-year-old Copernicus
returned to Warmia, where he would live out the remaining 40 years of
his life, apart from brief journeys to
Kraków and to nearby Prussian
Elbląg (Elbing), Grudziądz
Prince-Bishopric of Warmia
Prince-Bishopric of Warmia enjoyed substantial autonomy, with its
own diet (parliament) and monetary unit (the same as in the other
parts of Royal Prussia) and treasury.
Copernicus was his uncle's secretary and physician from 1503 to 1510
(or perhaps till his uncle's death on 29 March 1512) and resided in
the Bishop's castle at Lidzbark (Heilsberg), where he began work on
his heliocentric theory. In his official capacity, he took part in
nearly all his uncle's political, ecclesiastic and
administrative-economic duties. From the beginning of 1504, Copernicus
accompanied Watzenrode to sessions of the Royal Prussian diet held at
Elbląg and, write Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz,
"participated... in all the more important events in the complex
diplomatic game that ambitious politician and statesman played in
defense of the particular interests of
Prussia and Warmia, between
hostility to the [Teutonic] Order and loyalty to the Polish
Copernicus's translation of Theophylact Simocatta's Epistles. Cover
shows coats-of-arms of (clockwise from top) Poland, Lithuania and
In 1504–12 Copernicus made numerous journeys as part of his uncle's
retinue—in 1504, to
Toruń and Gdańsk, to a session of the Royal
Prussian Council in the presence of Poland's King Alexander Jagiellon;
to sessions of the Prussian diet at
Elbląg (1507) and
Sztum (Stuhm) (1512); and he may have attended a
session (1510) and the coronation of Poland's King Sigismund I the Old
Kraków (1507). Watzenrode's itinerary suggests that in spring 1509
Copernicus may have attended the
It was probably on the latter occasion, in Kraków, that Copernicus
submitted for printing at Jan Haller's press his translation, from
Greek to Latin, of a collection, by the 7th-century Byzantine
historian Theophylact Simocatta, of 85 brief poems called Epistles, or
letters, supposed to have passed between various characters in a Greek
story. They are of three kinds—"moral," offering advice on how
people should live; "pastoral", giving little pictures of shepherd
life; and "amorous", comprising love poems. They are arranged to
follow one another in a regular rotation of subjects. Copernicus had
translated the Greek verses into
Latin prose, and he now published his
version as Theophilacti scolastici Simocati epistolae morales, rurales
et amatoriae interpretatione latina, which he dedicated to his uncle
in gratitude for all the benefits he had received from him. With this
translation, Copernicus declared himself on the side of the humanists
in the struggle over the question whether Greek literature should be
revived. Copernicus's first poetic work was a Greek epigram,
composed probably during a visit to Kraków, for Johannes Dantiscus'
epithalamium for Barbara Zapolya's 1512 wedding to King Zygmunt I the
Some time before 1514, Copernicus wrote an initial outline of his
heliocentric theory known only from later transcripts, by the title
(perhaps given to it by a copyist), Nicolai Copernici de hypothesibus
motuum coelestium a se constitutis commentariolus—commonly referred
to as the Commentariolus. It was a succinct theoretical description of
the world's heliocentric mechanism, without mathematical apparatus,
and differed in some important details of geometric construction from
De revolutionibus; but it was already based on the same assumptions
regarding Earth's triple motions. The Commentariolus, which Copernicus
consciously saw as merely a first sketch for his planned book, was not
intended for printed distribution. He made only a very few manuscript
copies available to his closest acquaintances, including, it seems,
Kraków astronomers with whom he collaborated in 1515–30 in
Tycho Brahe would include a fragment from the
Commentariolus in his own treatise, Astronomiae instauratae
progymnasmata, published in
Prague in 1602, based on a manuscript that
he had received from the Bohemian physician and astronomer Tadeáš
Hájek, a friend of Rheticus. The
Commentariolus would appear complete
in print for the first time only in 1878.
Copernicus' tower at Frombork, where he lived and worked;
reconstructed since World War II
In 1510 or 1512 Copernicus moved to Frombork, a town to the northwest
Vistula Lagoon on the
Baltic Sea coast. There, in April 1512,
he participated in the election of Fabian of Lossainen as
Bishop of Warmia. It was only in early June 1512 that the
chapter gave Copernicus an "external curia"—a house outside the
defensive walls of the cathedral mount. In 1514 he purchased the
northwestern tower within the walls of the
Frombork stronghold. He
would maintain both these residences to the end of his life, despite
the devastation of the chapter's buildings by a raid against
Frauenburg carried out by the
Teutonic Order in January 1520, during
which Copernicus's astronomical instruments were probably destroyed.
Copernicus conducted astronomical observations in 1513–16 presumably
from his external curia; and in 1522–43, from an unidentified "small
tower" (turricula), using primitive instruments modeled on ancient
ones—the quadrant, triquetrum, armillary sphere. At Frombork
Copernicus conducted over half of his more than 60 registered
Having settled permanently at Frombork, where he would reside to the
end of his life, with interruptions in 1516–19 and 1520–21,
Copernicus found himself at the
Warmia chapter's economic and
administrative center, which was also one of Warmia's two chief
centers of political life. In the difficult, politically complex
situation of Warmia, threatened externally by the Teutonic Order's
aggressions (attacks by Teutonic bands; the Polish-Teutonic War of
1519–21; Albert's plans to annex Warmia), internally subject to
strong separatist pressures (the selection of the prince-bishops of
Warmia; currency reform), he, together with part of the chapter,
represented a program of strict cooperation with the
Polish Crown and
demonstrated in all his public activities (the defense of his country
against the Order's plans of conquest; proposals to unify its monetary
system with the Polish Crown's; support for Poland's interests in the
Warmia dominion's ecclesiastic administration) that he was consciously
a citizen of the Polish-Lithuanian Republic. Soon after the death of
Bishop Watzenrode, he participated in the signing of the Second
Treaty of Piotrków Trybunalski (7 December 1512), governing the
appointment of the
Bishop of Warmia, declaring, despite opposition
from part of the chapter, for loyal cooperation with the Polish
Frombork Cathedral mount and fortifications. In foreground: statue of
That same year (before 8 November 1512) Copernicus assumed
responsibility, as magister pistoriae, for administering the chapter's
economic enterprises (he would hold this office again in 1530), having
already since 1511 fulfilled the duties of chancellor and visitor of
the chapter's estates.
His administrative and economic dutes did not distract Copernicus, in
1512–15, from intensive observational activity. The results of his
Saturn in this period, and especially a
series of four observations of the
Sun made in 1515, led to discovery
of the variability of Earth's eccentricity and of the movement of the
solar apogee in relation to the fixed stars, which in 1515–19
prompted his first revisions of certain assumptions of his system.
Some of the observations that he made in this period may have had a
connection with a proposed reform of the
Julian calendar made in the
first half of 1513 at the request of the
Bishop of Fossombrone, Paul
of Middelburg. Their contacts in this matter in the period of the
Fifth Lateran Council
Fifth Lateran Council were later memorialized in a complimentary
mention in Copernicus's dedicatory epistle in Dē revolutionibus
orbium coelestium and in a treatise by Paul of Middelburg, Secundum
compendium correctionis Calendarii (1516), which mentions Copernicus
among the learned men who had sent the Council proposals for the
During 1516–21, Copernicus resided at
Olsztyn (Allenstein) Castle as
economic administrator of Warmia, including
Olsztyn (Allenstein) and
Pieniężno (Mehlsack). While there, he wrote a manuscript, Locationes
mansorum desertorum (Locations of Deserted Fiefs), with a view to
populating those fiefs with industrious farmers and so bolstering the
economy of Warmia. When
Olsztyn was besieged by the Teutonic Knights
during the Polish–Teutonic War, Copernicus directed the defense of
Warmia by Royal Polish forces. He also represented the
Polish side in the ensuing peace negotiations.
Copernicus for years advised the Royal Prussian sejmik on monetary
reform, particularly in the 1520s when that was a major question in
regional Prussian politics. In 1526 he wrote a study on the value
of money, Monetae cudendae ratio. In it he formulated an early
iteration of the theory, now called Gresham's law, that "bad"
(debased) coinage drives "good" (un-debased) coinage out of
circulation—several decades before Thomas Gresham. He also, in 1517,
set down a quantity theory of money, a principal concept in economics
to the present day. Copernicus's recommendations on monetary reform
were widely read by leaders of both
Poland in their
attempts to stabilize currency.
