Nicolaus Copernicus was an astronomer, mathematician, scientist, religious figure, scholar who was born on February 19, 1473. Nicolaus Copernicus is from German heritage but he was born in Poland where he became a citizen of Poland. In Polish his name is Mikolaj Kopernik like his father. Both of his parents were part of the wealthy upper class. His mother’s name was Barbara Watzenrode who traded copper and a known merchant.
Copernicus first language was German. Copernicus’s father passed away at a young age and for this reason his uncle, Bishop of Varmia Lucas Watzenrode took over as a father figure. His uncle made sure Copernicus received the best possible education he could provide him with. Copernicus went to the University of Cracow and studied painting and mathematics. Surely, after four years at the university his uncle sent him to Italy to study canon law. “From the year 1503 onwards, Copernicus acted as a secretary and physician for his uncle; he also performed religious duties, carried out government work, acted as an economist, and even assumed leadership in a time of war”(Home).
There were various contributions that Copernicus made, but one of the most important was in the field of astronomy. For starters, Copernicus astronomical heliocentric theory revealed that the sun was the center of the sun rather than earth. This theory arose because everyone was geocentric, which is Earth centered and he believed the perspective should be moved to heliocentric.
Some of the many thoughts that went through his head while trying to come up with his theory were that “the Earth is not the center of the universe, the center of the universe is near the Sun, the Earth-Sun distance is negligible compared to the distance to the stars, Earth’s rotation accounts for the apparent daily rotation of the stars, the apparent annual cycle of movements of the Sun is caused by the Earth orbiting it, or the apparent retrograde motion of the planets is caused by the motion of the Earth from which one observes the planets”(Home). Thoughts like the ones Copernicus was having about the his theory were quiet risky because the people at the time were religious and meant that they believed Earth did not move since it was stated in the Bible. Or the fact that if you disagree with God people would have to suffer the death penalty. So, he ran the risk of others not following the theory because of their religious beliefs. Like many theories there were some aspects of his theory that did not answer every aspect, but it was a huge enough discovery to make an impact in the way astronomy was studied and looked at. For example, now it is known that the sun is the center of the solar system and not the galaxy or universe. The heliocentric theory originated when Copernicus was known as “Copernicus Revolution.”To add on, Copernicus wasn’t the only astronomer to state a heliocentric system.
Although other astronomers have also stated a heliocentric system like Copernicus did they did not want to face the death penalty for disagreeing and going against God because it was against their religious beliefs of they did. An ancient Greek astronomer named Aristarchus of Samos had also found out that the sun was the center and was being orbited by an Earth. Although Aristarchus also found out that the Earth orbited the Sun, Copernicus had a more detailed and accurate heliocentric system than Aristarchus and it also included a more efficient and accurate formula for planetary positions. Copernicus later made and built his own observatory and even though some of his observations and ideas might have been wrong and lead him to inaccurate beliefs like how one of his observations were that planetary orbits happened in a perfect circle but he was later corrected by a German astronomer named Johannes Kepler and proved that the planetary orbits happened in an elliptical shape.
Last but not least, I find it interesting that even though he ran many risks for going against what the Bible said he was able to be remembered for the heliocentric theory because many would not have done that. I think if it was not for him the heliocentric theory would not have been created during his time and could have been that someone else would have discovered it at a much later time. This could mean that astronomy and research could have been affected by not being as advanced.