Nicolaus Copernicus (originally- Niklas Koppernigk, with which he was baptized) was born on February 19, 1473 in Toruń, Poland. He breath his last on May 24, 1543 in Frauenburg (Frombork, Today), on the banks of the Vistula Lagoon, in Poland.
Copernicus was born to a family of well-to-do merchants and was the first to propose that the Earth and other planets revolved around the sun. In his life, Copernicus came up with many groundbreaking theories and many major astronomical discoveries. Not only were his theories revolutionizing but also filled with flaws. Theories and descriptions are many, but curiosity is limited. It is better to shift the focus towards grasping more facts about the great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
1 Copernicus’ Controversial Nationality
The peace agreements were signed in 1422 and 1435 between the Order of the Teutonic Knights and the Union of Prussia. In 1466, Western Prussia surrendered to the King of Poland and passed their territories (including Torun) to form a part of the kingdom of Poland. These variations on the political map of the time are the basis of the controversy over the nationality of Copernicus. German or Polish? It was a time when modern nationalities were not defined.
2 His Birth
Copernicus was born seven years after the peace of 1466, in territories belonging to the kingdom of Poland, although his mother tongue was German, and Latin the language in which he wrote the books in which his thought is expressed.
3 Copernicus’ Family Background
Copernicus was the fourth son of Niklas Koppernigk and Barbara Watzenrode. His father, a native of Krakow, was a wealthy merchant who settled in Torun. Back then it used to be an important commercial spot of the Hanseatic League with a very active river port. His mother belonged to an important family of merchants of Torun, the one of Peter Basgert.
4 Education Under The Shade Of Maternal Uncle
His father died in 1483. Copernicus, just like his brother and sisters, was placed under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode. His maternal uncle was a canon in the Cathedral of Frauenburg, who was later appointed as the Bishop of The region of Warmia (Ermland, in German) in 1489. Lucas directed his education towards the clerical life.
At first he sent him to the cathedral school of Wloclawek, with the initial humanist formation and later in the University of Cracow. The University enjoyed of great reputation back then. Along with him was his brother Andreas who joined it in 1491.
5 Education At University Of Cracow
He followed the usual course at the Faculty of Arts, and studied geography, Latin, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and astrology. It is witnessed in the copies of works by him at that time, and is still preserved today. Copernicus also went on for courses in medicine and law. His stay at the University landed him in a good camaraderie with the astronomer Albertus de Brudzewo.
In 1842, Albertus published a commentary on Peurbach’s work “Theoricae novae planetarum”. Brudzewo did not teach public courses of astronomy in the University, but of philosophy, from 1490. This is what gave Copernicus particular lessons of astronomy.
6 Education In Italy
Copernicus spent several years at the University of Krakow, but without obtaining any title. Two years later, he continued his studies in Italy. In 1496, he joined the University Of Bologna to qualify in canon law. He joined the “German Nation” of that university in January 1497.
The university nations grouped the students according to criteria other than the nationalities and belonged to different Countries. For example- the German nation of Bologna included young people from wealthy families. In addition to canon law classes, he attended Greek, mathematics and astronomy classes and lived in the house of Domenico Maria de Novara, a professor of astronomy. The professor accepted him as an assistant and collaborator, rather than as a student.
7 Establishment As Canon
During his stay in Italy, his uncle Lucas Watzenrode saw that Copernicus was appointed canon of the cathedral of Frauenburg (Frombork, at present). He assumed the position of canon in the spring of 1501. As he had not completed his studies in Italy, he was authorized to leave for two years and return to Italy to complete his studies of canon law and medicine at the University of Padua.
The University of Padua was famous at the time for its medical studies. In 1503 he obtained his degree in canon law, not by the University of Bologna, but by the one of Ferrara. In addition to continuing his astronomical observations and studies, he is believed to have revived Pythagorean theories and Neo-Platonism.
He did not finish medical studies in Padua and returned to Frauenburg in the service of his uncle Lucas Watzenrode. His uncle lived in the Castle of Lidzbark (Heilsberg, in German), the seat of the bishopric. The castle was a few kilometers from Frauenburg and Copernicus acted as a doctor and personal secretary of the same.
8 Life After Uncle’s Death
His uncle died in 1512. Copernicus returned to his post in Frauenburg and established his residence preferentially. The political and military vicissitudes of the area forced him to move his residence to the Castle of Allenstein, sometimes for extended periods of time.
9 Public Life
Copernicus led a very active public life in the following years. It was not only due to the administration of the diocese, but also for diplomatic efforts. He organized for the defense and fortification of cities that belonged to the diocese in the war years, and dealt with economic issues to solve the problems of fraud in business transactions, etc. In addition, he delivered his studies of astronomy and observations from one of the towers of the cathedral, where he had his rooms.
10 Predictions By L. A. Birkenmajer And E. Rosen
By 1507, according to L. A. Birkenmajer, or about 1512, according to E. Rosen, will begin to write a work of astronomy (although apparently will not distribute it among his friends until 1514), known as the Commentary or Commentary, which anticipates some of the Elements of his later work “De revolutionibus …” and in which the heliocentric hypothesis is already introduced.
11 Publishing Of Narratio Prima
In 1539, Georg Joachim von Lauchen (known as Rheticus), of the University of Wittenberg, began to work with Copernicus. He remained with him for a couple of years. Rheticus published in 1540 a work called Narratio Prima, addressed to his teacher Johannes Schoner. It summarizes the most outstanding results of the investigations of Copernicus.
12 Publishing Of The Copernican Theory
Cardinal Schönberg had written to Copernicus from Rome in 1536. He asked him to make public his discoveries, after exposing his theories to Pope Clement VII by his secretary, Johann Widmanstadt. A letter was produced in the first edition of De Revolutionibus. However, the work was published with an anonymous preface to the reader in which Copernican theory was presented as a mere mathematical hypothesis, without necessary correspondence with reality.
13 Revelation Of The Preface story
50 years later, Johannes Kepler revealed that the author of the preface was a Lutheran theologian, Andreas Osiander, a friend of Rheticus. Osiander, after his transfer to the University of Leipzig, had been in charge of monitoring the impression of the work.
He was able to specify later if Copernicus knew or not the insertion of said prologue in the edition of the work. Tiedemann Giese claimed without success the suppression of the prologue, considering that it was against the true theory of its author. All this happened after the publication of the work. According to Tiedemann Giese, Copernicus received a copy of the work on the same day of his death, on May 24, 1543, in Frauenburg.
14 Literary Works By Copernicus
– Commentariolus -written around 1507
– Theophylacti scholastici Simocatho epistolo / Theophylactus Simocattes (Theofilacto Simocates)- published in 1509.
– Octava sphaera (also known as Letter against Werner or Letter to Wapowski) was written in 1524. It is a critique of Juan Werner’s “Of the movement of the eighth sphere”.
– Monetae cunendae ratio (“Dissertation on coin coinage”, an economic study on inflation and coinage, use, exchange and value of the coin, written between 1526 and 1528)
– From Lateribus et angulis Triangulorum (Exposes the trigonometric ideas of Copernicus)- published in 1542.
– De revolutionibus orbium coelestium – published in 1543. It contains the results of several decades of research and exposes the heliocentric thesis.
15 The Heliocentric Model
The year 1500 marked a shared belief of Earth being the center of the universe. The model wasn’t fully correct but gave a strong foundation to the future scientists to improvise the same. He proposed that the planets have sun as their fixed point and that the earth is a planet which besides orbiting around the sun annually, also turns around once daily on its own axis. This representation is called the heliocentric system.