Copernicus Monument in Warsaw designed by the Danish sculptor Bertel
In 1533, Johann Widmanstetter, secretary to Pope Clement VII,
explained Copernicus's heliocentric system to the Pope and two
cardinals. The Pope was so pleased that he gave Widmanstetter a
valuable gift. In 1535
Bernard Wapowski wrote a letter to a
gentleman in Vienna, urging him to publish an enclosed almanac, which
he claimed had been written by Copernicus. This is the only mention of
a Copernicus almanac in the historical records. The "almanac" was
likely Copernicus's tables of planetary positions. Wapowski's letter
mentions Copernicus's theory about the motions of the earth. Nothing
came of Wapowski's request, because he died a couple of weeks
Following the death of Prince-
Bishop of Warmia
Bishop of Warmia
Mauritius Ferber (1
July 1537), Copernicus participated in the election of his successor,
Johannes Dantiscus (20 September 1537). Copernicus was one of four
candidates for the post, written in at the initiative of Tiedemann
Giese; but his candidacy was actually pro forma, since Dantiscus had
earlier been named coadjutor bishop to Ferber and since Dantiscus had
the backing of Poland's King Sigismund I. At first Copernicus
maintained friendly relations with the new Prince-Bishop, assisting
him medically in spring 1538 and accompanying him that summer on an
inspection tour of Chapter holdings. But that autumn, their friendship
was strained by suspicions over Copernicus's housekeeper, Anna
Schilling, whom Dantiscus banished from
Frombork in spring 1539.
Portrait of Copernicus holding a lily of the valley, published in
Nicolaus Reusner's Icones (1587), based on a sketch by Tobias Stimmer
(c. 1570), allegedly based on a self-portrait by Copernicus. This
portrait became the basis of most later depictions of Copernicus.
In his younger days, Copernicus the physician had treated his uncle,
brother and other chapter members. In later years he was called upon
to attend the elderly bishops who in turn occupied the see of
Mauritius Ferber and
Johannes Dantiscus – and, in 1539, his
old friend Tiedemann Giese,
Chełmno (Kulm). In treating
such important patients, he sometimes sought consultations from other
physicians, including the physician to Duke Albert and, by letter, the
Polish Royal Physician.
Nicolaus Copernicus Tornaeus Borussus Mathemat.", 1597
In the spring of 1541, Duke Albert—former Grand Master of the
Teutonic Order who had converted the Monastic State of the Teutonic
Knights into a
Lutheran and hereditary realm, the Duchy of Prussia,
upon doing homage to his uncle, the King of Poland, Sigismund
I—summoned Copernicus to
Königsberg to attend the Duke's counselor,
George von Kunheim, who had fallen seriously ill, and for whom the
Prussian doctors seemed unable to do anything. Copernicus went
willingly; he had met von Kunheim during negotiations over reform of
the coinage. And Copernicus had come to feel that Albert himself was
not such a bad person; the two had many intellectual interests in
common. The Chapter readily gave Copernicus permission to go, as it
wished to remain on good terms with the Duke, despite his Lutheran
faith. In about a month the patient recovered, and Copernicus returned
to Frombork. For a time, he continued to receive reports on von
Kunheim's condition, and to send him medical advice by letter.
Some of Copernicus's close friends turned Protestant, but Copernicus
never showed a tendency in that direction. The first attacks on him
came from Protestants. Wilhelm Gnapheus, a Dutch refugee settled in
Elbląg, wrote a comedy in Latin, Morosophus (The Foolish Sage), and
staged it at the
Latin school that he had established there. In the
play, Copernicus was caricatured as a haughty, cold, aloof man who
dabbled in astrology, considered himself inspired by God, and was
rumored to have written a large work that was moldering in a
Elsewhere Protestants were the first to react to news of Copernicus's
Some people believe that it is excellent and correct to work out a
thing as absurd as did that Sarmatian [i.e., Polish] astronomer who
moves the earth and stops the sun. Indeed, wise rulers should have
curbed such light-mindedness.
Nevertheless, in 1551, eight years after Copernicus's death,
Erasmus Reinhold published, under the sponsorship of
Copernicus's former military adversary, the Protestant Duke Albert,
the Prussian Tables, a set of astronomical tables based on
Copernicus's work. Astronomers and astrologers quickly adopted it in
place of its predecessors.
Photograph of a 16th-century portrait of Copernicus — the original
painting was looted, and possibly destroyed, by the Germans in World
War II during the occupation of Poland.
Some time before 1514 Copernicus made available to friends his
"Commentariolus" ("Little Commentary"), a forty-page manuscript
describing his ideas about the heliocentric hypothesis.[e] It
contained seven basic assumptions (detailed below). Thereafter he
continued gathering data for a more detailed work.
About 1532 Copernicus had basically completed his work on the
manuscript of Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium; but despite urging
by his closest friends, he resisted openly publishing his views, not
wishing—as he confessed—to risk the scorn "to which he would
expose himself on account of the novelty and incomprehensibility of
Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter delivered a series of lectures
in Rome outlining Copernicus's theory.
Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII and several
Catholic cardinals heard the lectures and were interested in the
theory. On 1 November 1536, Cardinal Nikolaus von Schönberg,
Archbishop of Capua, wrote to Copernicus from Rome:
Some years ago word reached me concerning your proficiency, of which
everybody constantly spoke. At that time I began to have a very high
regard for you... For I had learned that you had not merely mastered
the discoveries of the ancient astronomers uncommonly well but had
also formulated a new cosmology. In it you maintain that the earth
moves; that the sun occupies the lowest, and thus the central, place
in the universe... Therefore with the utmost earnestness I entreat
you, most learned sir, unless I inconvenience you, to communicate this
discovery of yours to scholars, and at the earliest possible moment to
send me your writings on the sphere of the universe together with the
tables and whatever else you have that is relevant to this subject
By then Copernicus's work was nearing its definitive form, and rumors
about his theory had reached educated people all over Europe. Despite
urgings from many quarters, Copernicus delayed publication of his
book, perhaps from fear of criticism—a fear delicately expressed in
the subsequent dedication of his masterpiece to Pope Paul III.
Scholars disagree on whether Copernicus's concern was limited to
possible astronomical and philosophical objections, or whether he was
also concerned about religious objections.[f]
De revolutionibus, 1543, title page
Copernicus was still working on
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
(even if not certain that he wanted to publish it) when in 1539 Georg
Joachim Rheticus, a
Wittenberg mathematician, arrived in Frombork.
Philipp Melanchthon, a close theological ally of Martin Luther, had
Rheticus to visit several astronomers and study with
Rheticus became Copernicus's pupil, staying with him for two
years and writing a book,
Narratio prima (First Account), outlining
the essence of Copernicus's theory. In 1542
Rheticus published a
treatise on trigonometry by Copernicus (later included as chapters 13
and 14 of Book I of De revolutionibus). Under strong pressure from
Rheticus, and having seen the favorable first general reception of his
work, Copernicus finally agreed to give
De revolutionibus to his close
friend, Tiedemann Giese, bishop of
Chełmno (Kulm), to be delivered to
Rheticus for printing by the German printer
Johannes Petreius at
Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Germany. While
Rheticus initially supervised
the printing, he had to leave
Nuremberg before it was completed, and
he handed over the task of supervising the rest of the printing to a
Lutheran theologian, Andreas Osiander.
Osiander added an unauthorised and unsigned preface, defending
Copernicus' work against those who might be offended by its novel
hypotheses. He argued that "different hypotheses are sometimes offered
for one and the same motion [and therefore] the astronomer will take
as his first choice that hypothesis which is the easiest to grasp."
According to Osiander, "these hypotheses need not be true nor even
probable. [I]f they provide a calculus consistent with the
observations, that alone is enough."
Toward the close of 1542, Copernicus was seized with apoplexy and
paralysis, and he died at age 70 on 24 May 1543. Legend has it that he
was presented with the final printed pages of his Dē revolutionibus
orbium coelestium on the very day that he died, allowing him to take
farewell of his life's work. He is reputed to have awoken from a
stroke-induced coma, looked at his book, and then died peacefully.
Casket with Copernicus' remains, St. James' Cathedral Basilica,
Olsztyn, March 2010
Copernicus' 2010 grave,
Frombork Cathedral. A 1580 epitaph had been destroyed.
Copernicus was reportedly buried in
Frombork Cathedral, where
archaeologists for over two centuries searched in vain for his
remains. Efforts to locate the remains in 1802, 1909, 1939 and 2004
had come to nought. In August 2005, however, a team led by Jerzy
Gąssowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in
Pułtusk, after scanning beneath the cathedral floor, discovered what
they believed to be Copernicus's remains.
