ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Polish astronomer, mathematician, physician and jurist. Despite his numerous responsibilities and interests, Copernicus is best known for his proposal that the solar system is heliocentric - that the Earth goes round the Sun. He argued that this system was far simpler than an Earth-centred system. His ideas were extremely controversial. His book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was published 13 years after its completion, and even then carried a preface acknowledging the mathematical elegance but denying any physical truth. Copernicus was criticised by astronomers and the Church, who later banned his work. It was only with Galileo's discoveries that the Copernican system gained credence.
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