Who was Nicolaus Copernicus?

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Imagine a world 500 years ago with no computers and almost no access to information. The great majority of the population didn’t know to read or write and the influence of the church was massive. Basically, during that time, everyone considered that the church was the most influential power in a state and its truths were never to be questioned.

However, the world’s view regarding the Earth and other planets were soon put into question by the remarkable studies of Copernicus. But who was Nicolaus Copernicus? Here are some facts about his life, studies, and theories that soon changed the formally accepted theories regarding astronomy and especially our planet.



The life of Nicolaus Copernicus

He was born in 1473 in a family of wealthy merchants in the free city of Thorn, or Toruń in present-day Poland. Although some German historians want to claim Copernicus’ German roots, it is widely accepted that he was born in the former Royal Prussia, current Poland.

He was an astronomer and a cosmologist, a mathematician and an economist, as well as a Catholic priest. After his father’s death, his uncle became his legal guardian and the one who sought that Copernicus received proper education at some of the most prestigious universities.

As a result, in 1492 he joins the University of Krakow where he studied maths, rhetorics, grammar, poetry, and cultivated his passion for astronomy. At only 20 years old he receives a doctorate in these studies and, afterward, he leaves for Italy so he can study medicine at the University of Bologna.

He was fluent in Latin and German, but he also spoke Polish, Greek, and Italian. In Italy, he becomes highly interested in astronomy and the cosmological theory of Ptolemy.


The work of Copernicus

The work of Copernicus, although not entirely accurate, represented the beginning of fundamental studies in astronomy in the following years. His theories represent the modern beginnings of astronomy as a science.

His work mainly focuses on the previously accepted theory of Ptolemy about a geocentric universe where Earth stood in the middle and all other solar corpuses were gravitating around it. The theory was also supported by the church which often claimed that the Earth is the center of the universe and there cannot be life anywhere else.

He was not only the founder of modern astronomy but also the one who initiated the first scientific revolution thanks to his new hypothesis. After around 40 years of work, he was able to demonstrate that Earth is just a mere planet like all others and not the center of our universe.

However, due to the times he was living in, it is believed that Copernicus waited for almost 30 years to publish his work and theories and, just like with anyone else who challenged the beliefs of the powerful Catholic Church, his writings were banned.