It happened on FEBRUARY 19

1473

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn (Poland). He studied canon law in Bologna and medicine in Padua before becoming interested in astronomy. A Catholic, he became a canon with the cathedral of Frauenberg but never became a priest. The publication of On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543, the year of his death, constituted the first official presentation of the heliocentric system, which had been suggested by other thinkers prior to him. In it, the planetary orbits around the sun were considered circular not elliptical. The work was published with a preface by Osiander which, anticipating a rocky reception for the new system, explained that it provided a mathematical hypothesis that, compared to the geocentric system, made calculating the position of the planets simpler. Copernicus adopted the suggestion of placing the sun as the center with a theological analogy: “In the middle of all dwells the Sun. Who indeed in this most beautiful temple would place the torch in any other or better place than one whence it can illuminate the whole at the same time? […] We find therefore, under this orderly arrangement, a wonderful symmetry in the universe, and a definite relation of harmony in the motion and magnitude of the orbs, of a kind it is not possible to obtain in any other way” (De revolutionibus orbium caelestium, I, cap. X).

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