Birthdays on February 19

Nicholas Copernicus (1473 to 1543)
Eccentric Churchman Centered the Sun

Astronomer Nicholas Copernicus was born in Toruh, Poland. He became a churchman and propounded the theory that the earth revolves around the sun. His genius went unrecognized in his own lifetime, and the religious leaders of that day ridiculed his proposition, partly because Copernicus's circular orbits offered little improvement over the Ptolemaic system and partly because of the man's eccentricities and partly because of his secretiveness for fear of the inquisition. Johann Kepler had to demonstrate that orbits are elliptical before astronomical problems could truly begin to be solved. The first edition of Copernicus's book was printed as he lay on his death bed and included an unauthorized preface that discredited the literal meaning of his findings. For the most part the book was ignored until Galileo called attention to it. Protestants and Catholics alike attacked it (the Roman Catholic church banned it until 1822).


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