"Copernicus" and "Kopernik" redirect here. For other uses, see Copernicus (disambiguation).
Nicolaus Copernicus (;Polish: Mikołaj Kopernik; German: Nikolaus Kopernikus; Niklas Koppernigk; 19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe, likely independently of Aristarchus of Samos, who had formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.[a]
The publication of Copernicus' model in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death in 1543, was a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making an important contribution to the Scientific Revolution.
Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been part of the Kingdom of Poland since 1466. A polyglot and polymath, he obtained a doctorate in canon law and was also a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat, and economist. In 1517 he derived a quantity theory of money – a key concept in economics – and in 1519 he formulated an economics principle that later came to be called Gresham's law.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born on 19 February 1473 in the city of Thorn (modern Toruń), in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. His father was a merchant from Kraków and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Toruń merchant. Nicolaus was the youngest of four children. His brother Andreas (Andrew) became an Augustiniancanon at Frombork (Frauenburg). His sister Barbara, named after her mother, became a Benedictinenun and, in her final years, prioress of a convent in Chełmno (Kulm); she died after 1517. His sister Katharina married the businessman and Toruń city councilor Barthel Gertner and left five children, whom Copernicus looked after to the end of his life. Copernicus never married and is not known to have had children, but from at least 1531 until 1539 his relations with Anna Schilling, a live-in housekeeper, were seen as scandalous by two bishops of Warmia who urged him over the years to break off relations with his "mistress".
Copernicus' father's family can be traced to a village in Silesia near Nysa (Neiße). The village's name has been variously spelled Kopernik, Copernik, Copernic, Kopernic, Coprirnik, and today Koperniki. In the 14th century, members of the family began moving to various other Silesian cities, to the Polish capital, Kraków (1367), and to Toruń (1400). The father, Mikołaj the Elder, likely the son of Jan, came from the Kraków line.
Nicolaus was named after his father, who appears in records for the first time as a well-to-do merchant who dealt in copper, selling it mostly in Danzig (Gdańsk). He moved from Kraków to Toruń around 1458. Toruń, situated on the Vistula River, was at that time embroiled in the Thirteen Years' War, in which the Kingdom of Poland and the Prussian Confederation, an alliance of Prussian cities, gentry and clergy, fought the Teutonic Order over control of the region. In this war, Hanseatic cities like Danzig and Toruń, Nicolaus Copernicus's hometown, chose to support the Polish King, Casimir IV Jagiellon, who promised to respect the cities' traditional vast independence, which the Teutonic Order had challenged. Nicolaus' father was actively engaged in the politics of the day and supported Poland and the cities against the Teutonic Order. In 1454 he mediated negotiations between Poland's Cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki and the Prussian cities for repayment of war loans. In the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), the Teutonic Order formally relinquished all claims to its western province, which as Royal Prussia remained a region of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland until the First (1772) and Second (1793) Partitions of Poland.
Copernicus's father married Barbara Watzenrode, the astronomer's mother, between 1461 and 1464. He died about 1483.
Nicolaus' mother, Barbara Watzenrode, was the daughter of a wealthy Toruń patrician and city councillor, Lucas Watzenrode the Elder (deceased 1462), and Katarzyna (widow of Jan Peckau), mentioned in other sources as Katarzyna Rüdiger gente Modlibóg (deceased 1476). The Modlibógs were a prominent Polish family who had been well known in Poland's history since 1271. The Watzenrode family, like the Kopernik family, had come from Silesia from near Świdnica (Schweidnitz), and after 1360 had settled in Toruń. They soon became one of the wealthiest and most influential patrician families. Through the Watzenrodes' extensive family relationships by marriage, Copernicus was related to wealthy families of Toruń (Thorn), Gdańsk (Danzig) and Elbląg (Elbing), and to prominent Polish noble families of Prussia: the Czapskis, Działyńskis, Konopackis and Kościeleckis. Lucas and Katherine had three children: Lucas Watzenrode the Younger (1447–1512), who would become Bishop of Warmia and Copernicus's patron; Barbara, the astronomer's mother (deceased after 1495); and Christina (deceased before 1502), who in 1459 married the Toruń merchant and mayor, Tiedeman von Allen.