The find came after a year of searching, and the discovery was
announced only after further research, on 3 November 2008. Gąssowski
said he was "almost 100 percent sure it is Copernicus". Forensic
expert Capt. Dariusz Zajdel of the Polish Police Central Forensic
Laboratory used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled
the features—including a broken nose and a scar above the left
eye—on a Copernicus self-portrait. The expert also determined
that the skull belonged to a man who had died around age
70—Copernicus's age at the time of his death.
The grave was in poor condition, and not all the remains of the
skeleton were found; missing, among other things, was the lower
jaw. The DNA from the bones found in the grave matched hair
samples taken from a book owned by Copernicus which was kept at the
library of the
University of Uppsala
University of Uppsala in Sweden.
On 22 May 2010 Copernicus was given a second funeral in a Mass led by
Józef Kowalczyk, the former papal nuncio to
Poland and newly named
Primate of Poland. Copernicus's remains were reburied in the same spot
Frombork Cathedral where part of his skull and other bones had been
found. A black granite tombstone now identifies him as the founder of
the heliocentric theory and also a church canon. The tombstone bears a
representation of Copernicus's model of the solar system—a golden
sun encircled by six of the planets.
Main article: Copernican heliocentrism
Philolaus (c. 480–385 BCE) described an astronomical system in which
Central Fire (different from the Sun) occupied the centre of the
universe, and a counter-Earth, the Earth, Moon, the
planets, and stars all revolved around it, in that order outward from
Heraclides Ponticus (387–312 BCE) proposed that the
Earth rotates on its axis.
Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310 BCE –
ca. 230 BCE) was the first to advance a theory that the earth orbited
the sun. Further mathematical details of Aristarchus' heliocentric
system were worked out around 150 BCE by the
Seleucus of Seleucia. Though Aristarchus' original text has been lost,
a reference in Archimedes' book
The Sand Reckoner (Archimedis
Syracusani Arenarius & Dimensio Circuli) describes a work by
Aristarchus in which he advanced the heliocentric model. Thomas Heath
gives the following English translation of Archimedes' text:
You are now aware ['you' being King Gelon] that the "universe" is the
name given by most astronomers to the sphere the centre of which is
the centre of the earth, while its radius is equal to the straight
line between the centre of the sun and the centre of the earth. This
is the common account (τά γραφόμενα) as you have heard from
astronomers. But Aristarchus has brought out a book consisting of
certain hypotheses, wherein it appears, as a consequence of the
assumptions made, that the universe is many times greater than the
"universe" just mentioned. His hypotheses are that the fixed stars and
the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun on the
circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit,
and that the sphere of the fixed stars, situated about the same centre
as the sun, is so great that the circle in which he supposes the earth
to revolve bears such a proportion to the distance of the fixed stars
as the centre of the sphere bears to its surface.
— The Sand Reckoner
Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus of Samos in an early (unpublished)
manuscript of De Revolutionibus (which still survives), though he
removed the reference from his final published manuscript.
Copernicus was probably aware that Pythagoras's system involved a
moving earth. The Pythagorean system was mentioned by Aristotle.
Copernicus owned a copy of Giorgio Valla's "De expetendis et fugiendis
rebus", which included a translation of Plutarch's reference to
In Copernicus' dedication of On the Revolutions to Pope Paul
III—which Copernicus hoped would dampen criticism of his
heliocentric theory by "babblers... completely ignorant of
[astronomy]"—the book's author wrote that, in rereading all of
philosophy, in the pages of
Plutarch he had found
references to those few thinkers who dared to move the
the traditional opinion of astronomers and almost against common
Some technical details of Copernicus's system[g] closely resembled
those developed earlier by the Islamic astronomers Naṣīr al-Dīn
al-Ṭūsī and Ibn al-Shāṭir, both of whom retained a geocentric
model. Aryabhata (476–550), in his magnum opus Aryabhatiya (499),
propounded a planetary model in which the
Earth was taken to be
spinning on its axis and the periods of the planets were given with
respect to the Sun. He accurately calculated many astronomical
constants, such as the periods of the planets, times of the solar and
lunar eclipses, and the instantaneous motion of the Moon.[citation
At the Maragha observatory, Najm al-Dīn al-Qazwīnī al-Kātibī
(died 1277), in his Hikmat al-'Ain, wrote an argument for a
heliocentric model, but later abandoned the model. Qutb al-Din Shirazi
(born 1236) also discussed the possibility of heliocentrism, but
Ibn al-Shatir (born 1304) developed a geocentric
system that employed mathematical techniques, such as the Tusi couple
and Urdi lemma, that were almost identical to those Nicolaus
Copernicus later employed in his heliocentric system, implying that
its mathematical model was influenced by the Maragha school.
Nilakantha Somayaji (1444–1544), in his Aryabhatiyabhasya, a
commentary on Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya, developed a computational
system for a partially heliocentric planetary model, in which the
planets orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits the Earth, similar to the
Tychonic system later proposed by
Tycho Brahe in the late 16th
century. In the Tantrasangraha (1500), he further revised his
planetary system, which was mathematically more accurate at predicting
the heliocentric orbits of the interior planets than both the Tychonic
and Copernican models.
The prevailing theory in Europe during Copernicus's lifetime was the
Ptolemy published in his
Almagest circa 150 CE; the
the stationary center of the universe. Stars were embedded in a large
outer sphere which rotated rapidly, approximately daily, while each of
the planets, the Sun, and the Moon were embedded in their own, smaller
spheres. Ptolemy's system employed devices, including epicycles,
deferents and equants, to account for observations that the paths of
these bodies differed from simple, circular orbits centered on the
Copernicus's vision of the universe in Dē revolutionibus orbium
Copernicus' major work on his heliocentric theory was Dē
revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial
Spheres), published in the year of his death, 1543. He had formulated
his theory by 1510. "He wrote out a short overview of his new heavenly
arrangement [known as the Commentariolus, or Brief Sketch], also
probably in 1510 [but no later than May 1514], and sent it off to at
least one correspondent beyond
Latin for "Warmia"]. That
person in turn copied the document for further circulation, and
presumably the new recipients did, too..."
Commentariolus summarized his heliocentric theory. It
listed the "assumptions" upon which the theory was based, as
1. There is no one center of all the celestial circles or spheres.
2. The center of the earth is not the center of the universe, but only
of gravity and of the lunar sphere.
3. All the spheres revolve about the sun as their midpoint, and
therefore the sun is the center of the universe.
4. The ratio of the earth's distance from the sun to the height of the
firmament (outermost celestial sphere containing the stars) is so much
smaller than the ratio of the earth's radius to its distance from the
sun that the distance from the earth to the sun is imperceptible in
comparison with the height of the firmament.
5. Whatever motion appears in the firmament arises not from any motion
of the firmament, but from the earth's motion. The earth together with
its circumjacent elements performs a complete rotation on its fixed
poles in a daily motion, while the firmament and highest heaven abide
6. What appear to us as motions of the sun arise not from its motion
but from the motion of the earth and our sphere, with which we revolve
about the sun like any other planet. The earth has, then, more than
7. The apparent retrograde and direct motion of the planets arises not
from their motion but from the earth's. The motion of the earth alone,
therefore, suffices to explain so many apparent inequalities in the
De revolutionibus itself was divided into six sections or parts,
General vision of the heliocentric theory, and a summarized exposition
of his idea of the World
Mainly theoretical, presents the principles of spherical astronomy and
a list of stars (as a basis for the arguments developed in the
Mainly dedicated to the apparent motions of the
Sun and to related
Description of the Moon and its orbital motions
Exposition of the motions in longitude of the non-terrestrial planets
Exposition of the motions in latitude of the non-terrestrial planets
See also: Copernican Revolution
Rheticus could have been Copernicus's successor, but did
not rise to the occasion.
