Timeline Description: Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who realized in a time of no telescopes that the planets and sun did not revolve around the earth, but all planets revolved around the sun. His careful observations and mathematical proofs became the foundation for scientists and astronomers after him.
|1473||Copernicus is born.
The youngest of four children, Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473 in Torun, Poland. His father was a banker and merchant.
|1483||Death and adoption (Around 1483).
When Copernicus is ten, his father dies. Not long after, his mother dies. Copernicus is adopted by his Uncle Lucas Watzenrode, a clergyman.
|1483||Education (1483 - 1491).
Copernicus' uncle sends him to the Cathedral School in Wloclawek to study to be a clergyman. At age 18 he goes to the University of Cracow, where he becomes interested in astronomy.
|1496||University of Bologna (1496 - 1500).
Copernicus studies canon law at the University of Bologna in Italy. He lives in the home of the school's astronomy professor and witnesses some of the professor's cosmic observations. Copernicus also learns Greek at this time.
|1498||Aristarchus (Around 1498 - 1500).
With his knowledge of Greek, Copernicus can read the original writings of some scientists who have not had their work translated into Latin. One scientist that he reads is Aristarchus, an ancient Greek astronomer who wrote that the earth spins, making it look like planets are revolving around the earth.
|1501||Canon and medicine (1501 - 1503).
Through the influence of his uncle, Copernicus becomes a canon at Frauenberg. He takes a temporary leave to study medicine at the University of Padua, which includes learning astrology since it is believed that the stars affect the body. He receives a doctorate in canon law in 1503.
|1504||Helping Bishop Watzenrode (1504 - 1509).
Copernicus' uncle, now Bishop Watzenrode, has him help with administrative work at his palace. With his medical knowledge, Copernicus cares for his uncle and the other canons when they are ill. He also translates a historical piece from Latin to Greek that is published in 1509.
|1510||Return to Frauenburg.
Copernicus returns to Frauenberg near the Baltic Sea and assumes his duties as a canon. He writes a paper to help with some money issues in the area.
|1512||The Little Commentary (About 1512).
Copernicus also writes Commentariolus, or the Little Commentary, which is a little pamphlet that describes that the earth is a planet that travels around the sun. Because the Church at this time believes the earth is the center of the universe, Copernicus only hands out his pamphlet to friends.
|1510||Observation tower (1510 - 1543).
Copernicus lives in one of the towers of the cathedral in Frauenburg. After his church duties are done, he can observe the heavens from his window. However, the skies are not always clear, making it hard to work sometimes.
|1510||On the Revolutions (About 1510 - 1540).
Copernicus spends the next 30 or so years working on De revolutionibus or On the Revolutions, his major work. He is hesitant to publish it because of the Catholic Church's view of the earth as the center of the universe.
|1539||A helper arrives.
Georg Joachim Rheticus, a Lutheran student from the University of Wittenberg, Germany, comes to Frauenberg to study with Copernicus. To pretest Copernicus' theories, Rheticus publishes Narratio prima or First Report.
Copernicus is 68-years-old in 1541. His health is poor. At Rheticus' urgings, Copernicus sends his work to be published. Rheticus oversees much of the work.
Copernicus' health gets worse. He is dying. On May 24, 1543, he receives the first printed copy of De revolutionibus. Within hours he dies. He is 70-years-old.
|1543||Major influence (1543 and beyond).
Many scientists start reading Copernicus' work, which was published in six volumes. His theories influence Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and many others. Copernicus will be remembered as the first astronomer to use mathematics and physics to prove that the earth was not the center of the universe, but a planet that joined with others to orbit around the sun.