Real Men of Genius

Nicolas Copernicus

NLP techniques

Real Men of Genius - Nicolas Copernicus

Education

Born in Torun, Poland, Nicolas Copernicus speaks to Real Men of Genius as the founder of astronomy as we know it.   He was born in 1473 the youngest of four children.

Question

Nicolas, tell us something of your education?

Answer

I attended the universities of Krakow and Bologna.  I studied first mathematics, perspective, church law, optics, Greek and Latin.  In addition to German and Polish, I also spoke Italian.

I was appointed Canon of Frauenburg, but I was keen to pursue knowledge and, in 1501, I went to Padua to study medicine, and in 1503 I became a doctor of canon law.

Real Men of Genius – studying the stars

Question

And it is well-known that you made a study of the stars?

Answer

Yes;  it was important at that time for medical students to study astrology. 

Question

Did you at some time work for your uncle?

Answer

I did.  He was the Prince Bishop at Frauenburg.  I gradually took over from him.  I became involved in adjudicating disputes.  After difficulties with the local currency, I reformed the coinage, and I kept certain accountancy and other records.

Question

Your medical skills were well-known?

Answer

I was never short of work, if that is what you mean.

Real Men of Genius – the existing theory

Question

Before your discoveries, what was the central theory about the universe as you understood it to be?

Answer

Ptolemy’s work was regarded as authentic at the time.  He believed that Earth was the centre of the universe and that it was stationary.

Question

What about the stars themselves?

Answer

He thought they were embedded in some sort of larger outer sphere which rotate quickly.

Question

And what about the sun and the moon?

Answer

His theory was that they too were embedded in their own particular somewhat smaller spheres.

Real Men of Genius – astronomical studies

Question

Could you tell us something of your astronomical studies, please.

Answer

I first of all wrote Commentariolus, a small manuscript which I circulated only to a small number of acquaintances.  It set out my theories about the heliocentric nature of the cosmos.

Formerly, it was assumed that the Earth was the centre of the universe which revolved around it.  It was necessary for me to put my theories forward with great tact in order not to upset the church.

You have to appreciate that my theories were regarded by some as a denial of their faith – indeed, of any religious belief.

I discovered that the Earth moved upon its own axis and, further than that, it orbited the sun.

Real Men of Genius – the centre of the universe

Question

Did you conclude that there was a centre to the universe?

Answer

I concluded that there was no centre of all the celestial circles or spheres.  Far from being the centre of the universe, the centre of the earth was only the centre of gravity for the Earth itself.

Question

What did you consider to be the centre of the solar system as you knew it to be?

Answer

The sun, being the mid-point, all the planets revolved around it and was therefore the centre of what I believed at that time to be the universe.

Question

And what about the motion of the planets?

Answer

The apparent motion of what I described the firmament arose not from the firmament’s motion but from the earth’s own motion.  The Earth has more than one motion in that what appear as motions of the sun arise from the motion of the Earth rather than from the motion of the sun.

Real Men of Genius – published work

Question

Did you publish that work more widely?

Answer

Eventually, I published my major work, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, in English The Revolution of the Heavely Spheres.  Although I completed the work in 1530, I delayed its publication until 1542.

Question

You died in 1543 at the age of 70 years and only just got to see a copy of your main work?

Answer

That is so.

Real Men of Genius – condemned

Question

And you know now, of course, that it was not accepted for a very long time and it was condemned by various religious authorities?

Answer

I do.  I know that it was regarded as heretical by some who made personal attacks upon me as a method of defending their religious beliefs.

Question

Do you regard the criticism you received from the church, and representatives of it, as superstitious nonsense?

Answer

No, although I believe them to be misconceived.

Real Men of Genius - support

Question

Real Men of Genius - Nicolas Copernicus

Of course, after your death, not everyone criticised you adversely.  There were others who supported your theories and were persecuted for it?

Answer

Yes:  think particularly of Gallileo in this respect.  I know he privately supported my work, but when he made his own improved telescope in 1610 he felt able to defend publicly my theory that the planets orbited the sun and not the Earth.

He was able to take his own studies much further.  In 1616 I understand there was a papal instruction direction him not to teach my views.  Although he desisted for a while he was later tried for the publication of a work which was considered to violate that instruction.

I was sorry that he suffered house arrest for this, although I recognise it could have been much worse and I am glad that it was not.

Question

You will know now that Kepler refined and advanced your theory?

Answer

He established, as I understand it, that celestial bodies moved in ellipses, or elongated circles, rather than pure circles.

Real Men of Genius - acceptance

Question

It was not until 1992, something like 450 years after your death, that the Roman Catholic Church finally conceded that Galileo, by upholding your own discoveries, had not offended its beliefs?

Answer

I am delighted to know that.  It is equally gratifying to know that I am now recognised as the founder of astronomy as it is now recognised.

Keep your eyes open for more Real Men of Genius as they are added to this site and also look at Real Women of Genius for further examples.

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