Erasmus Reinhold could have been his
successor, but died prematurely. The first of the great successors
was Tycho Brahe (though he did not think the earth orbited the
sun), followed by Johannes Kepler, who had collaborated with Tycho
Prague and benefited from Tycho's decades' worth of detailed
Despite the near universal acceptance later of the heliocentric idea
(though not the epicycles or the circular orbits), Copernicus's theory
was originally slow to catch on. Scholars hold that sixty years after
the publication of The Revolutions there were only around 15
astronomers espousing Copernicanism in all of Europe: "Thomas Digges
Thomas Harriot in England;
Giordano Bruno and
Galileo Galilei in
Italy; Diego Zuniga in Spain;
Simon Stevin in the Low Countries; and
in Germany, the largest group – Georg Joachim Rheticus, Michael
Christoph Rothmann (who may have later recanted), and
Johannes Kepler." Additional possibilities are Englishman William
Gilbert, along with Achilles Gasser, Georg Vogelin, Valentin Otto, and
Arthur Koestler, in his popular book The Sleepwalkers, asserted that
Copernicus's book had not been widely read on its first
publication. This claim was trenchantly criticised by Edward
Rosen,[h] and has been decisively disproved by Owen Gingerich, who
examined nearly every surviving copy of the first two editions and
found copious marginal notes by their owners throughout many of them.
Gingerich published his conclusions in 2004 in The Book Nobody
The intellectual climate of the time "remained dominated by
Aristotelian philosophy and the corresponding Ptolemaic astronomy. At
that time there was no reason to accept the Copernican theory, except
for its mathematical simplicity [by avoiding using the equant in
determining planetary positions]." Tycho Brahe's system ("that
the earth is stationary, the sun revolves about the earth, and the
other planets revolve about the sun") also directly competed with
Copernicus's. It was only a half century later with the work of Kepler
and Galileo that any substantial evidence defending Copernicanism
appeared, starting "from the time when Galileo formulated the
principle of inertia...[which] helped to explain why everything would
not fall off the earth if it were in motion." "[Not until] after
Isaac Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation and the laws
of mechanics [in his 1687 Principia], which unified terrestrial and
celestial mechanics, was the heliocentric view generally
Catholic Church and science
The immediate result of the 1543 publication of Copernicus's book was
only mild controversy. At the
Council of Trent
Council of Trent (1545–63) neither
Copernicus's theory nor calendar reform (which would later use tables
deduced from Copernicus's calculations) were discussed. It has
been much debated why it was not until six decades after the
De revolutionibus that the
Catholic Church took any
official action against it, even the efforts of Tolosani going
unheeded. Catholic side opposition only commenced seventy-three years
later, when it was occasioned by Galileo.
The first notable to move against Copernicanism was the Magister of
the Holy Palace (i.e., the Catholic Church's chief censor), Dominican
Bartolomeo Spina, who "expressed a desire to stamp out the Copernican
doctrine". But with Spina's death in 1546, his cause fell to his
friend, the well known theologian-astronomer, the Dominican Giovanni
Maria Tolosani of the
Convent of St. Mark in Florence. Tolosani had
written a treatise on reforming the calendar (in which astronomy would
play a large role) and had attended the Fifth Lateran Council
(1512–17) to discuss the matter. He had obtained a copy of De
Revolutionibus in 1544. His denunciation of Copernicanism was written
a year later, in 1545, in an appendix to his unpublished work, On the
Truth of Sacred Scripture.
Emulating the rationalistic style of Thomas Aquinas, Tolosani sought
to refute Copernicanism by philosophical argument. Copernicanism was
absurd, according to Tolosani, because it was scientifically unproven
and unfounded. First, Copernicus had assumed the motion of the Earth
but offered no physical theory whereby one would deduce this motion.
(No one realized that the investigation into Copernicanism would
result in a rethinking of the entire field of physics.) Second,
Tolosani charged that Copernicus's thought process was backwards. He
held that Copernicus had come up with his idea and then sought
phenomena that would support it, rather than observing phenomena and
deducing from them the idea of what caused them. In this, Tolosani was
linking Copernicus's mathematical equations with the practices of the
Aristotle had made arguments against, which were
later picked up by Thomas Aquinas). It was argued that mathematical
numbers were a mere product of the intellect without any physical
reality, and as such could not provide physical causes in the
investigation of nature.
Some astronomical hypotheses at the time (such as epicycles and
eccentrics) were seen as mere mathematical devices to adjust
calculations of where the heavenly bodies would appear, rather than an
explanation of the cause of those motions. (As Copernicus still
maintained the idea of perfectly spherical orbits, he relied on
epicycles.) This "saving the phenomena" was seen as proof that
astronomy and mathematics could not be taken as serious means to
determine physical causes. Tolosani invoked this view in his final
critique of Copernicus, saying that his biggest error was that he had
started with "inferior" fields of science to make pronouncements about
"superior" fields. Copernicus had used mathematics and astronomy to
postulate about physics and cosmology, rather than beginning with the
accepted principles of physics and cosmology to determine things about
astronomy and mathematics. Thus Copernicus seemed to be undermining
the whole system of the philosophy of science at the time. Tolosani
held that Copernicus had fallen into philosophical error because he
had not been versed in physics and logic; anyone without such
knowledge would make a poor astronomer and be unable to distinguish
truth from falsehood. Because Copernicanism had not met the criteria
for scientific truth set out by Thomas Aquinas, Tolosani held that it
could only be viewed as a wild unproven theory.
Ptolemy and Copernicus, ca. 1686, at King Jan Sobieski's library,
Wilanów Palace: an early Copernicus depiction
Tolosani recognized that the Ad Lectorem preface to Copernicus's book
was not actually by him. Its thesis that astronomy as a whole would
never be able to make truth claims was rejected by Tolosani (though he
still held that Copernicus's attempt to describe physical reality had
been faulty); he found it ridiculous that Ad Lectorem had been
included in the book (unaware that Copernicus had not authorized its
inclusion). Tolosani wrote: "By means of these words [of the Ad
Lectorem], the foolishness of this book's author is rebuked. For by a
foolish effort he [Copernicus] tried to revive the weak Pythagorean
opinion [that the element of fire was at the center of the Universe],
long ago deservedly destroyed, since it is expressly contrary to human
reason and also opposes holy writ. From this situation, there could
easily arise disagreements between Catholic expositors of holy
scripture and those who might wish to adhere obstinately to this false
opinion." Tolosani declared: "
Nicolaus Copernicus neither read
nor understood the arguments of
Aristotle the philosopher and Ptolemy
the astronomer." Tolosani wrote that Copernicus "is expert indeed
in the sciences of mathematics and astronomy, but he is very deficient
in the sciences of physics and logic. Moreover, it appears that he is
unskilled with regard to [the interpretation of] holy scripture, since
he contradicts several of its principles, not without danger of
infidelity to himself and the readers of his book. ...his arguments
have no force and can very easily be taken apart. For it is stupid to
contradict an opinion accepted by everyone over a very long time for
the strongest reasons, unless the impugner uses more powerful and
insoluble demonstrations and completely dissolves the opposed reasons.
But he does not do this in the least."
Tolosani declared that he had written against Copernicus "for the
purpose of preserving the truth to the common advantage of the Holy
Church." Despite this, his work remained unpublished and there is
no evidence that it received serious consideration. Robert Westman
describes it as becoming a "dormant" viewpoint with "no audience in
the Catholic world" of the late sixteenth century, but also notes that
there is some evidence that it did become known to Tommaso Caccini,
who would criticize Galileo in a sermon in December 1613.
Tolosani may have criticized the Copernican theory as scientifically
unproven and unfounded, but the theory also conflicted with the
theology of the time, as can be seen in a sample of the works of John
Calvin. In his Commentary on Genesis he said that "We indeed are not
ignorant that the circuit of the heavens is finite, and that the
earth, like a little globe, is placed in the centre." In his
commentary on Psalms 93:1 he states that "The heavens revolve daily,
and, immense as is their fabric and inconceivable the rapidity of
their revolutions, we experience no concussion.... How could the earth
hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by God's hand? By what
means could it maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in
constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish
it." One sharp point of conflict between Copernicus's theory and
the Bible concerned the story of the Battle of Gibeon in the Book of
Joshua where the Hebrew forces were winning but whose opponents were
likely to escape once night fell. This is averted by Joshua's prayers
causing the sun and the moon to stand still.
Martin Luther once made a
remark about Copernicus, although without mentioning his name.
According to Anthony Lauterbach, while eating with
Martin Luther the
topic of Copernicus arose during dinner on 4 June 1539 (in the same
year as professor George Joachim
Rheticus of the local University had
been granted leave to visit him). Luther is said to have remarked "So
it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing others
esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does
who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these
things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures,
for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth."
These remarks were made four years before the publication of On the
Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and a year before Rheticus'
Narratio Prima. In John Aurifaber's account of the conversation Luther
calls Copernicus "that fool" rather than "that fellow", this version
is viewed by historians as less reliably sourced.
