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Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe.

Copernicus' epochal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published just before his death in 1543, is often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy and the defining epiphany that began the scientific revolution. His heliocentric model, with the Sun at the center of the universe, demonstrated that the observed motions of celestial objects can be explained without putting Earth at rest in the center of the universe. His work stimulated further scientific investigations, becoming a landmark in the history of science that is often referred to as the Copernican Revolution.

Among the great polymaths of the Renaissance, Copernicus was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, quadrilingual polyglot, classical scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist. Among his many responsibilities, astronomy figured as little more than an avocation — yet it was in that field that he made his mark upon the world.


Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in the city of Toruńmarker (Thorn) in Prusy Królewskie (Royal Prussia), a prowincja (Region) of the Kingdom of Poland.

His father was a merchant from Krakówmarker and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Toruń merchant. Nicolaus was the youngest of four children. His brother Andreas became an Augustinian canon at Fromborkmarker (Frauenburg). His sister Barbara, named after her mother, became a Benedictine nun. His sister Katharina married Barthel Gertner, a businessman and city councilor.

Copernicus never married or had children.

Father's family

The father’s family can be traced to a village in Silesia near Nysamarker. The name of the village has been variously spelled Kopernik, Köppernig, Köppernick, and today Kopernikimarker. 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, likely the son of Jan, came from the Kraków line.

Nicolaus was named after his father, who appears in records for the first time as a well-to-do Roman Catholic merchant who dealt in copper, selling it mostly in Danzigmarker (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 (1454–66), in which the Kingdom of Poland, allied with Pomeranian cities, fought the Teutonic Order over control of the region. The father was actively engaged in the politics of the day, and he supported Poland and the cities against the Teutonic Order. In 1454 he mediated negotiations between Poland’s Cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki and the Pomeranian cities over repayment of war loans. In the Second Peace of Thorn , the Teutonic Order formally relinquished all claims to Royal Prussia, which then remained a Region of Poland for the next 300 years.

The father married Barbara Watzenrode, the astronomer's mother, between 1461 and 1464. He died sometime between 1483 and 1485. Upon the father’s death, young Nicolaus’ maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode the Younger (1447–1512), took the boy under his protection and saw to his education and career.

Mother's family

Nicolaus’ mother, Barbara Watzenrode, was the daughter of Lucas Watzenrode the Elder and his wife Katherine (nee Modlibóg). Not much is known about her life, but she is believed to have died when Nicolaus was a small boy. The Watzenrodes, who were Roman Catholic, had come from the Świdnicamarker region of Silesia and had settled in Toruń after 1360, becoming prominent members of the city’s patrician class. Through the Watzenrodes' extensive family relationships by marriage, they were related to wealthy families of Toruń, Danzig and Elblągmarker (Elbing), and to the prominent Czapski, Działyński, Konopacki and Kościelecki noble families. The Modlibógs (literally, in Polish, "Pray to God") were a prominent Roman Catholic Polish family who had been well known in Poland's history since 1271. Lucas and Katherine had three children: Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, who would become Copernicus' patron; Barbara, the astronomer's mother; and Christina, who in 1459 married the merchant and mayor of Toruń, Tiedeman von Allen.

Lucas Watzenrode the Elder was well-regarded in Toruń as a devout man and honest merchant, and he was active politically. He was a decided opponent of the Teutonic Knights and an ally of Polish King Kazimierz IV Jagiellon. In 1453 he was the delegate from Toruń at the Grudziądzmarker (Graudenz) conference that planned the Pomeranian cities’ alliance with Kazimierz and their subsequent war against the Teutonic Knights. During the Thirteen Years' War that ensued the following year, he actively supported the war effort with substantial monetary subsidies, with political activity in Toruń and Danzig, and by personally fighting in battles at Łasinmarker and Marienburg. He died in 1462.

Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, the astronomer's uncle and patron, was educated at the Kraków Academy (now Jagiellonian University) and at the universities of Cologne and Bolognamarker. He was a bitter opponent of the Teutonic Order and its Grand Master, who once referred to Watzenrode as “the devil incarnate.” In 1489 Watzenrode was elected Bishop of Warmia against the wishes of King Kazimierz IV, who had hoped to install his own son in that seat. As a result, Watzenrode quarreled with the King until Kazimierz’s death three years later. Watzenrode was then able to form close relations with three successive Polish monarchs—Jan Olbracht, Alexander Jagiellon, and Zygmunt I. He was a friend and key advisor to each ruler, and his influence greatly strengthened the ties between Warmia and 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 Fromborkmarker (Frauenberg) Cathedral.


Copernicus spoke Latin, Polish, and German with equal fluency. He also spoke Greek and Italian. The vast majority of Copernicus’ surviving works are in Latin, which in his lifetime was the universal language of academia. Latin was also the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and of Poland's royal court, and thus all of Copernicus’ correspondence with the Church and with Polish leaders was in Latin.

A German-language correspondence between Copernicus and Duke Albert of Prussia has survived. Some German scholars assert that German should be considered Copernicus’ native language because Toruńmarker was predominantly German-speaking, because a German-language correspondence has survived to illustrate his proficiency, and because, while at Bolognamarker in 1496, he signed into the German natio (Natio Germanorum), a student organization for German-speakers of all ethnicities, kingdoms and states.


In Copernicus’ time, people were often called after the places where they lived. Like the Silesian village that inspired it, Copernicus’ family name has been spelled variously. Today the world primarily knows the astronomer by the Latinized version "Nicolaus Copernicus." In Poland he is called Mikołaj Kopernik. In Germany, the preferred version is Nikolaus Kopernikus.

The name likely had something to do with the local Silesian copper-mining industry,though some Polish scholars assert that it may have been inspired by the dill plant ("kopernik," in Polish) that grows wild in Silesia.

As was to be the case with William Shakespeare in Englandmarker a century later, numerous spelling variants of the name are documented for the astronomer and his relatives. The name first appeared as a place name in Silesia in the 13th century, where it was spelled variously in Latin documents. Copernicus was rather indifferent to orthography. During his childhood, the name of his father (and thus of the future astronomer) was recorded in Toruń as Niclas Koppernigk. At Kraków he signed his name "Nicolaus Nicolai de Torunia." At Bologna in 1496, he registered as "Nicolaus Kopperlingk de Thorn." At Padua, Copernicus signed his name "Nicolaus Copernik." He signed a self-portrait, now at Jagiellonian University, "N Copernic." The astronomer 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 as (in the genitive, or possessive, case) "Nicolai Copernici."


Copernicus' uncle seems first to have sent him to the St. John's School at Toruń where he himself had been a master. Later the boy attended the Cathedral School at Włocławekmarker, up the Vistula River from Toruń, which prepared pupils for entrance to the Kraków Academy, in Polandmarker's capital.In 1491 Copernicus enrolled in the Kraków Academy (now Jagiellonian University). It was there that he probably first encountered astronomy with Professor Albert Brudzewski. Astronomy soon fascinated him, and he began collecting a large library on the subject. Copernicus' library would later be carried off as war booty by the Swedes during the Deluge; it is now at the Uppsala University Librarymarker.

After four years in Kraków, followed by a brief stay back home in Toruń, Copernicus went to study law and medicine at the universities of Bolognamarker and Paduamarker. Copernicus' uncle, Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, financed his education. Copernicus, however, while studying canon and civil law at Bologna, met the famous astronomer, Domenico Maria Novara da Ferrara. Copernicus attended Novara's lectures and became his disciple and assistant. Copernicus published his first astronomical observations, made with Novara in 1497, in De revolutionibus.

