When Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland in 1473, Europe was a very dissimilar place than it is today. At this time clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church were frequently the only people who could read, write, or do arithmetic. Copernicus was a canon at Poland’s Frombork Cathedral, and like many people in service to the church, he was a well educated man. He spoke Polish, Latin, and Greek. He learned mathematics, astronomy, law, and medicine. He read the thoughts of longstanding Greek astronomers and mathematicians. These scholarly men believed Earth was the center of the universe and that all the other heavenly bodies, including the sun, rotated around it. Most people in Copernicus’s time ”“ including the Church ”“encouraged this opinion of the universe.
Copernicus, nevertheless, watched the movement of the stars and planets and did his own calculations, and he determined that Earth rotated around the sun. The Greeks and the church were mistaken. In the 1500s, though, resisting the church led to earnest misfortune. People who differ from the church sometimes were tormented. Some were burned at the stake, be headed, or drawn and quartered, a punishment that ripped a person into pieces. Not many people spoke out against the teaching of the church. Yet Copernicus did disagree. All his calculations showed toward a new model of the universe. He also knew that in the fifth century B.C., the Greek mathematician Pythagoras had meant that Earth moved. He found out that the great astronomer Aristarchus considered the sun was the center of the universe. To him, these thoughts made sense. Between 1514 and 1530, Copernicus wrote six small books interpreting his heliocentric, or Sun-centered, theories. These books were accumulated to create one large book, a volume titled De Revolutionibus Orbium Coeleslium, or On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In this book, Copernicus interpreted his theory that the sun was actually the center of the universe and the planets rotated around it. Earth was just another planet circling the sun. Copernicus’s thoughts transformed the way people thought about the world and themselves. His thoughts transformed everything.
A childhood in Poland. On February 19, 1473, at about 4:30 in the afternoon Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn, Poland, now known as Torun, Poland. Nicolaus’s father, also called Nicolaus, purchased and sold copper.
Nicolaus’s father also worked as a judge, a banker, and an alderman on the town council. Nicolaus’s mother Barbara was the daughter of a rich family, the Watzenrodes. Nicolaus, the youngest of four children, had a brother Andreas, and two sisters, Barbara and Catherina. In the 1400s, life in Torun, Poland, relied on the Vistula River. Residents named the city “the Queen of the Vistula.”ť On market days, traders floated rafts downstream from the city of Warsaw, carrying pigs, vegetables, fabric, pots, and pans. Two walls and a moat circumscribed Torun. Guards stood watch from the three towers constructed into the walls. The towers and the walls kept the city’s 10,000 residents safe from barbarians, thieves, and rogues. Attacks on the city took place frequently. To guard themselves, Torun’s men practiced archery. These men created a marksmen’s society, and when the alarm sounded, they grasped their bows and arrows and ran up fast onto Torun’s walls, ready for action. As a boy, Nicolaus had a multifarious education. He attended a church school, where he learned reading, writing, singing, drawing, and mathematics. School made ready boys for their future, but girls did not go to school unless it was a convent. Nicholas learned to use a sword, shoot arrows, and ride a horse. These skills were needed when boys became men and assisted defend their cities. As Nicholas went to a church school and he learned reading, writing and mathematics this fact would help him in future when he decided to continue learning exact science. Due to the fact that he learned to use a sword, shoot arrows he became a strong and brave man. And he was able to fight for his ideas. In the 15th century, a family’s sons customarily followed one of three occupations. The first son received the family business, land, and wealth ”“ if there was any. Other sons either joined the military or the priesthood. Girls married or entered a convent to become a nun.
The Copernicus children followed this normal exemplar. Andreas and Nicolaus joined the church, Barbara became a nun, and Catherina got married a merchant. When Nicolaus was only 10 years old, his father passed away at the age of 63, which was supposed quite old at that time. Nicolaus’s uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, became guardian of the Copernicus children. Nicolaus and his brothers and sisters still dwelt with their mother, but their uncle was answerable for the children’s future and security. Watzenrode was a quick-tempered man who was from a rich merchant family and received pleasure from the might that money proffered. He was a bishop as well in the RomanÂ Catholic Church, which ran like a business: A man could get wealthy working for the church, and Watzenrode did. Watzenrode wished his nephews to receive pleasure from the cosy lives that the church could give.
First, nevertheless, they needed a college education. In Europe in the late 1400s, dramatic changes were happening.
The Middle Ages provided course to the Renaissance, a revival of learning. The University of Krakow, Poland’s only college became a center of education. Bishop Watzenrode had gone to school there, and he dispatched his nephews to study in Krakow as well. The University of Krakow was renowned for science, philosophy, and mathematics.
Students flocked there to study astronomy. The best minds in Poland tutored lessons”“ but the lessons were open only to men. Bishop Watzenrode wished Nicolaus and Andreas to learn canon law – the laws of the church. Nicolaus, however, studied liberal arts. He took classes in Latin and Greek, read poetry by Virgil and studied mathematics and astronomy. Such position of Copernicus showed his desire to be a scientist and he wanted to achieve his goals. The school year had two terms. The winter term began on October 18, the summer term started on April 15. Classes started at what was called 15 hours, or 8 o’clock in the morning. Each lesson lasted four hours. The professor stood above his students and lectured the full four hours. Copernicus and the students of the same year sat on wooden benches or on the floor, hastily writing down with a quill pen and ink. Afternoons were a time to review what the professor had tutored during the morning. Few students had text-books. Printing with movable type was comparatively new, having been created just 36 years before in 1455. Not many books had been printed this way yet, and few students could afford the ones that already were. In place, students read from textbooks that were accessible in the school library and took notes on the contents. The textbooks had modified little from one period to the next.
The astronomy text commonly used in most colleges in Copernicus’s time was written in the 1200s and a lot of the theories were well over 1,000 years old. Copernicus learned the Earth-centered model of the World of early Greek philosopher Ptolemy, which created the backbone of European developments in astronomy to the 15th century.
However, while a student at Krakow, Copernicus was exposed to newer thoughts in astronomy, including the theories of Islamic astronomers that enlarged contract between cultures had lately made known in Europe.
Copernicus also was taught by Albert Brudzewski, a professor who had been a student of famous astronomerÂ Regiomontanus. After attending college for two years, Copernicus and his brother left school. Copernicus did not earn a degree at Krakow, and he hadn’t learned church law as his uncle had requested. He was not finished with his education, nevertheless. He followed a general model of European schooling in the late 1400s in which young men frequently began at one college and then finished at another. Copernicus’s uncle had earned a degree from the University of Bologna in Italy, so he took a decision to send his nephews there to complete their education. He still planed for them to learn canon law, and the University of Bologna was the most greatly regarded school of law in the world. The journey to Bologna was difficult. There were no planes, trains, or cars to hasten their travel. After about two months of foot travel, the two brothers at last came to Bologna. Nicolaus and Andreas Copernicus enrolled at the university in January 1497. Bishop Watzenrode wished Copernicus to have a secure income, and he had influence on the church to choose his nephew as a canon, a clergyman who worked for the church but was not a priest. On November 6, 1500, Copernicus saw a lunar eclipse, as the shadow of Earth passed over the moon. For him, this was a monumental event. He later would parallel that eclipse with others, helping corroborate the new view of the universe he was evolving even then.