Luther's collaborator Philipp
Melanchthon also took issue with
Copernicanism. After receiving the first pages of Narratio Prima from
Melanchthon wrote to Mithobius (physician and
mathematician Burkard Mithob of Feldkirch) on 16 October 1541
condemning the theory and calling for it to be repressed by
governmental force, writing "certain people believe it is a marvelous
achievement to extol so crazy a thing, like that Polish astronomer who
makes the earth move and the sun stand still. Really, wise governments
ought to repress impudence of mind." It had appeared to Rheticus
that Melanchton would understand the theory and would be open to it.
This was because Melanchton had taught Ptolemaic astronomy and had
even recommended his friend
Rheticus to an appointment to the Deanship
of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at the University of Wittenberg
after he had returned from studying with Copernicus.
Rheticus' hopes were dashed when six years after the publication of De
Melanchthon published his Initia Doctrinae Physicae
presenting three grounds to reject Copernicanism. These were "the
evidence of the senses, the thousand-year consensus of men of science,
and the authority of the Bible". Blasting the new theory
Melanchthon wrote "Out of love for novelty or in order to make a show
of their cleverness, some people have argued that the earth moves.
They maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun moves,
whereas they attribute motion to the other celestial spheres, and also
place the earth among the heavenly bodies. Nor were these jokes
invented recently. There is still extant Archimedes' book on The
sand-reckoner; in which he reports that Aristarchus of Samos
propounded the paradox that the sun stands still and the earth
revolves around the sun. Even though subtle experts institute many
investigations for the sake of exercising their ingenuity,
nevertheless public proclamation of absurd opinions is indecent and
sets a harmful example."
Melanchthon went on to cite Bible
passages and then declare "Encouraged by this divine evidence, let us
cherish the truth and let us not permit ourselves to be alienated from
it by the tricks of those who deem it an intellectual honor to
introduce confusion into the arts." In the first edition of
Initia Doctrinae Physicae,
Melanchthon even questioned Copernicus's
character claiming his motivation was "either from love of novelty or
from desire to appear clever", these more personal attacks were
largely removed by the second edition in 1550.
Another Protestant theologian who took issue with Copernicus was John
Owen who declared that "the late hypothesis, fixing the sun as in the
centre of the world' was 'built on fallible phenomena, and advanced by
many arbitrary presumptions against evident testimonies of
In Roman Catholic circles, German Jesuit Nicolaus Serarius was one of
the first to write against Copernicus's theory as heretical, citing
the Joshua passage, in a work published in 1609–1610, and again in a
book in 1612. In his 12 April 1615 letter to a Catholic defender
of Copernicus, Paolo Antonio Foscarini, Catholic Cardinal Robert
Bellarmine condemned Copernican theory, writing "...not only the Holy
Fathers, but also the modern commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms,
Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will find all agreeing in the literal
interpretation that the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth
with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits
motionless at the center of the world...Nor can one answer that this
is not a matter of faith, since if it is not a matter of faith 'as
regards the topic,' it is a matter of faith 'as regards the speaker':
and so it would be heretical to say that Abraham did not have two
children and Jacob twelve, as well as to say that Christ was not born
of a virgin, because both are said by the Holy Spirit through the
mouth of prophets and apostles."
Perhaps the most influential opponent of the Copernican theory was
Francesco Ingoli, a Catholic priest. Ingoli wrote a January 1616 essay
to Galileo presenting more than twenty arguments against the
Copernican theory. Though "it is not certain, it is probable that
he [Ingoli] was commissioned by the
Inquisition to write an expert
opinion on the controversy", (after the Congregation of the
Index's decree against Copernicanism on 5 March 1616, Ingoli was
officially appointed its consultant). Galileo himself was of the
opinion that the essay played an important role in the rejection of
the theory by church authorities, writing in a later letter to Ingoli
that he was concerned that people thought the theory was rejected
because Ingoli was right. Ingoli presented five physical
arguments against the theory, thirteen mathematical arguments (plus a
separate discussion of the sizes of stars), and four theological
arguments. The physical and mathematical arguments were of uneven
quality, but many of them came directly from the writings of Tycho
Brahe, and Ingoli repeatedly cited Brahe, the leading astronomer of
the era. These included arguments about the effect of a moving earth
on the trajectory of projectiles, and about parallax and Brahe's
argument that the Copernican theory required that stars be absurdly
large. Two of Ingoli's theological issues with the Copernican
theory were "common Catholic beliefs not directly traceable to
Scripture: the doctrine that hell is located at the center of Earth
and is most distant from heaven; and the explicit assertion that Earth
is motionless in a hymn sung on Tuesdays as part of the Liturgy of the
Hours of the Divine Office prayers regularly recited by priests."
Robert Bellarmine in regards to both of these arguments,
and may have been trying to convey to Galileo a sense of Bellarmine's
opinion. Ingoli also cited Genesis 1:14 where God places "lights
in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night."
Ingoli did not think the central location of the sun in the Copernican
theory was compatible with it being described as one of the lights
placed in the firmament. Like previous commentators Ingoli also
pointed to the passages about the Battle of Gibeon. He dismissed
arguments that they should be taken metaphorically, saying "Replies
which assert that Scripture speaks according to our mode of
understanding are not satisfactory: both because in explaining the
Sacred Writings the rule is always to preserve the literal sense, when
it is possible, as it is in this case; and also because all the
[Church] Fathers unanimously take this passage to mean that the sun
which was truly moving stopped at Joshua's request. An interpretation
which is contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers is condemned
by the Council of Trent, Session IV, in the decree on the edition and
use of the Sacred Books. Furthermore, although the Council speaks
about matters of faith and morals, nevertheless it cannot be denied
that the Holy Fathers would be displeased with an interpretation of
Sacred Scriptures which is contrary to their common agreement."
However, Ingoli closed the essay by suggesting Galileo respond
primarily to the better of his physical and mathematical arguments
rather than to his theological arguments, writing "Let it be your
choice to respond to this either entirely of in part—clearly at
least to the mathematical and physical arguments, and not to all even
of these, but to the more weighty ones." When Galileo wrote a
letter in reply to Ingoli years later, he in fact only addressed the
mathematical and physical arguments.
In March 1616, in connection with the Galileo affair, the Roman
Congregation of the Index
Congregation of the Index issued a decree suspending
De revolutionibus until it could be "corrected," on the grounds of
ensuring that Copernicanism, which it described as a "false
Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture,"
would not "creep any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth."
The corrections consisted largely of removing or altering wording that
the spoke of heliocentrism as a fact, rather than a hypothesis.
The corrections were made based largely on work by Ingoli.
On the orders of Pope Paul V, Cardinal
Robert Bellarmine gave Galileo
prior notice that the decree was about to be issued, and warned him
that he could not "hold or defend" the Copernican doctrine.[i] The
corrections to De revolutionibus, which omitted or altered nine
sentences, were issued four years later, in 1620.
Galileo Galilei was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for
"following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true
sense and authority of Holy Scripture", and was placed under
house arrest for the rest of his life.
At the instance of Roger Boscovich, the Catholic Church's 1758 Index
of Prohibited Books omitted the general prohibition of works defending
heliocentrism, but retained the specific prohibitions of the
original uncensored versions of
De revolutionibus and Galileo's
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Those prohibitions
were finally dropped from the 1835 Index.
Replica of Warsaw's Copernicus Monument, in Montreal, Canada
Bust by Schadow, 1807, in the Walhalla memorial
There has been discussion of Copernicus' nationality and of whether it
is meaningful to ascribe to him a nationality in the modern sense.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born and raised in Royal Prussia, a
semiautonomous and polyglot region of the Kingdom of Poland.
He was the child of German-speaking parents and grew up with German as
his mother tongue. His first alma mater was the
Kraków in Poland. When he later studied in Italy, at
the University of Bologna, he joined the German Nation, a student
organization for German-speakers of all allegiances (
Germany would not
become a nation-state until 1871). His family stood against
Teutonic Order and actively supported the city of
the Thirteen Years' War (1454–66). Copernicus' father lent money to
Casimir IV Jagiellon
Casimir IV Jagiellon to finance the war against the
Teutonic Knights, but the inhabitants of
Royal Prussia also
resisted the Polish crown's efforts for greater control over the
Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, The
Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, The Oxford World
Encyclopedia, and World Book Encyclopedia refer to
Copernicus as a "Polish astronomer". Sheila Rabin, writing in the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, describes Copernicus as a "child
of a German family [who] was a subject of the Polish crown", while
Manfred Weissenbacher writes that Copernicus's father was a Germanized
There are additional arguments for Kopernik's Polish descent on his
father's side. Kopernik's Y-DNA haplogroup, R1b L51, is found in
Poland (in Silesia, where his father came from), but not in
Germany or Austria. The surname Kopernik is typically Polish,
with its suffix -nik, indicating an occupation (e.g. cukiernik,
"confectioner", or górnik, "miner"); while Koper- may refer to
koprowina, an old Polish term for the
Latin "cuprum" ("copper" . The
surname Kopernik is now found in
Poland in 130 persons, and in Germany
in only 22, mostly Polish immigrants to Germany. No Polish
texts by Copernicus survive due to the rarity of Polish literary
language before the writings of the Polish
Renaissance poets Mikołaj
Jan Kochanowski (educated Poles had generally written in
Latin); but it is known that Copernicus knew Polish on a par with
German and Latin.