In 1497 Watzenrode was ordained Bishop of Warmia, and Copernicus was named a canon at Frombork Cathedral. But Copernicus remained in Italy, where he attended the Jubilee of 1500. He also went to Romemarker, where he observed a lunar eclipse and gave lectures in astronomy and mathematics.

Copernicus returned to Frombork in 1501. As soon as he arrived, he obtained permission to complete his studies in Padua, where he studied medicine with Guarico and Girolamo Fracastoro, and at Ferrara, where he received a doctorate in canon law in 1503. 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 astrology.


In 1503 Copernicus returned to Warmia, where he would live out the rest of his life. From 1503 to 1510 he was secretary to his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, and resided in the Bishop's castle at Lidzbark Warmińskimarker (Heilsberg). It is there that he started work on his heliocentric view of the heavens.

In 1510 he moved to Fromborkmarker, a town to the north, downstream of Toruń, on the Vistula Lagoonmarker. The Prince-Bishopric of Warmiamarker enjoyed substantial autonomy, with its own diet, army, monetary unit (the same as in the other parts of Royal Prussia) and treasury.

Some time before his return to Warmia, Copernicus received a sinecure at the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocławmarker (Breslau), Silesia, Bohemia. He would hold this for many years before resigning it for health reasons shortly before his death.

Statue in Olsztyn (Allenstein)

During 1516–21, Copernicus resided at Olsztyn Castle as economic administrator of Warmia, including Olsztynmarker (Allenstein) and Pieniężnomarker (Mehlsack). While there, he wrote a manuscript, Locationes mansorum desertorum (Locations of Deserted Fiefs). When Olsztyn was besieged by the Teutonic Knights during the Polish-Teutonic War , Copernicus was in charge of the defenses of Olsztyn and Warmia by the Royal Polish forces. He also participated in the peace negotiations.

Copernicus worked for years with the Royal Prussian diet, and with Duke Albert of Prussia (against whom Copernicus had defended Warmia in the Polish-Teutonic War), and advised Poland's King Sigismund I the Old, on monetary reform. He participated in the discussions in the East Prussianmarker diet about coinage reform in the Prussian countries. One question that concerned the diet was who had the right to mint coin. The matter required diplomacy, but was resolved successfully. Some difficulties were caused by political upheavals in Prussia at the time, including the 1525 establishment of the Duchy of Prussiamarker as a Protestant state.

In 1526 Copernicus 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—70 years before Thomas Gresham. He also formulated a version of quantity theory of money. Copernicus' recommendations on monetary reform were widely read by leaders of both Prussia and Poland in their attempts to stabilize currency.
The 1533, Johann Widmanstetter (alternately spelled John Widmanstad), a secretary of Pope Clement VII, explained the Copernican 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 Viennamarker, urging him to publish an enclosed almanac, which he claimed had been written by Copernicus. This is the first and only mention of a Copernicus almanac in the historical records. The "almanac" was likely Copernicus' tables of planetary positions. The Wapowski letter mentions Copernicus' theory about the motions of the earth. Nothing came of Wapowski's request, because he died a couple of weeks later.

Following the death of Prince-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 to the late Ferber.

At first Copernicus maintained friendly relations with the new Prince-Bishop, rendering him medical assistance in the spring of 1538 and accompanying him that summer on an inspection tour of Chapter holdings. But that autumn their friendship was disturbed by suspicions over Copernicus' housekeeper Anna Schilling, whom Dantiscus in the spring of 1539 ordered removed from Frombork.

Copernicus the physician, in his younger days, 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 Warmia—Mauritius Ferber, Johannes Dantiscus—and, in 1539, his old friend Tiedemann Giese, Bishop of Chełmnomarker (Kulm). In treating such important patients, he sometimes sought consultations from other physicians, including the physician to Duke Albert of Prussia and, by letter, the Polish Royal Physician.

In the spring of 1541, two years before his death, Copernicus was hastily summoned by Duke Albert, the former Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Copernicus was to go to Königsbergmarker 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.

