When the Earth was the centre of the universe

Nicolaus Copernicus, born in 1473 in Poland, remains to this day one of the most hailed names in the field of Astronomy. Born to a wealthy family of merchants, during the time when the Catholic Church was the foremost authority in Europe, Nicolaus Copernicus was poised to become a bishop in his early childhood under the training of his uncle. It was decided that he was to specialise in a field of study known as canon (church law) at the time, which dealt with bringing justice to perpetrators of Christianity. Copernicus was sent to the University of Krakow, where he did extensive studies in the fields of medicine and law, as the children of all wealthy families did. 

His education though, was pivotal to changing the course of his life in the future. Copernicus at the time was temporarily residing with an astronomer from his university. During this time, he was exposed to the nuances of what was then believed to be astronomy. While occasionally “assisting him with observations”, over the next few months and years, Copernicus grew to better understand the system of astronomy that existed then- based on the system created by the Greek Astronomer Ptolemy known as the Ptolemaic system. The Ptolemaic system suggested that the Earth was indeed placed “at the centre of the solar system”. He was exposed to the famous criticisms and flaws in the system during the time, and informally developed his interest in the subject. 

Later he began to work at the church where he was occasionally asked to help with matters of astronomy; he was given the opportunity at the time, to make required reforms to the Julian Calendar which seemed to have some evident flaws. Over the years however, further dedication to his scholarly pursuit of astronomy seemed to cause a change in his view point and belief in the Ptolemaic system. The evident flaw that had been noticed in the Ptolemaic system was that it suggested that “the sun, planets, and moon move in small circles around much larger circles that revolve around Earth”. Yet, despite the fact that this was the accepted system at the time, astronomers seemed to disagree with Ptolemy’s suggested “order of the planets from Earth”, which was the first issue that was addressed by Copernicus. 

Over the years that followed, Copernicus created a small book known as the “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”, in which he put forward the argument that suggested that “While revolving around the sun, Earth spins on its axis daily. Earth takes one year to orbit the sun and during this time wobbles gradually on its axis, which accounts for the precession of the equinoxes”. His discoveries are considered a major breakthrough by experts even today. Despite the fact that there were just a few minor discrepancies in accuracy, he was unable to publish the book due to the overarching authority of the Catholic Church at the time, which stood by the belief that the Earth was at the center of the solar system. 

Copernicus died on May 24 in the year 1543 in Poland. His work was later published after his death, which largely saved him from the wrath of the religious figures at the time. Long after his work was published it continued to be criticized by authorities of Christianity for its heliocentric view (suggesting that the sun is in the centre of the universe). To this day, Copernicus is appreciated greatly for his contributions and invaluable inputs into the field of astronomy. 

Citations:

https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/nicolaus-copernicus

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