Lucas Watzenrode the Elder, a wealthy merchant and in 1439–62 president of the judicial bench, was a decided opponent of the Teutonic Knights. In 1453 he was the delegate from Toruń at the Grudziądz (Graudenz) conference that planned the uprising against them. During the ensuing Thirteen Years' War (1454–66), he actively supported the Prussian cities' war effort with substantial monetary subsidies (only part of which he later re-claimed), with political activity in Toruń and Danzig, and by personally fighting in battles at Łasin (Lessen) and Malbork (Marienburg). He died in 1462.
Lucas Watzenrode the Younger, the astronomer's maternal uncle and patron, was educated at the University of Kraków (now Jagiellonian University) and at the universities of Cologne and Bologna. He was a bitter opponent of the Teutonic Order, and its Grand Master once referred to him as "the devil incarnate". In 1489 Watzenrode was elected Bishop of Warmia (Ermeland, Ermland) against the preference of King Casimir IV, who had hoped to install his own son in that seat. As a result, Watzenrode quarreled with the king until Casimir IV's death three years later. Watzenrode was then able to form close relations with three successive Polish monarchs: John I Albert, Alexander Jagiellon, and Sigismund I the Old. He was a friend and key advisor to each ruler, and his influence greatly strengthened the ties between Warmia and Poland proper. Watzenrode came to be considered the most powerful man in Warmia, and his wealth, connections and influence allowed him to secure Copernicus' education and career as a canon at Frombork Cathedral.
Copernicus is postulated to have spoken Latin and German with equal fluency. He also spoke Polish,Greek and Italian.[b] The vast majority of Copernicus's surviving works are in Latin, which in his lifetime was the language of academia in Europe. Latin was also the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and of Poland's royal court, and thus all of Copernicus's correspondence with the Church and with Polish leaders was in Latin.
There survive a few documents written by Copernicus in German. The German philosophy professor Martin Carrier mentions this as a reason to consider Copernicus's native language to have been German. Other arguments for German being Copernicus's native tongue are that he was born in a predominantly German-speaking city and that, while studying canon law at Bologna in 1496, he signed into the German natio (Natio Germanorum)—a student organization which, according to its 1497 by-laws, was open to students of all kingdoms and states whose mother-tongue was German. However, according to French philosopher Alexandre Koyré, Copernicus's registration with the Natio Germanorum does not in itself imply that Copernicus considered himself German, since students from Prussia and Silesia were routinely so categorized, which carried certain privileges that made it a natural choice for German-speaking students, regardless of their ethnicity or self-identification.
The surname Copernik, Koppernigk is recorded in Kraków from c. 1350, in various spellings, apparently given to people from the village of Köppernigk (prior to 1845 rendered Koppirnik or Copirnik, Copernik) in the Silesian Duchy of Nysa. The Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493, describes of the town of Nysa population as plebs rustica polonici ydeomatis ... ("the vernacular language of the rural population is Polish"). Nicolas Copernicus' great-grandfather is recorded as having received citizenship in Kraków in 1386. The toponym Köppernig (modern Koperniki) has variously been tied to the German word for copper (Kupfer) and the Polish word for dill (koper). The suffix-nik (or plural -niki) denotes a Slavic and Polishagent noun.