Michael Burleigh describes the nationality debate as a
"totally insignificant battle" between German and Polish scholars
during the interwar period. Polish astronomer Konrad Rudnicki
calls the discussion a "fierce scholarly quarrel in ... times of
nationalism" and describes Copernicus as an inhabitant of a
German-speaking territory that belonged to Poland, himself being of
mixed Polish-German extraction.
Czesław Miłosz describes the debate as an "absurd" projection of a
modern understanding of nationality onto
Renaissance people, who
identified with their home territories rather than with a nation.
Norman Davies writes that Copernicus, as was
common in his era, was "largely indifferent" to nationality, being a
local patriot who considered himself "Prussian". Miłosz and
Davies both write that Copernicus had a German-language cultural
background, while his working language was
Latin in accord with the
usage of the time. Additionally, according to Davies, "there
is ample evidence that he knew the Polish language". Davies
concludes that, "Taking everything into consideration, there is good
reason to regard him both as a German and as a Pole: and yet, in the
sense that modern nationalists understand it, he was neither."
Enamel mosaic by Stefan Knapp, 1972, on building of Nicolaus
Copernicus University, in Toruń, Poland
U.S. postage stamp on 500th anniversary of Copernicus's birth (1973)
Main article: Copernicium
On 14 July 2009, the discoverers, from the Gesellschaft für
Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, Germany, of chemical element 112
(temporarily named ununbium) proposed to the International Union of
Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) that its permanent name be
"copernicium" (symbol Cn). "After we had named elements after our city
and our state, we wanted to make a statement with a name that was
known to everyone," said Hofmann. "We didn't want to select someone
who was a German. We were looking world-wide." On the 537th
anniversary of his birthday the official naming was released to the
55 Cancri A
In July 2014 the International Astronomical Union launched a process
for giving proper names to certain exoplanets and their host
stars. The process involved public nomination and voting for the
new names. In December 2015, the IAU announced the winning name
55 Cancri A was Copernicus.
Copernicus is honored, together with Johannes Kepler, in the
liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA), with a feast day on
Wrocław-Strachowice International Airport is named after Nicolaus
Copernicus (Copernicus Airport Wrocław)
Contemporary literary and artistic works inspired by Copernicus
Mover of the Earth, Stopper of the
Sun for symphony orchestra
(overture), written by composer
Svitlana Azarova commissioned by
Doctor Copernicus, a 1975 novel by John Banville, sketches the life of
Copernicus and the 16th-century world in which he lived.
List of multiple discoveries
List of Roman Catholic scientist-clerics
Copernicus Science Centre
^ Linton 2004, pp. 39, 119. The Greek mathematician and
Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus of Samos proposed such a system during the
third century BCE, but there is little evidence that his ideas were
developed beyond a basic outline (Dreyer 1953,
pp. 135–48)[dubious – discuss]. Copernicus was aware of
Aristarchus' heliocentric theory and cited him in an early
(unpublished) manuscript of De Revolutionibus (which still survives),
though he removed the reference from his final published
^ He used
Latin and German, knew enough Greek to translate the
Byzantine poet Theophylact Simocatta's verses into Latin
prose and "there is ample evidence that he knew the Polish
language". During his several years' studies in Italy, Copernicus
presumably would also have learned some Italian. Professor Stefan
Nicolaus Copernicus University
Nicolaus Copernicus University in
Toruń likewise asserts
that Copernicus spoke both German and Polish.
^ See the title page at The book
^ Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969) describe Copernicus having
attended school at
Włocławek as unlikely.
^ A reference to the "Commentariolus" is contained in a library
catalogue, dated 1 May 1514, of a 16th-century historian, Matthew of
Miechów, so it must have begun circulating before that date (Koyré,
1973, p. 85; Gingerich, 2004, p. 32). Thoren (1990 p. 99) gives the
length of the manuscript as 40 pages.
^ Koyré (1973, pp. 27, 90) and Rosen (1995, pp. 64,184) take the view
that Copernicus was indeed concerned about possible objections from
theologians, while Lindberg and Numbers (1986) argue against it.
Koestler (1963) also denies it. Indirect evidence that Copernicus was
concerned about objections from theologians comes from a letter
written to him by
Andreas Osiander in 1541, in which Osiander advises
Copernicus to adopt a proposal by which he says "you will be able to
appease the Peripatetics and theologians whose opposition you fear".
(Koyré, 1973, pp. 35, 90)
^ Particularly his use of the
Tusi couple and his models for the
motions of Mercury and the Moon (Linton 2004, pp. 124, 137–38)
^ Rosen (1995, pp. 187–92), originally published in 1967 in Saggi su
Galileo Galilei . Rosen is particularly scathing about this and other
statements in The Sleepwalkers, which he criticizes as inaccurate.
^ Fantoli (2005, pp. 118–19); Finocchiaro (1989, pp. 148, 153).
On-line copies of Finocchiaro's translations of the relevant
Inquisition Minutes of 25 February 1616 and Cardinal
Bellarmine's certificate of 26 May 1616, have been made available by
Gagné (2005). This notice of the decree would not have prevented
Galileo from discussing heliocentrism solely as a mathematical
hypothesis, but a stronger formal injunction (Finocchiaro, 1989, p.
147-148) not to teach it "in any way whatever, either orally or in
writing", allegedly issued to him by the Commissary of the Holy
Office, Father Michelangelo Segizzi, would certainly have done so
(Fantoli, 2005, pp. 119–20, 137). There has been much controversy
over whether the copy of this injunction in the Vatican archives is
authentic; if so, whether it was ever issued; and if so, whether it
was legally valid (Fantoli, 2005, pp. 120–43).
^ The oldest known portrait of Copernicus is that on Strasbourg
astronomical clock, made by
Tobias Stimmer c. 1571–4. According to
the inscription next to the portrait, it was made from a self-portrait
by Copernicus himself. This has led to speculation that the Torun
portrait may be a copy based on the same self-portrait, but its
provenance is unknown. André Goddu, Copernicus and the Aristotelian
Tradition (2010), p. 436 (note 125), citing Goddu, review of: Jerzy
Gassowski,Poszukiwanie grobu Mikolaja Kopernika in: Journal for the
Astronomy 38.2 (May 2007), p. 255.
^ Jones, Daniel (2003) , Roach, Peter; Hartmann, James; Setter,
Jane, eds., English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, ISBN 3-12-539683-2
Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House.
^ modern pronunciation of the Polish form of the name: [miˈkɔwaj
kɔˈpɛrɲik] ( listen)
^ a b Owen Gingerich, "Did Copernicus Owe a Debt to Aristarchus?",
Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 16, no. 1 (February 1985),
Dava Sobel writes: "Copernicus had no idea that Aristarchus of Samos
had proposed much the same thing [as Copernicus was contemplating by
1510, when he wrote his Brief Sketch, otherwise also known as the
Commentariolus] in the third century B.C. The only work by Aristarchus
known to Copernicus—a treatise called On the Sizes and Distances of
Sun and Moon—made no mention of a heliocentric plan." Sobel
(2011) pp. 18–19. Sobel further writes that in Copernicus'
dedication of On the Revolutions to Pope Paul III—which Copernicus
hoped would dampen criticism of his heliocentric theory by
"babblers... completely ignorant of [astronomy]"—the book's author
wrote that, in rereading all of philosophy, in the pages of
Plutarch he had found references to those few thinkers who dared to
Earth "against the traditional opinion of astronomers and
almost against common sense." Sobel comments: "He still knew nothing
of the Earth-moving plan of Aristarchus, which had not yet been
Latin audiences." (pp. 179–82).