Throughout this period in his life, Copernicus continued to make astronomical observations and calculations, but only as his other responsibilities permitted and never in a professional capacity.

In 1551, eight years after Copernicus' death, Erasmus Reinhold would publish, under Duke Albert's sponsorship, the Prutenic Tables, a set of astronomical tables based on Copernicus' work. Astronomers and astrologers quickly adopted it in place of its predecessors.


Some time before 1514 Copernicus made available to friends his "Commentariolus" ("Little Commentary"), a forty-page manuscript describing his ideas about the heliocentric hypothesis. It contained seven basic assumptions. Thereafter he continued gathering data for a more detailed work.

About 1532 Copernicus had basically completed his work on the manuscript of De 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 his theses."

In 1533, Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter delivered a series of lectures in Romemarker outlining Copernicus' theory. Pope Clement VII and several Catholic cardinals heard the lectures and were interested in the theory. On 1 November 1536, Nikolaus Cardinal von Schönberg, Archbishop of Capua, wrote to Copernicus from Rome:

By then Copernicus' 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' concern was limited to possible astronomical and philosophical objections, or whether he was also concerned about religious objections.

The book

Copernicus was still working on De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (even if not convinced that he wanted to publish it) when in 1539 Georg Joachim Rheticus, a Wittenbergmarker mathematician, arrived in Frombork. Philipp Melanchthon had arranged for Rheticus to visit several astronomers and study with them.

Rheticus became Copernicus' pupil, staying with him for two years and writing a book, Narratio prima (First Account), outlining the essence of Copernicus' theory. In 1542 Rheticus published a treatise on trigonometry by Copernicus (later included in the second book 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 Chełmnomarker (Kulm), to be delivered to Rheticus for printing by Johannes Petreius at Nurembergmarker (Nürnberg). 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 the work against those who might be offended by the novel hypotheses. He explained that astronomers may find different causes for observed motions, and choose whatever is easier to grasp. As long as a hypothesis allows reliable computation, it does not have to match what a philosopher might seek as the truth.


Copernicus died in Frauenburg marker on 24 May 1543. Legend has it that the first printed copy of De revolutionibus was placed in his hands 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.

Copernicus was reportedly buried in Frombork Cathedralmarker, where archeologists long searched in vain for his remains. In August 2005, a team led by Jerzy Gąssowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in Pułtuskmarker, after scanning beneath the cathedral floor, discovered what they believe to be Copernicus' remains. The find came after a year of searching, and the discovery was announced only after further research, on November 3, 2008. Gąssowski said he was "almost 100 percent sure it is Copernicus." Forensic expert Capt. Dariusz Zajdel of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Polish Police 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' 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 in the library of the University of Uppsalamarker in Swedenmarker.

In 2005, specialists at the central crime laboratory in Warsawmarker created a reconstruction of Copernicus' face based on the skull. The BBC website contains a portrait of what Copernicus may have looked like based on this effort.

Copernican system


Philolaus (c. 480–385 BCE), a Greek philosopher of the Pythagorean school, described an astronomical system in which the Earth, Moon, Sun, planets, and stars all revolved about a central fire. Heraclides Ponticus (387–312 BCE) proposed that the Earth rotates on its axis. According to Archimedes, Aristarchus of Samos (310–230 BCE) wrote of heliocentric hypotheses in a book that does not survive. Plutarch wrote that Aristarchus was accused of impiety for "putting the Earth in motion".

In a manuscript of De revolutionibus, Copernicus wrote, "It is likely that ... Philolaus perceived the mobility of the earth, which also some say was the opinion of Aristarchus of Samos", but later struck out the passage and omitted it from the published book.


The prevailing theory in Europe during Copernicus' lifetime was the one that the Greek astronomer Ptolemy published in his Almagest circa 150 CE. Ptolemy's system drew on previous Greek theories in which the Earth was 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 Earth.


