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Who Was Copernicus?

Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)

This sixteenth-century oil painting, which hangs in the Town Hall of Torun, Poland, may be a copy from a self-portait sketched by Copernicus.

Copernicus studied at the Polish University of Cracow and them became a canon of the cathedral chapter of Frombork. He served there until his death. There were interruptions, however, to study canon law at the University of Bologna and medicine at Padua. In Italy, Copernicus also engaged in further astronomical studies.

Copernicus had the fundamentals of his heliocentric theory by 1514, but prudently circulated it only among friends for comment. The theory was still not published in 1539, when a disciple undertook the job. Copernicus received the finished book on the revolutions of the heavenly spheres, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, only on his deathbed, in 1543.

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