Nicholaus Copernicus, or Mikolaj Kopernik, his Polish name, is often described as the father of astronomy. He was born on February 19, 1473, in Torun, Poland, a city located on the Vistula River. His father was also Nicolaus and his mother was Barbara Watzenrode, both from well-to-do merchant families. Between 1491 and 1494, Copernicus studied liberal arts, including astronomy and astrology, at the University of Krakow. He left before completing his degree and went to study in Italy at the University of Bologna. He lived with Domencio Maria de Novara, the principal astronomer at the university, and Copernicus assisted in many of Novara's observations.

In 1500, he spoke before an audience in Rome on the mathematical concepts, til he returned to Italy in 1501 to study medicine at the University of Padua. At this time, medicine was closely related to astrology, as the stars were thought to influence the body's dispositions. In 1503, he finally received a doctorate in canon law and took a position as a church canon back in Poland.

Nicholaus Copernicus is mainly known for his idea that the planets have the Sun as the fixed point to which they orbit, that the Earth turns daily on its own axis, and that the very slow, long-term changes in the direction of this axis account for the precession of the equinoxes. His ideas are normally referred to as the heliocentric system.

He wrote many papers on the subject but never had them published, until, lying on his deathbed, it's said he saw the first printed copy of his work in the form of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. He died May 23, 1543.

Nicolaus Copernicus wasn't his real name, like most of us believe. It is a Latin translation of Mikołaj Kopernik. He was born on February 19, 1473 in Toruń, Poland. His father worked with copper but did a lot of politics as well. Nicolas's mother, Barbara Watzenrode, came from an upper-class family in Nicolas's home town. Nicolas had one brother and two sisters.

After completing elementary school, Nicolas studied at the cathedral school of Włocławek. After a few years of his education, he decided to go the University of Kraków. The school provided him with an influential and very broad knowledge of all sorts of subjects, including Mathematics and Philosophy. For whatever reason, it was now when he started using the Latin version of his name instead of his birth name.

His uncle, the one who had him study at the cathedral school of Włocławek was determined to have Nicolas work in the church. To make sure he had the knowledge, Nicolas went to the University of Bologna to study canon law. On October 20, 1497, Nicolas learned about him being appointed a canon. This allowed him to have a good income and time to study his favorite topics: astronomy, et al. His astronomy observations came from the room of professor Domenico Maria de Novara.

Nicolas went to Rome, Italy and stayed a year to study. On July 27, 1501 he was officially installed as a Canon. However, he wanted to study medicine in Italy. At least that's what he told people so he could receive a leave of absence. In actuality, he found Italy to be a good place to study astronomy.

In 1514, Nicolas published Little Commentary. This book was a list of axioms which he based his conclusions on. These are:

  1. There is no one center in the universe.
  2. The Earth's center is not the center of the universe.
  3. The center of the universe is near the sun.
  4. The distance from the Earth to the sun is imperceptible compared with the distance to the stars.
  5. The rotation of the Earth accounts for the apparent daily rotation of the stars.
  6. The apparent annual cycle of movements of the sun is caused by the Earth revolving round it.
  7. The apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the motion of the Earth from which one observes.

In 1516, he followed in footsteps similar to his father by administering the districts of Allenstein and Mehlsack.

On August 29, 1541, Copernicus completed his main writing: De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. As a note, he was heavily aided by Georg Joachim Rheticus, a professor at University of Wittenberg. This book was the one that stated the Earth revolves around the sun. Later, this was proven by Isaac Newton in his Theory of Universal Gravitation. Interestingly enough, Copernicus never saw a copy of his own book until he was on his deathbed. He died on May 24, 1543 from a cerebral haemorrhage.


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