Mid-16th-century portrait of Copernicus

Copernicus' major theory was published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), in the year of his death, 1543, though he had formulated the theory several decades earlier.

Copernicus' "Commentariolus" summarized his heliocentric theory. It listed the "assumptions" upon which the theory was based as follows:

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 mid-point, 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 unchanged.

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 one motion.

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 heavens.

De revolutionibus itself was divided into six parts, called "books":
  1. General vision of the heliocentric theory, and a summarized exposition of his idea of the World
  2. Mainly theoretical, presents the principles of spherical astronomy and a list of stars (as a basis for the arguments developed in the subsequent books)
  3. Mainly dedicated to the apparent motions of the Sun and to related phenomena
  4. Description of the Moon and its orbital motions
  5. Concrete exposition of the new system
  6. Concrete exposition of the new system


Georg Joachim Rheticus could have been Copernicus' 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, followed by his erstwhile co-worker, Johannes Kepler.


At original publication, Copernicus' epoch-making book caused only mild controversy, and provoked no fierce sermons about contradicting Holy Scripture. It was only three years later, in 1546, that a Dominican, Giovanni Maria Tolosani, denounced the theory in an appendix to a work defending the absolute truth of Scripture. He also noted that the Master of the Sacred Palace (i.e., the Catholic Church's chief censor), Bartolomeo Spina, a friend and fellow Dominican, had planned to condemn De revolutionibus but had been prevented from doing so by his illness and death.

Arthur Koestler, in his popular book The Sleepwalkers, asserted that Copernicus' book had not been widely read on its first publication. This claim was trenchantly criticised by Edward Rosen, and has been decisively disproved by Owen Gingerich, who examined 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 Read.

It has been much debated why it was not until six decades after Spina and Tolosani's attacks on Copernicus's work that the Catholic Church took any official action against it. Proposed reasons have included the personality of Galileo Galilei and the availability of evidence such as telescope observations.

In March 1616, in connection with the Galileo affair, the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation of the Index issued a decree suspending De revolutionibus until it could be "corrected," on the grounds that the supposedly Pythagorean doctrine that the Earth moves and the Sun does not was "false and altogether opposed to Holy Scripture." The same decree also prohibited any work that defended the mobility of the Earth or the immobility of the Sun, or that attempted to reconcile these assertions with Scripture.

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. The corrections to De revolutionibus, which omitted or altered nine sentences, were issued four years later, in 1620.

In 1633 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.

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.


Nationality did not yet play as important a role in Copernicus' time as it would later, and people generally did not think of themselves primarily as Polish or German.

His father's family has been described as Polish, and his mother's family as of German origin.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, The Columbia Encyclopedia, The Oxford World Encyclopedia, and the Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia identify Copernicus as Polish.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states: "Thus the child of a German family was a subject of the Polish crown."


On July 14, 2009, the discoverers, from the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschungmarker in Darmstadtmarker, Germanymarker of chemical element 112 (temporarily named ununbium) proposed to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry that its permanent name be "copernicium" (symbol Cn) "to honor an outstanding scientist who changed our view of the world".

