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Nicolaus Copernicus. Illustration of the Sun rising above a portrait of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), who first claimed that the Sun was the centre of the universe. Beneath the portrait is historical astronomical equipment and one of Copernicus' books. In 1512, he developed a full mathematical model for his heliocentric theory. This system contrasted with that described by Ptolemy over 1000 years before which held that the Universe was Earth-centred. This had become the doctrine of the Catholic church. Copernicus, fearing persecution, delayed publication of his book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, until 1543.
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