^ Edward Rosen, "Copernicus, Nicolaus", Encyclopedia Americana,
International Edition, volume 7, Danbury, Connecticut, Grolier
Incorporated, 1986, ISBN 0-7172-0117-1, pp. 755–56.
^ "Copernicus seems to have drawn up some notes [on the displacement
of good coin from circulation by debased coin] while he was at Olsztyn
in 1519. He made them the basis of a report on the matter, written in
German, which he presented to the Prussian Diet held in 1522 at
Grudziądz... He later drew up a revised and enlarged version of his
little treatise, this time in Latin, and setting forth a general
theory of money, for presentation to the Diet of 1528." Angus
Armitage, The World of Copernicus, 1951, p. 91.
^ Iłowiecki, Maciej (1981). Dzieje nauki polskiej (in Polish).
Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Interpress. p. 40.
^ a b Sheila Rabin. "Nicolaus Copernicus". Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz
(1969), p. 4.
^ John Freely, Celestial Revolutionary, IB Taurus & Co. Ltd, 2014
pg 103, 104 and 110 - 113
^ "The name of the village, not unlike that of the astronomer's
family, has been variously spelled. A large German atlas of Silesia,
published by Wieland in
Nuremberg in 1731, spells it Kopernik." Mizwa,
^ a b c d e Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 3.
^ Bieńkowska (1973), p. 15
^ Rybka (1973), p. 23.
^ Sakolsky (2005), p. 8.
^ Biskup (1973), p. 16
^ Mizwa, 1943, p. 38.
^ "In 1512,
Bishop Watzenrode died suddenly after attending King
Sigismund's wedding feast in Kraków. Rumors abounded that the bishop
had been poisoned by agents of his long-time foe, the Teutonic
Knights." Hirshfeld, p. 38.
^ "The Watzelrodes—or Watzenrodes—in spite of their rather
Germanic name seemed to have been good Poles (enemies of the Teutonic
Order)." Koyre, p. 38.
^ a b "[Watzenrode] was also firm, and the Teutonic Knights, who
remained a constant menace, did not like him at all; the Grand Master
of the order once described him as 'the devil incarnate'. [Watzenrode]
was the trusted friend and advisor of three [Polish] kings in
succession: John Albert, Alexander (not to be confused with the
poisoning pope), and Sigismund; and his influence greatly strengthened
the ties between
Poland proper." Moore (1994), pp. 52, 62.
^ a b c d e f g h i Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 5.
^ Wojciech Iwanczak (1998). "Watzenrode, Lucas". In Bautz, Traugott.
Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 13.
Herzberg: Bautz. col. 389–393. ISBN 3-88309-072-7.
^ "To obtain for his nephews [Nicolaus and Andreas] the necessary
support [for their studies in Italy], the bishop [
Lucas Watzenrode the
Younger] procured their election as canons by the chapter of
Frauenburg (1497–1498)." "Nicolaus Copernicus" ,
New Advent (online
version of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia). Retrieved 9 June 2013.
^ Ed Rosen points out that he used phonetic descriptions of Polish
words which suggests he was not fluent. See Nicolas Copernicus
^ "He spoke German, Polish and
Latin with equal fluency as well as
Italian." Stone, p. 101.
^ "He spoke Polish, Latin, and Greek." Somerville, p. 10.
^ "He was a linguist with a command of Polish, German and Latin, and
he possessed also a knowledge of Greek rare at that period in
northeastern Europe and probably had some acquaintance with Italian
and Hebrew." Angus Armitage, Copernicus, the founder of modern
astronomy, p. 62.
^ a b Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, pp. 75–77.
^ Davies, Norman (2005). God's playground. A History of
Poland in Two
Volumes. II. Oxford University Press. p. 26.
^ Melkowski, Stefan (May 2003). "O historii i o współczesności" [On
History and the Present Day] (in Polish). Retrieved 22 April
^ "Deutsch war für Kopernikus Muttersprache und Alltagssprache, wenn
auch der schriftliche Umgang fast ausschließlich auf Lateinisch
erfolgte." Carrier, p. 192.
^ a b Rosen (1995, p. 127).
^ "Although great importance has frequently been ascribed to this
fact, it does not imply that Copernicus considered himself to be a
German. The 'nationes' of a medieval university had nothing in common
with nations in the modern sense of the word. Students who were
Silesia were automatically described as
belonging to the Natio Germanorum. Furthmore, at Bologna, this was the
'privileged' nation; consequently, Copernicus had very good reason for
inscribing himself on its register." Koyre, p. 21
^ "It is important to recognize, however, that the medieval Latin
concept of natio, or "nation", referred to the community of feudal
lords both in
Germany and elsewhere, not to 'the people' in the
nineteenth-century democratic or nationalistic sense of the word."
Johnson, p. 23.
^ Koestler, 1968, p. 129.
^ These interpretations date to the dispute about Copernicus' (Polish
vs. German) ethnicity, which had been open since the 1870s, and both
the "copper" vs. "dill" interpretations go back to the 19th century,
(Magazin für die Literatur des Auslandes, 1875, 534f), but the
dispute became virulent once again in the 1960s, culminating in a
controversy between E. Mosko ("copper") and S. Rospond ("dill") during
1963/4, summarized by Zygmunt Brocki, "Wsrôd publikacji o etymologii
nazwiska Mikotaja Kopernika [Among the publications on the etymology
of the name of Nicholas Copernicus]" Komunikaty mazur.-warm., 1970).
^ a b Gingerich (2004), p. 143.
^ Biskup (1973), p. 32
^ "In the [enrollment] documents still in existence we find the entry:
Nicolaus Nicolai de Torunia." Moore (1994), p. 50.
^ Biskup (1973), pp. 38, 82
^ Malagola (1878), p. 562–65
^ Maximilian Curtze, Ueber die Orthographie des Namens Coppernicus,
^ a b c Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, p. 38.
^ Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, p. 55.
^ Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), pp. 4–5.
^ Sobel (2011), pp. 7, 232.
^ Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj",
Polski słownik biograficzny
Polski słownik biograficzny (Polish Biographical Dictionary), vol.
XIV, Wrocław, Polish Academy of Sciences, 1969, p. 5.
^ Rosen, Ed (December 1960). "Copernicus was not a priest" (PDF).
Proc. Am. Philos. Soc. 104 (6). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29
^ Rosen, Edward (1995). "Chapter 6: Copernicus' Alleged Priesthood".
In Hilfstein, Erna. Copernicus and his successors. U.K.: The Hambledon
Press. pp. 47–56. ISBN 1-85285-071-X. Retrieved 17
^ Hagen, J. (1908). Nicolaus Copernicus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia.
New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 6, 2015 from New
^ Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), pp. 5–6.
^ a b c d e f g h Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 6.
^ Copernicus' brother Andreas would, before the end of 1512, develop
leprosy and be forced to leave
Warmia for Italy. In November 1518
Copernicus would learn that his brother had died. Sobel (2011) pp. 26,
^ Rabin (2005).
^ Gingerich (2004, pp. 187–89, 201); Koyré (1973, p. 94);
Kuhn (1957, p. 93); Rosen (2004, p. 123); Rabin (2005).
Robbins (1964, p.x), however, includes Copernicus among a list of
Renaissance astronomers who "either practiced astrology themselves or
countenanced its practice".
Nicolaus Copernicus Gesamtausgabe Bd. VI: Urkunden, Akten und
NachrichtenDocumenta Copernicana – Urkunden, Akten und Nachrichten,
alle erhaltenen Urkunden und Akten zur Familiengeschichte, zur
Biographie und Tätigkeitsfeldern von Copernicus, 1996,
ISBN 978-3-05-003009-8 , pp. 62–63.
^ Studia Copernicana 16
^ Sedlar (1994).
^ a b c d e Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 7.
^ Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), pp. 7–8.
^ Repcheck (2007), p. 66.
^ Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 9.
^ Volckart, Oliver (1997). "Early Beginnings of the Quantity Theory of
Money and Their Context in Polish and Prussian
Monetary Policies, c.
1520–1550". The Economic History Review. New Series. 50 (3):
^ a b c d e f Repcheck (2007), pp. 79, 78, 184, 186.
^ a b c Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz (1969), p. 11.
^ Andreas Kühne, Stefan Kirschner, Biographia Copernicana: Die
Copernicus-Biographien des 16. bis 18. Jahrhunderts (2004), p. 14
^ Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, pp. 97–98.
^ Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, p. 98.
^ Kuhn, 1957, pp. 187–88.
^ Goddu (2010: 245–6)
^ "Schönberg, Nicholas, Letter to Nicolaus Copernicus, translated by
^ Freely, "Celestial Revolutionary" p. 149;
^ Dreyer (1953, p. 319).