See also


  1. A Greek mathematician, Aristarchus of Samos, discussed heliocentric hypotheses as early as the third century BCE. However, there is little evidence that he ever developed his ideas beyond a very basic outline (Dreyer, 1953, pp. 135–48; Linton, 2004, p. 39).
  2. A self-portrait helped confirm the identity of his cranium when it was discovered at Frombork Cathedral in 2008.
  3. " 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. Stephen Mizwa: Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543-1943. Kessinger Publishing, 1943, p. 36. ([1])
  4. Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 3.
  5. Barbara Bieńkowska, The Scientific World of Copernicus, Springer, 1973 [2]
  6. Eugeniusz Rybka for Polska Akademia Nauk (the Polish Academy of Sciences), The Review of the Polish Academy of Sciences: Nicolaus Copernicus' Relationship with Cracow, Ossolineum, 1973, p. 23. [3]
  7. Josh Sakolsky, Copernicus and Modern Astronomy, Rosen Publishing Group, 2005, p. 8. [4]
  8. Marian Biskup, Regesta Copernicana (calendar of Copernicus' papers), Ossolineum, 1973, p. 16. [5]
  9. "The mother of Barbara and Lucas was a Modlibog." Alexandre Koyre: Astronomical Revolution, Copernicus - Kepler - Borelli. Cornell University Press, 1973, ISBN 0-486-27095-5, p. 78. ([6])
  10. Adrian Krzyzanowski and John Sniadecki: Copernicus and His Native Land, "The Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review". Smith, Elder & Co., 1844, p. 367. ([7])
  11. Stephen Mizwa: Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543-1943. Kessinger Publishing, 1943, p. 38.
  12. Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, University of California Press, 1983, p. 38. [8]
  13. Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz, Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 4.
  14. Stephen Mizwa: Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543-1943. Kessinger Publishing, 1943, p. 38.
  15. The Head Office of State Archives, Poland, "Copernicus' Biography", accessed 5/22/09, [9]
  16. Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 4.
  17. Jeremi Wasiutyński, The Solar Mystery: An Inquiry Into the Temporal and the Eternal Background of the Rise of Modern Civilization, Solum Forlag, 2003, p. 29. [10]
  18. "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." Alan Hirshfeld: Parallax: The race to Measure the Cosmos. W.H. Freemand and Company, 2001, ISBN 0-7167-3711-6, p. 38. ([11])
  19. "The Watzelrodes - or Watzenrodes - in spite of their rather Germanic name seemed to have been good Poles (enemies of the Teutonic Order). Alexandre Koyre: Astronomical Revolution, Copernicus - Kepler - Borelli. Cornell University Press, 1973, ISBN 0-486-27095-5, p. 38 ([12])
  20. "[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 kings in succession: John Albert, Alexander (not to be confused with the poisoning pope), and Sigismund; and his influence greatly strengthened the ties between Warmia and Poland proper." Patrick Moore: The Great Astronomical Revolution: 1534-1687 and the Space Age Epilogue. Albion Publishing, 1994, ISBN 1-898563-18-7, pp. 52, 62 ([13]).
  21. "Lucas was in more friendly terms with his successors, Johann Albert (Jan Olbracht) (from 1492 to 1501), and later Alexander (Aleksander) (from 1501 to 1506), and Sigismund (Zygmunt) I (from 1506)." Pierre Gassendi & Olivier Thill: The Life of Copernicus (1473-1543): The Man Who Did Not Change the World. Xulon Press, 2002, ISBN 1-591601-93-2, p. 22. ([14])
  22. "[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 kings in succession: John Albert, Alexander (not to be confused with the poisoning pope), and Sigismund; and his influence greatly strengthened the ties between Warmia and Poland proper." Patrick Moore: The Great Astronomical Revolution: 1534-1687 and the Space Age Epilogue. Albion Publishing, 1994, ISBN 1-898563-18-7, pp. 52, 62. ([15])
  23. "He spoke German, Polish and Latin with equal fluency as well as Italian." Daniel Stone: The Polish-Lithuanian State, 1386-1795. University of Washington Press, 2001, ISBN 0-295-98093-1, p. 101. ([16])
  24. "He spoke Polish, Latin and Greek." Barbara Somerville: Nicolaus Copernicus: Father of Modern Astronomy. Compass Point Books, 2005, ISBN 0-7565-0812-6, p. 10. ([17]).
