Culture 3 min read

Looking Back to Look Forward: A Birthday Message to Copernicus

Did you know that the theory of the Sun being the center of our galaxy dates back to the 1500s? You can thank Nicolaus Copernicus for first identifying and publishing this theory. Let's take a look at his life and what knowledge helped him create his theories.

With a dapper fashion style like that, how could he not become the greatest scientist of his generation? | Image via Biography

With a dapper fashion style like that, how could he not become the greatest scientist of his generation? | Image via Biography

Here at Edgy, we like to know the scientific roots that breed technological innovation. That’s why we often do profiles of historical figures such as Nikola Tesla, mathematicians, black inventors, and more.

But today marks a very auspicious day in history: the day the theorist behind heliocentrism was born.

A Gentleman and a Scholar

Born on February 19th, 1473, Copernicus came from Royal Prussia — an area in the Kingdom of Poland. His mother came from a wealthy merchant family in Toruń while his father was a merchant in Kraków. He had three older siblings and his father passed in 1483.

This led him to a new mentor in his maternal uncle Lucas Watzenrode the Younger.

Under his guidance, Copernicus studied various subjects, ultimately ending up at the Department of Arts in what has become Jagiellonian University in 1491. It is believed that this is where he found his foundations for his astronomical and mathematical accomplishments.

There, he studied Ptolemy, Aristotle, and other giants of currently accepted scientific thought.

He did not attain a degree, however, and traveled to Bologna, Italy, where he studied canon law. In fact, he received his doctorate in the subject, too. So not only is he a scientific genius, but the guy was also a lawyer.

After his time in Bologna, Copernicus returned to Warmia to serve his uncle. He settled in Frombork, though he still traveled in service to his uncle. At this time, historians believe, that Copernicus really started to develop his scientific theories.

image of an old world heliocentric model showing the planets for article Happy Bday Copernicus, Father of Heliocentrism
An old world example of the first heliocentric models. | Universe Today

A Tireless Labor Chasing Perfect Evidence of his Theories

His studies in art, medicine, canon law, mathematics, and philosophy positioned Copernicus as a true Renaissance man. However, astronomy remained his greatest passion throughout his life.

He developed initial sketches of history as early as 1514. He feared being condemned for publishing his theories mostly everyone believed the Earth to be the center of the known universe. But he was also a perfectionist, as well.

As a result of these two factors, Copernicus spent 15 years redoing calculations, triple checking naked-eye observations, and developing diagrams. He did all of this without telescopes since they….ya know…hadn’t been invented yet.

Despite his reservations, Copernicus published his theories on heliocentrism in 1542, laying the groundwork for other scientific heavyweights including Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and even Sir Isaac Newton himself.

History suggests that the great scientist got to see a copy of his book before his death in late 1542.

On a day celebrating the first true Renaissance Man, it’s important to take stock of how far we’ve come as a species in just a short amount of time.

Read More: Celebrate Mathematics Awareness Month With These 5 Mathematicians

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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