As was common in the period, the spellings of both the toponym and the surname vary greatly. Copernicus "was rather indifferent about orthography". During his childhood, about 1480, the name of his father (and thus of the future astronomer) was recorded in Thorn as Niclas Koppernigk. At Kraków he signed himself, in Latin, Nicolaus Nicolai de Torunia (Nicolaus, son of Nicolaus, of Toruń). At Bologna, in 1496, he registered in the Matricula Nobilissimi Germanorum Collegii, resp. Annales Clarissimae Nacionis Germanorum, of the Natio Germanica Bononiae, as Dominus Nicolaus Kopperlingk de Thorn – IX grosseti. At Padua he signed himself "Nicolaus Copernik", later "Coppernicus". The astronomer thus Latinized his name to Coppernicus, generally with two "p"s (in 23 of 31 documents studied), but later in life he used a single "p". On the title page of De revolutionibus, Rheticus published the name (in the genitive, or possessive, case) as "Nicolai Copernici".[c]
Upon his father's death, young Nicolaus' maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode the Younger (1447–1512), took the boy under his wing and saw to his education and career. Watzenrode maintained contacts with leading intellectual figures in Poland and was a friend of the influential Italian-born humanist and Krakówcourtier, Filippo Buonaccorsi. There are no surviving primary documents on the early years of Copernicus's childhood and education. Copernicus biographers assume that Watzenrode first sent young Copernicus to St. John's School, at Toruń, where he himself had been a master. Later, according to Armitage,[d] the boy attended the Cathedral School at Włocławek, up the Vistula River from Toruń, which prepared pupils for entrance to the University of Kraków, Watzenrode's alma mater in Poland's capital.
In the winter semester of 1491–92 Copernicus, as "Nicolaus Nicolai de Thuronia", matriculated together with his brother Andrew at the University of Kraków (now Jagiellonian University). Copernicus began his studies in the Department of Arts (from the fall of 1491, presumably until the summer or fall of 1495) in the heyday of the Kraków astronomical-mathematical school, acquiring the foundations for his subsequent mathematical achievements. According to a later but credible tradition (Jan Brożek), Copernicus was a pupil of Albert Brudzewski, who by then (from 1491) was a professor of Aristotelian philosophy but taught astronomy privately outside the university; Copernicus became familiar with Brudzewski's widely read commentary to Georg von Peuerbach's Theoricæ novæ planetarum and almost certainly attended the lectures of Bernard of Biskupie and Wojciech Krypa of Szamotuły, and probably other astronomical lectures by Jan of Głogów, Michał of Wrocław (Breslau), Wojciech of Pniewy, and Marcin Bylica of Olkusz.
Copernicus' Kraków studies gave him a thorough grounding in the mathematical astronomy taught at the University (arithmetic, geometry, geometric optics, cosmography, theoretical and computational astronomy) and a good knowledge of the philosophical and natural-science writings of Aristotle (De coelo, Metaphysics) and Averroes (which in the future would play an important role in the shaping of Copernicus' theory), stimulating his interest in learning and making him conversant with humanistic culture. Copernicus broadened the knowledge that he took from the university lecture halls with independent reading of books that he acquired during his Kraków years (Euclid, Haly Abenragel, the Alfonsine Tables, Johannes Regiomontanus' Tabulae directionum); to this period, probably, also date his earliest scientific notes, now preserved partly at Uppsala University. At Kraków Copernicus began collecting a large library on astronomy; it would later be carried off as war booty by the Swedes during the Deluge in the 1650s and is now at the Uppsala University Library.
Copernicus' four years at Kraków played an important role in the development of his critical faculties and initiated his analysis of logical contradictions in the two "official" systems of astronomy—Aristotle's theory of homocentric spheres, and Ptolemy's mechanism of eccentrics and epicycles—the surmounting and discarding of which would be the first step toward the creation of Copernicus' own doctrine of the structure of the universe.
Without taking a degree, probably in the fall of 1495, Copernicus left Kraków for the court of his uncle Watzenrode, who in 1489 had been elevated to Prince-Bishop of Warmia and soon (before November 1495) sought to place his nephew in the Warmia canonry vacated by the 26 August 1495 death of its previous tenant, Jan Czanow. For unclear reasons—probably due to opposition from part of the chapter, who appealed to Rome—Copernicus' installation was delayed, inclining Watzenrode to send both his nephews to study canon law in Italy, seemingly with a view to furthering their ecclesiastic careers and thereby also strengthening his own influence in the Warmia chapter.
