DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Polish astronomer. Copernicus began the revolution that overthrew more than 1000 years of astronomical thought. Since the time of Ptolemy (2nd century AD), the Earth had been considered 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 Catholic Church, and delayed publication of his book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, until the year he died.
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