Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer

Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) on his deathbed, coloured historical artwork. Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who began the revolution that overthrew the idea that the Earth is immovable, at rest at the 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. Legend has it that the first printed copy was placed in Copernicus' hands on the day he died. He is reputed to have woken from a stroke-induced coma, looked at his book, and died peacefully. Engraving from the 1875 edition of Vies des Savants Illustres.

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