^ Sobel (2011) p. 188.
^ According to Bell 1992, p. 111:
[…] Copernicus, on his deathbed, received the printer's proofs of
his epoch-breaking Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
^ Koestler 1963, page 189, says the following about a letter from
Tiedemann Giese to Georg Joachim Rheticus.
[…] the end came only after several months, on 24 May. In a letter
to Rheticus, written a few weeks later, Giese recorded the event in a
single, tragic sentence:
For many days he had been deprived of his memory and mental vigour; he
only saw his completed book at the last moment, on the day he died.
Koestler attributes this quotation to Leopold Prowe, Nicolaus
Copernicus, Berlin 1883–1884, Volume 1, part 2, page 554.
^ a b Easton, Adam (21 November 2008). "Polish tests 'confirm
Copernicus'". BBC News. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
^ a b "Copernicus's grave found in Polish church". USA Today. 3
November 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
^ Bowcott, Owen (21 November 2008). "16th-century skeleton identified
as astronomer Copernicus". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January
^ Bogdanowicz, W.; Allen, M.; Branicki, W.; Lembring, M.; Gajewska,
M.; Kupiec, T. (2009). "Genetic identification of putative remains of
the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus". PNAS. 106 (30):
doi:10.1073/pnas.0901848106. PMC 2718376 .
^ Gingerich, O. (2009). "The Copernicus grave mystery". PNAS. 106
(30): 12215–12216. Bibcode:2009PNAS..10612215G.
doi:10.1073/pnas.0907491106. PMC 2718392 .
^ "16th-century astronomer Copernicus reburied as hero in Poland".
Cleveland Plain Dealer/Associated Press. 25 May 2010.
^ Dreyer (1953), pp. 40–52; Linton (2004, p. 20).
^ Dreyer (1953), pp. 123–35; Linton (2004, p. 24).
^ Dreyer (1953, pp. 135–48); Heath (1913), pp. 301–8)
^ Heath (1913), p. 302. The italics and parenthetical comments are as
they appear in Heath's original.
^ Aristotle, De Caelo, Book 2, Part 13
^ E.Rosen, Nicholaus Copernicus and Giorgio Valla, Physis. Rivista
internazionale di Storia della Scienza, 23, 1981, pp. 449-457.
^ George Saliba, 'Revisiting the Astronomical Contacts Between the
World of Islam and
Renaissance Europe: The
Byzantine Connection', in
The occult sciences in Byzantium, 2006, p. 368
^ Gingerich, Owen (1997). "Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Kepler". The Eye
of Heaven. Springer. pp. 3–51.
^ Sobel (2011), p. 18.
^ Rosen (2004), pp. 58–59
^ Dreyer, John L. E. (1906). History of the planetary systems from
Thales to Kepler. p. 342.
^ Sobel (2011), pp. 207-10.
^ a b c Danielson (2006)[page needed]
^ Koestler (1959, p. 191).
^ DeMarco, Peter (13 April 2004). "Book quest took him around the
globe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
^ a b c d e f Donald H. Kobe (1998). "Copernicus and Martin Luther: An
Encounter Between Science and Religion". American Journal of Physics.
66 (3): 190. Bibcode:1998AmJPh..66..190K. doi:10.1119/1.18844.
^ Westman (2011, p. 194)
^ Hagen, John. "Nicolaus Copernicus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol.
4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 19 Feb. 2014
^ Feldhay (1995, p. 205)
^ a b Westman (2011, p. 195)
^ Feldhay (1995, p. 205-207)
^ Feldhay (1995, p. 207)
^ Westman (2011, p. 195-196)
^ a b Westman (2011, p. 196)
^ a b Westman (2011, p. 197)
^ Rosen (1960, p. 437)
^ Rosen (1960, p. 438)
^ a b c Rosen (1995, p. 198)
^ Repcheck (2007, p. 160)
^ a b Cohen, I. Bernard (1985). Revolution in Science. Cambridge, MA:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 497.
^ Rosen (1995, p. 166-167)
^ Finocchiaro (2010, p. 71)
^ Finocchiaro (2010, p. 75)
^ a b Graney (2015, p. 68-69)
^ a b c Finocchiaro (2010, p. 72)
^ Graney (2015, p. 69-75)
^ a b c Finocchiaro (2010, p. 73)
^ Graney (2015, p. 74)
^ a b Graney (2015, p. 70)
^ Decree of the General Congregation of the Index, 5 March 1616,
translated from the
Latin by Finocchiaro (1989, pp. 148–149). An
on-line copy of Finocchiaro's translation has been made available by
^ Finocchiaro (1989, p. 30)
^ Catholic Encyclopedia.
^ From the Inquisition's sentence of 22 June 1633 (de Santillana,
1976, pp. 306–10; Finocchiaro 1989, pp. 287–91)
^ Hilliam, Rachel (2005). Galileo Galilei: Father of Modern Science.
The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 96.
^ "Galileo is convicted of heresy". history.com. Retrieved 13 December
^ Heilbron (2005, p. 307); Coyne (2005, p. 347).
^ McMullin (2005, p. 6); Coyne (2005, pp. 346–47).
^ a b Krystyna Poray Goddu, Copernicus and the Aristotelian Tradition,
BRILL, 2010, ISBN 978-9004181076, part 1, chapter 1, p. 7.
^ Jack Repcheck, Copernicus' Secret: How the Scientific Revolution
Began, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ISBN 978-0743289528, p. 32.
^ Manfred Weissenbacher, Sources of Power: How
Energy Forges Human
History, Praeger, 2009, ISBN 978-0313356261, p. 170.
^ Marvin Bolt, JoAnn Palmeri, Thomas Hockey, The Biographical
Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer, 2009, ISBN 978-0387351339,
^ Charles E. Hummel, The Galileo Connection, InterVarsity Press, 1986,
ISBN 978-0877845003, p. 40.
^ Krystyna Poray Goddu, Copernicus and the Aristotelian Tradition,
BRILL, 2010, ISBN 978-9004181076, chapter 6, p. 173.
^ John Freely, Celestial Revolutionary: Copernicus, the Man and His
Universe, I.B. Tauris, 2014, ISBN 978-0857734907, pp. 56-57.
"Celestial Revolutionary: Copernicus, the Man and His Universe" by
Nicolaus Copernicus at Encyclopædia Britannica
^ "Copernicus, Nicolaus", Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, vol. 7, pp.
^ "Copernicus, Nicholas", The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, New York,
Avon Books, 1983, ISBN 0-380-63396-5, p. 198: "Polish
^ "Copernicus, Nicolaus", The Oxford World Encyclopedia, Oxford
University Press, 1998.
^ Findlen, Paula (2013). "Copernicus, Nicolaus". World Book Advanced.
Archived from the original on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 31 May
^ Weissenbacher (2009), p. 170.
^ Karol Górski, Mikołaj Kopernik. Środowisko społeczne i
samotność (Mikołaj Kopernik [Nicolaus Copernicus]: His Social
Setting and Isolation), Toruń,
Nicolaus Copernicus University
Nicolaus Copernicus University Press,
2012, ISBN 978-83-231-2777-2.
^ Burleigh, Michael (1988).
Germany turns eastwards. A study of
Ostforschung in the Third Reich. CUP Archive. pp. 60,133,280.
^ Rudnicki, Konrad (November–December 2006). "The Genuine Copernican
Cosmological Principle". Southern Cross Review: note 2. Retrieved 21
^ a b Miłosz, Czesław (1983). The history of Polish literature (2
ed.). University of California Press. p. 37.
^ a b c d Davies, Norman (2005). God's playground. A History of Poland
in Two Volumes. II. Oxford University Press. p. 20.
^ Fox, Stuart (14 July 2009). "Newly Discovered Element 112 Named
'Copernicum'". popsci.com. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
^ Renner, Terrence (20 February 2010). "Element 112 is Named
Copernicium". International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Archived from the original on 22 February 2010. Retrieved 20 February
^ NameExoWorlds: An IAU Worldwide Contest to Name Exoplanets and their
Host Stars. IAU.org. 9 July 2014
^ NameExoWorlds The Process
^ Final Results of NameExoWorlds Public Vote Released, International
Astronomical Union, 15 December 2015.
Calendar of the Church Year according to the Episcopal Church".
Satucket.com. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
^ World premiere 23 January 2013 Salle Pleyel
^ Dutch premiere 1st of March 2014 at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam -
Movers of the Earth
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