Leaving Warmia in mid-1496—possibly with the retinue of the chapter's chancellor, Jerzy Pranghe, who was going to Italy—in the fall, possibly in October, Copernicus arrived in Bologna and a few months later (after 6 January 1497) signed himself into the register of the Bologna University of Jurists' "German nation", which included young Poles from Silesia, Prussia and Pomerania as well as students of other nationalities.
It was only on 20 October 1497 that Copernicus, by proxy, formally succeeded to the Warmia canonry which had been granted to him two years earlier. To this, by a document dated 10 January 1503 at Padua, he would add a sinecure at the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław, Silesia, Bohemia. Despite having been granted a papal indult on 29 November 1508 to receive further benefices, through his ecclesiastic career Copernicus not only did not acquire further prebends and higher stations (prelacies) at the chapter, but in 1538 he relinquished the Wrocław sinecure. It is unclear whether he was ever ordained a priest.Edward Rosen asserts that he was not. Copernicus did take minor orders, which sufficed for assuming a chapter canonry.The Catholic Encyclopedia proposes that his ordination was probable, as in 1537 he was one of four candidates for the episcopal seat of Warmia, a position which required ordination.
During his three-year stay at Bologna, between fall 1496 and spring 1501, Copernicus seems to have devoted himself less keenly to studying canon law (he received his doctorate in law only after seven years, following a second return to Italy in 1503) than to studying the humanities—probably attending lectures by Filippo Beroaldo, Antonio Urceo, called Codro, Giovanni Garzoni, and Alessandro Achillini—and to studying astronomy. He met the famous astronomer Domenico Maria Novara da Ferrara and became his disciple and assistant. Copernicus was developing new ideas inspired by reading the "Epitome of the Almagest" (Epitome in Almagestum Ptolemei) by George von Peuerbach and Johannes Regiomontanus (Venice, 1496). He verified its observations about certain peculiarities in Ptolemy's theory of the Moon's motion, by conducting on 9 March 1497 at Bologna a memorable observation of the occultation of Aldebaran, the brightest star in the Taurus constellation, by the moon. Copernicus the humanist sought confirmation for his growing doubts through close reading of Greek and Latin authors (Pythagoras, Aristarchos of Samos, Cleomedes, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Philolaus, Heraclides, Ecphantos, Plato), gathering, especially while at Padua, fragmentary historic information about ancient astronomical, cosmological and calendar systems.
Copernicus spent the jubilee year 1500 in Rome, where he arrived with his brother Andrew that spring, doubtless to perform an apprenticeship at the Papal Curia. Here, too, however, he continued his astronomical work begun at Bologna, observing, for example, a lunar eclipse on the night of 5–6 November 1500. According to a later account by Rheticus, Copernicus also—probably privately, rather than at the Roman Sapienza—as a "Professor Mathematum" (professor of astronomy) delivered, "to numerous... students and... leading masters of the science", public lectures devoted probably to a critique of the mathematical solutions of contemporary astronomy.
On his return journey doubtless stopping briefly at Bologna, in mid-1501 Copernicus arrived back in Warmia. After on 28 July receiving from the chapter a two-year extension of leave in order to study medicine (since "he may in future be a useful medical advisor to our Reverend Superior [Bishop Lucas Watzenrode] and the gentlemen of the chapter"), in late summer or in the fall he returned again to Italy, probably accompanied by his brother Andrew and by Canon Bernhard Sculteti. This time he studied at the University of Padua, famous as a seat of medical learning, and—except for a brief visit to Ferrara in May–June 1503 to pass examinations for, and receive, his doctorate in canon law—he remained at Padua from fall 1501 to summer 1503.
