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Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish scientist and astronomer that proposed the Heliocentric (Sun-centered) model of the universe. Previously, the Earth was thought to be at the center of the universe.

Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland on February 19, 1473. He was well studied in a number of different areas and was known to speak several languages. Copernicus’ father died when he was ten, but his uncle ensured he received a good education. Copernicus attended the Krakow Academy and then traveled to Italy in 1496 to start a degree in religious law.

Copernicus wrote Commentariolus, which translates as "little commentary", before 1514. In this 40-page book, he laid out his ideas about the structure and nature of the universe. At this time, people believed in the geocentric model: the Earth was at the center of the universe and all the other celestial bodies, like planets, stars, moons, and the Sun, orbited around the Earth. In this work, Copernicus put forward his ideas that this was incorrect and that the Sun was at (or near) the center of the universe. He also suggested that the distance between the Earth and the Sun was a lot smaller than the distance between the Earth and other stars. He also believed the stars were static and didn’t move, and that their apparent motion was due to the movement of the Earth.

The Copernican theory of the structure of the universe was later supported by observations made by Galileo Galilei. Galileo observed four moons of Jupiter and noted they were orbiting the planet and therefore, not every object was orbiting the Earth.

Copernicus died on May 24, 1543. He was buried at Frombork Cathedral and his remains were finally found in 2005 by archaeologists.


Copernicus’ Significant Accomplishments

  • Contributions to the quantity theory of money (QTM)
  • Heliocentric model
  • Commentariolus

Nicolaus Copernicus Quotes

“For it is the duty of an astronomer to compose the history of the celestial motions through careful and expert study.”


“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”


“Mathematics is written for mathematicians.”


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