  25. "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 and Modern Astronomy. Dover Publications, 2004 (orignally 1957), ISBN 0-486-43907-0, p. 62.
  26. He used Latin and German, knew enough Greek to translate the 7th-century Byzantine poet Theophylact Simocatta's verses into Latin prose (Armitage, The World of Copernicus, pp. 75–77), and "there is ample evidence that he knew the Polish language" (Norman Davies, God's Playground, vol. II, p. 26). During his several years' studies in Italy, Copernicus presumably would also have learned some Italian. Professor Stefan Melkowski of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń likewise asserts that Copernicus spoke both Polish and German. ([18] "O historii i o współczesności" ("About History and Contemporaneity"), May 2003.])
  27. "Deutsch war für Kopernikus Muttersprache und Alltagssprache, wenn auch der schriftliche Umgang fast ausschließlich auf Lateinisch erfolgte." Martin Carrier: Nikolaus Kopernikus. Beck'sche Reihe, C. H. Beck, 2001, ISBN 3-406-47577-9, 9783406475771, p. 192. ( online)
  28. "Although great importance has frequently been ascribed to this fact, it does not by any means imply that Copernicus ever 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 natives of Prussia and Silesia were automatically described as belonging to the Natio Germanorum. Furthmore, at Bologna, this was the 'priveleged' nation; consequently, Copernicus had very good reason for inscribing himself on its register." Alexandre Koyre: Astronomical Revolution, Copernicus - Kepler - Borelli. Cornell University Press, 1973, ISBN 0-486-27095-5, p. 21. ([19])
  29. "It is important to recognize, however, that the medievel 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." Lonnie Johnson: Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends. Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-19-510071-9, p. 23. ([20])
  30. Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, 1968, p. 129.
  31. Pierre Gassendi, Oliver Thill, The Life of Copernicus (1473-1543), 2002, p. 37.
  32. Nicolaus Copernicus et al., Copernicus Gesamtausgabe. Documenta Copernicana I.: Briefe, Texte und Übersetzungen, 1996, p. 39.
  33. "Kopernik, Koperek, Kopr and Koprnik in Polish - also simiarly in other Slavonic languages - means simply dill such as is used in dill pickling. Be it as it may, although the present writer is more inclined towards the occupational interpretation, it is interesting to note... Stephen Mizwa: Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543-1943. Kessinger Publishing, 1943, p. 37. ([21])
  34. Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, p. 51.
  35. "He was rather indifferent about orthography." Owen Gingerich, The Book Nobody Read, Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 0 14 30.3476 6, p. 143.
  36. Documents of the city of Thorn mention Niclas Koppernigk around 1480. See Nicolaus Copernicus Gesamtausgabe: Urkunden, Akten und Nachrichten: Texte und Übersetzungen, ISBN 3-05-003009-7, p. 23 ( online); Marian Biskup, Regesta Copernicana (calendar of Copernicus' papers), Ossolineum, 1973, page 32 ( online); and others ( Auflistung) [22].
  37. Nicolaus Copernicus Gesamtausgabe: Urkunden, Akten und Nachrichten: Texte und Übersetzungen, ISBN 3-05-003009-7, pp.23ff. ( online); Marian Biskup: Regesta Copernicana (calendar of Copernicus' Papers), Ossolineum, 1973, p.32 ( online). This spelling of the surname is rendered in many publications ( Auflistung) [23]
  38. Adrian Krzyzanowski and John Sniadecki: Copernicus and His Native Land, "The Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review". Smith, Elder & Co., 1844, p. 367. ([24])
  39. "On the Padua document his signature clearly reads Nicolaus Copernik." Owen Gingerich: “The Book Nobody Read". Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 0 14 30.3476 6, p. 143.
  40. Maximilian Curtze, Ueber die Orthographie des Namens Coppernicus, 1879, at German Wikisource [25]
  41. Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, p. 55.
  42. Rabin .
  43. Gingerich ; Koyré ; Kuhn ; Rosen ; Rabin . Robbins , however, includes Copernicus amongst a list of Renaissance astronomers who "either practised astrology themselves or countenanced its practice."
  44. Repcheck (2007), p. 51.
  45. Sedlar (1994).
  46. Repcheck (2007), p. 66.
  47. Copernicus, Nicolaus, Minor Works (Edward Rosen, translator), Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, pp. 176–215.