Copernicus studied medicine probably under the direction of leading Padua professors—Bartolomeo da Montagnana, Girolamo Fracastoro, Gabriele Zerbi, Alessandro Benedetti—and read medical treatises that he acquired at this time, by Valescus de Taranta, Jan Mesue, Hugo Senensis, Jan Ketham, Arnold de Villa Nova, and Michele Savonarola, which would form the embryo of his later medical library.
One of the subjects that Copernicus must have studied was astrology, since it was considered an important part of a medical education. However, unlike most other prominent Renaissance astronomers, he appears never to have practiced or expressed any interest in astrology.
As at Bologna, Copernicus did not limit himself to his official studies. It was probably the Padua years that saw the beginning of his Hellenistic interests. He familiarized himself with Greek language and culture with the aid of Theodorus Gaza's grammar (1495) and J.B. Chrestonius' dictionary (1499), expanding his studies of antiquity, begun at Bologna, to the writings of Basilius Bessarion, Lorenzo Valla and others. There also seems to be evidence that it was during his Padua stay that the idea finally crystallized, of basing a new system of the world on the movement of the Earth. As the time approached for Copernicus to return home, in spring 1503 he journeyed to Ferrara where, on 31 May 1503, having passed the obligatory examinations, he was granted the degree of doctor of canon law (Nicolaus Copernich de Prusia, Jure Canonico ... et doctoratus). No doubt it was soon after (at latest, in fall 1503) that he left Italy for good to return to Warmia.
Copernicus made three observations of Mercury, with errors of -3, -15 and -1 minutes of arc. He made one of Venus, with an error of -24 minutes. Four were made of Mars, with errors of 2, 20, 77, and 137 minutes. Four observations were made of Jupiter, with errors of 32, 51, -11 and 25 minutes. He made four of Saturn, with errors of 31, 20, 23 and -4 minutes.
Having completed all his studies in Italy, 30-year-old Copernicus returned to Warmia, where he would live out the remaining 40 years of his life, apart from brief journeys to Kraków and to nearby Prussian cities: Toruń (Thorn), Gdańsk (Danzig), Elbląg (Elbing), Grudziądz (Graudenz), Malbork (Marienburg), Königsberg (Królewiec).
The Prince-Bishopric of Warmia enjoyed substantial autonomy, with its own diet (parliament) and monetary unit (the same as in the other parts of Royal Prussia) and treasury.
Copernicus was his uncle's secretary and physician from 1503 to 1510 (or perhaps till his uncle's death on 29 March 1512) and resided in the Bishop's castle at Lidzbark (Heilsberg), where he began work on his heliocentric theory. In his official capacity, he took part in nearly all his uncle's political, ecclesiastic and administrative-economic duties. From the beginning of 1504, Copernicus accompanied Watzenrode to sessions of the Royal Prussian diet held at Malbork and Elbląg and, write Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz, "participated... in all the more important events in the complex diplomatic game that ambitious politician and statesman played in defense of the particular interests of Prussia and Warmia, between hostility to the [Teutonic] Order and loyalty to the Polish Crown."
In 1504–12 Copernicus made numerous journeys as part of his uncle's retinue—in 1504, to Toruń and Gdańsk, to a session of the Royal Prussian Council in the presence of Poland's King Alexander Jagiellon; to sessions of the Prussian diet at Malbork (1506), Elbląg (1507) and Sztum (Stuhm) (1512); and he may have attended a Poznań (Posen) session (1510) and the coronation of Poland's King Sigismund I the Old in Kraków (1507). Watzenrode's itinerary suggests that in spring 1509 Copernicus may have attended the Krakówsejm.
