DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Nicolaus Copernicus. Portrait of Nicolaus Coperni- cus (1473-1543), the Polish astronomer who first claimed that the Universe was centred on the Sun. From 1512 he developed a full mathematical model for this heliocentric theory. This system contrasted with that described by Ptolemy over a thousand years before which held that the Universe was Earth-centred. The Ptolemaic system had become the doctrine of the Roman Catholic church. Copernicus, fearing persecution, delayed publication of his book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, until 1543. The book was banned by the Roman Catholic church from 1616 until 1835.
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