Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer

Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) observing a lunar eclipse in Rome, Italy, in 1500. Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who studied in both Poland and Italy. Later, he began the revolution that overthrew more than 1000 years of astronomical thought. Since the time of Ptolemy in the second century AD, the Earth had been considered to be the immovable centre of the universe. From 1512, Copernicus developed his heliocentric theory, where the Earth was one of several planets moving around the Sun. Copernicus feared persecution by the Roman Catholic Church, and delayed publication of his book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, until he was near death. He received his copy from the printers on the day he died. The book was banned by the Roman Catholic church from 1616 until 1835. Engraving from the 1875 edition of Vies des Savants Illustres.

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