  48. Oliver Volckart, "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 (August 1997) 3, pp. 430–49.
  49. Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 11.
  50. Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 11.
  51. Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, pp. 97–98.
  52. Angus Armitage, The World of Copernicus, p. 98.
  53. Kuhn .
  54. A reference to the "Commentariolus" is contained in a library catalogue, dated May 1st, 1514, of a 16th-century historian, Matthew of Miechow, 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.
  55. Jerzy Dobrzycki and Leszek Hajdukiewicz, "Kopernik, Mikołaj", Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. XIV, 1969, p. 11.
  56. Koyré and Rosen take the view that Copernicus was indeed concerned about possible objections from theologians, while Lindberg and Numbers argue against it. Koestler 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."
  57. Dreyer (1953, p.319).
  58. 16th-century skeleton identified as astronomer Copernicus The Guardian, November 21, 2008
  59. Bogdanowicz W, Allen M, Branicki W, Lembring M, Gajewska M, Kupiec T. (2009). Genetic identification of putative remains of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106:12279–12282 PMID 19584252
  60. Gingerich O. (2009). The Copernicus grave mystery. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106:12215–12216 PMID 19622737
  62. Dreyer (1953, pp. 40–52); Linton .
  63. Dreyer (1953, pp. 123–35); Linton .
  64. Archimedes refers to Aristarchus's book in The Sand Reckoner. Heath's (1913, p.302) translation of the relevant passage reads: "You ['you' being King Gelon] are aware that 'universe' is the name given by most astronomers to the sphere the center of which is the center of the Earth, while its radius is equal to the straight line between the center of the Sun and the center of the Earth. This is the common account 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 center 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 center of the sphere bears to its surface." The bracketed insertion is in Heath's translation.
  65. Dreyer (1953, pp. 314–15).
  66. Photograph of a portrait of Copernicus by an unknown painter. The original was looted—possibly destroyed—by the Germans in World War II. Jan Świeczyński, Katalog skradzionych i zaginionych dóbr kultury (Catalog of Stolen and Missing Cultural Property), Warsaw, Ośrodek Informacyjno-Koordynacyjny Ochrony Obiektów Muzealnych (Center of Information and Coordination for the Safeguarding of Museum Objects), 1988.
  67. Rosen .
  68. Rosen
  69. Rosen
  70. Koestler
  71. Rosen , originally published in 1967 in Saggi su Galileo Galilei . Rosen is particularly scathing about this and other statements in The Sleepwalkers which he criticises as inaccurate.
  72. Gingerich , DeMarco [26]
  73. In fact, in the Pythagorean cosmological system the Sun was not motionless.
  74. Decree of the General Congregation of the Index, March 5, 1616, translated from the Latin by Finocchiaro . An on-line copy of Finocchiaro's translation has been made available by Gagné .
  75. Fantoli ; Finocchiaro . On-line copies of Finocchiaro's translations of the relevant documents, Inquisition Minutes of 25 February, 1616 and Cardinal Bellarmine's certificate of 26 May, 1616, have been made available by Gagné . This notice of the decree would not have prevented Galileo from discussing heliocentrism solely as a mathematical hypothesis, but a stronger formal injunction 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 . 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 .
  76. Catholic Encyclopedia.
  77. From the Inquisition's sentence of June 22, 1633 (de Santillana, 1976, pp.306-10; Finocchiaro 1989, pp. 287-91)
  78. Heilbron ; Coyne .
  79. McMullin ; Coyne .
  80. Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland. [27].
  81. "Copernicus, Nicolaus", Encyclopedia Americana, 1986, vol. 7, pp. 755–56.
  82. "Nicholas Copernicus", The Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition, 2008. 18 July 2009.
  83. "Copernicus, Nicolaus", The Oxford World Encyclopedia, Oxford University Press, 1998.
  84. July 14, 2009 - Element 112 shall be named “copernicium”,


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