The realization that the earth is not the center of the solar system was found a good 550 years ago. Nicolaus Copernicus was ostracized by the church for this, and his books were banned. Eventually, however, science did prevail and Copernicus’ work served as the foundation for the development of modern science.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born Niklas Koppernigk on February 19, 1473, the son of a wealthy Kraków copper merchant in the Hanseatic city of Thorn in present-day Poland. His father died when Nicolaus Copernicus was about ten years old. After the death of his mother, Lukas Watzenrode, Prince Bishop of Warmia and maternal uncle, took over the care of him and his siblings and attached great importance to a good education. Copernicus spent his first school years at the St. John’s School in his hometown, before he entered a higher school at the age of fifteen, although it has not yet been clearly established which educational institution it was. Conjecture suggests that Copernicus attended the monastic school of the Brothers of the Common Life in what is now Chelmo until 1491, where he received a theological education. Copernicus then went to Krakow to study theology at the university for a few years, like his brother. However, he did not complete his studies in Krakow, as he was clearly more interested in the natural sciences than in theology. At the request of his uncle, he went to Bologna, where he finally graduated in 1500 with a master’s degree in astronomy, and Greek, and left the university as a humanist polymath.
After a year’s stay in Rome and a short visit to Frauenburg in Warmia, he returned to Italy with his brother to study medicine and law at the University of Padua. He had received permission to do so from the cathedral chapter, where he was later to work professionally at the request of his uncle. In 1503 he received a doctorate in law from Ferrara, earning the degree of Doctor iuris canonici. He needed this title to be able to take on the position offered to him in the first place.
Nicolaus Copernicus went down in history as one of the most important astronomers of the modern era and had a decisive influence on the modern world view based on scientific facts. He spent a total of thirty years working out his theories, as he was never able to pursue astronomy as his main profession. A secular and busy churchman all his professional life, he reformed Prussian coinage, was politically extremely astute, and is probably why he shied away from publishing his groundbreaking scientific studies for so long. After all, his writings were later put on the list of forbidden books by Rome, and only in the course of the 18th century were they recognized by the Church as those scientific facts that still form the basis of modern astronomical research.
This year marks the 550th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth. The Belgian composer Wouter Vercruysse sets a musical monument to the famous scientist Copernicus with the just released new composition of the same name. The Belgian publisher “bvt” published the composition for harmony or fanfare orchestra.
Other works about Copernicus