Explore 10 defining characteristics of Nicolaus Copernicus, the visionary astronomer who revolutionized science with his heliocentric theory in the Renaissance era.
Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician, astronomer, jurist, physicist, Catholic clergyman and Polish-Prussian Renaissance military leader, born in 1473 and died in 1543. Famous for having formulated the heliocentric theory of the solar system, according to which the Sun and not the Earth it occupied the central axis around which the rest of the celestial stars orbit.
Copernicus dedicated his life to study, so he toured the Universities of Carcovia and Bologna, where he studied Mathematics, Law, Medicine, Greek, Philosophy and, later, during a brief stay in Rome, Sciences and Astronomy, the last field in which It would give its greatest fruits.
Despite this, and given the revolutionary impact that his studies would have on the current world conception, which contravened the Aristotelian precepts held by the Church (specifically, the model of geocentrism), Copernicus did not publish his work, which he saw the light posthumously.
Characteristics Of Nicolaus Copernicus
1. Heliocentric theory
The primordial precepts of the theory that Copernicus developed during 25 years of study revived the work of Aristarchus de Samos, astronomer and Greek mathematician, to propose the following postulates:
The movements of the stars are circular, eternal, uniform or composed of several cycles.
The center of the Universe is located more or less close to the Sun.
Around the Sun orbit the different planets (the outer planets had not yet been discovered).
Stars are distant and fixed objects that do not orbit around the Sun.
Planet Earth has three movements: a daily rotation, an annual revolution and an annual inclination of its axis.
The retrograde movement of the planets finds its explanation in the movements of the Earth itself.
The distance between the Sun and the Earth is very small compared to that of the Earth to the stars.
The reasons why Copernicus did not publish his work in life are unknown. Many suspicions suggest that in 1536, already close to his definitive theory, he was known throughout Europe of his studies and was cited by the archbishop of Capua, Nicholas von Schönberg, to appear and explain his theories. In this summons it seems to be evident the ecclesiastical supervision to which Copernicus would yield.
Other scholars prefer to think that Copernicus was afraid of criticism, which reinforces his faith in the scientific rather than the religious model.
The book that contained his astronomical work was called The revolution Copernicus (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres) and was published by the German theologian and literary editor Andreas Osiander, in 1543.
In it Copernicus studied many Greek philosophers, especially the Pythagoreans, and curiously never names Aristarchus of Samos, the first scholar of history to consider the heliocentric model.
4. Breaking off
The great rupture that was the work of Copernicus is of a cosmological nature and especially religious, since the ideas held throughout the Middle Ages by the dogma of the Catholic Church, and that was sustained in the texts of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, watched over a closed and hierarchical universe, of which the Earth was the center, given its importance in the divine creation.
The Copernican model, on the other hand, proposed a vast and indeterminate universe, practically infinite, whose center was located close to the Sun.
The revolution Copernicus is composed of six books, each with a specific approach:
First, a general explanation of the heliocentric model.
Second, the principles of a spherical astronomy and a list of stars.
Third, the apparent movements of the Sun and related phenomena.
Fourth, the lunar movements.
Fifth, the concrete explanation of the new system based on the above.
Sixth, a continuation of the concrete explanation of the previous book.
These theories and explanations are considered the cornerstone of numerous subsequent studies equally revolutionary, such as the work of Galileo Galilei or Isaac Newton, so their contribution is often referred to as the “Copernican Revolution.”
7. Symptom of the time
The importance of the Copernican model is such, in its rupture with the prevailing religious model, that it is considered a sign of the profound and enormous changes that were to come with the Scientific Revolution and the development of humanism as the prevailing ideology, that is, with the birth of faith in human reason and in the scientific capacity to understand the world.
The rejection of the Copernican works, however, was produced by the Holy Inquisition of the Catholic Church, which opposed and persecuted the defenders of heliocentrism. In fact, his books were included in the Index librorum prohibitorum, that is, the index of books banned by the Church.
Copernicus died of a stroke in his 70s. His remains were found in 2005 by an archaeological group in the Cathedral of Frombork, Poland, and were genetically verified against a hair found among his writings. From them he could recompose a theory about his real face.
The name of Copernicus was included, once accepted and understood the value of his discoveries, in the Calendar of Lutheran Saints, and his surname was given as a name to a lunar crater and an asteroid (1322): Copernicus. In 2010 he received second obsequies and was buried under a black tombstone with the Copernican model represented on its surface.