It was probably on the latter occasion, in Kraków, that Copernicus submitted for printing at Jan Haller's press his translation, from Greek to Latin, of a collection, by the 7th-century Byzantine historian Theophylact Simocatta, of 85 brief poems called Epistles, or letters, supposed to have passed between various characters in a Greek story. They are of three kinds—"moral," offering advice on how people should live; "pastoral", giving little pictures of shepherd life; and "amorous", comprising love poems. They are arranged to follow one another in a regular rotation of subjects. Copernicus had translated the Greek verses into Latin prose, and he now published his version as Theophilacti scolastici Simocati epistolae morales, rurales et amatoriae interpretatione latina, which he dedicated to his uncle in gratitude for all the benefits he had received from him. With this translation, Copernicus declared himself on the side of the humanists in the struggle over the question whether Greek literature should be revived. Copernicus's first poetic work was a Greek epigram, composed probably during a visit to Kraków, for Johannes Dantiscus' epithalamium for Barbara Zapolya's 1512 wedding to KingZygmunt I the Old.
Some time before 1514, Copernicus wrote an initial outline of his heliocentric theory known only from later transcripts, by the title (perhaps given to it by a copyist), Nicolai Copernici de hypothesibus motuum coelestium a se constitutis commentariolus—commonly referred to as the Commentariolus. It was a succinct theoretical description of the world's heliocentric mechanism, without mathematical apparatus, and differed in some important details of geometric construction from De revolutionibus; but it was already based on the same assumptions regarding Earth's triple motions. The Commentariolus, which Copernicus consciously saw as merely a first sketch for his planned book, was not intended for printed distribution. He made only a very few manuscript copies available to his closest acquaintances, including, it seems, several Kraków astronomers with whom he collaborated in 1515–30 in observing eclipses. Tycho Brahe would include a fragment from the Commentariolus in his own treatise, Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata, published in Prague in 1602, based on a manuscript that he had received from the Bohemian physician and astronomer Tadeáš Hájek, a friend of Rheticus. The Commentariolus would appear complete in print for the first time only in 1878.
In 1510 or 1512 Copernicus moved to Frombork, a town to the northwest at the Vistula Lagoon on the Baltic Sea coast. There, in April 1512, he participated in the election of Fabian of Lossainen as Prince-Bishop of Warmia. It was only in early June 1512 that the chapter gave Copernicus an "external curia"—a house outside the defensive walls of the cathedral mount. In 1514 he purchased the northwestern tower within the walls of the Frombork stronghold. He would maintain both these residences to the end of his life, despite the devastation of the chapter's buildings by a raid against Frauenburg carried out by the Teutonic Order in January 1520, during which Copernicus's astronomical instruments were probably destroyed. Copernicus conducted astronomical observations in 1513–16 presumably from his external curia; and in 1522–43, from an unidentified "small tower" (turricula), using primitive instruments modeled on ancient ones—the quadrant, triquetrum, armillary sphere. At Frombork Copernicus conducted over half of his more than 60 registered astronomical observations.
Having settled permanently at Frombork, where he would reside to the end of his life, with interruptions in 1516–19 and 1520–21, Copernicus found himself at the Warmia chapter's economic and administrative center, which was also one of Warmia's two chief centers of political life. In the difficult, politically complex situation of Warmia, threatened externally by the Teutonic Order's aggressions (attacks by Teutonic bands; the Polish-Teutonic War of 1519–21; Albert's plans to annex Warmia), internally subject to strong separatist pressures (the selection of the prince-bishops of Warmia; currency reform), he, together with part of the chapter, represented a program of strict cooperation with the Polish Crown and demonstrated in all his public activities (the defense of his country against the Order's plans of conquest; proposals to unify its monetary system with the Polish Crown's; support for Poland's interests in the Warmia dominion's ecclesiastic administration) that he was consciously a citizen of the Polish-Lithuanian Republic. Soon after the death of uncle Bishop Watzenrode, he participated in the signing of the Second Treaty of Piotrków Trybunalski (7 December 1512), governing the appointment of the Bishop of Warmia, declaring, despite opposition from part of the chapter, for loyal cooperation with the Polish Crown.
That same year (before 8 November 1512) Copernicus assumed responsibility, as magister pistoriae, for administering the chapter's economic enterprises (he would hold this office again in 1530), having already since 1511 fulfilled the duties of chancellor and visitor of the chapter's estates.
His administrative and economic dutes did not distract Copernicus, in 1512–15, from intensive observational activity. The results of his observations of Mars and Saturn in this period, and especially a series of four observations of the Sun made in 1515, led to discovery of the variability of Earth's eccentricity and of the movement of the solar apogee in relation to the fixed stars, which in 1515–19 prompted his first revisions of certain assumptions of his system. Some of the observations that he made in this period may have had a connection with a proposed reform of the Julian calendar made in the first half of 1513 at the request of the Bishop of Fossombrone, Paul of Middelburg. Their contacts in this matter in the period of the Fifth Lateran Council were later memorialized in a complimentary mention in Copernicus's dedicatory epistle in Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium and in a treatise by Paul of Middelburg, Secundum compendium correctionis Calendarii (1516), which mentions Copernicus among the learned men who had sent the Council proposals for the calendar's emendation.
During 1516–21, Copernicus resided at Olsztyn (Allenstein) Castle as economic administrator of Warmia, including Olsztyn (Allenstein) and Pieniężno (Mehlsack). While there, he wrote a manuscript, Locationes mansorum desertorum (Locations of Deserted Fiefs), with a view to populating those fiefs with industrious farmers and so bolstering the economy of Warmia. When Olsztyn was besieged by the Teutonic Knights during the Polish–Teutonic War, Copernicus directed the defense of Olsztyn and Warmia by Royal Polish forces. He also represented the Polish side in the ensuing peace negotiations.
Copernicus for years advised the Royal Prussiansejmik on monetary reform, particularly in the 1520s when that was a major question in regional Prussian politics. In 1526 he wrote a study on the value of money, Monetae cudendae ratio. In it he formulated an early iteration of the theory, now called Gresham's law, that "bad" (debased) coinage drives "good" (un-debased) coinage out of circulation—several decades before Thomas Gresham. He also, in 1517, set down a quantity theory of money, a principal concept in economics to the present day. Copernicus's recommendations on monetary reform were widely read by leaders of both Prussia and Poland in their attempts to stabilize currency.
In 1533, Johann Widmanstetter, secretary to Pope Clement VII, explained Copernicus's heliocentric system to the Pope and two cardinals. The Pope was so pleased that he gave Widmanstetter a valuable gift.
Nicolaus Copernicus Facts
|Nicolaus Copernicus Facts|
|Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun in what is now Poland.|
|From 1491 to 1495 he studied at the University of Krakow where he studied astronomy and mathematics.|
|In 1496 he entered the University of Bologna where received a doctorate in canon law but he was never ordained a priest.|
|He studied at the medicine at University of Padua.|
|From 1503 to 1510 he was the physician and secretary to the Bishop of Warmia who was also his uncle.|
|He undertook many diplomatic journeys for his uncle during this turbulent time.|
|In June 1512 he received a house with a tower and there he made many of his subsequent celestial observations.|
|In 1515 he observed Mars and Saturn and discovered the variability of the Earth's orbital eccentricity.|
|His book influenced the deliberations of the Fifth Lateran Council in their reform of the Julian calendar.|
|He was an advisor to the Royal Polish parliament on monetary reform and he wrote a study on the value of money.|
|In 1517 he formulated a quantity theory of money which states that the supply of money has a direct relationship to prices.|
|This remains a key theory in economics.|
|In 1526 he wrote a second theory of economics which came to be known as Gresham's Law and which states that undervalued currency will leave and overvalued currency will flood the market.|
|In 1532 Copernicus had finished his manuscript De revolutionibus orbium coelestium but refused to publish it for fear of ridicule.|
|By 1551 his heliocentric theory was published and quickly adopted by astronomers.|