Nicolaus Copernicus

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Copernicus portrait from the woodcut in Nicolaus Reusner's “Icones” (1578), which was probably made by Tobias Stimmer based on an alleged self-portrait of Copernicus. This portrait became the model for a number of other woodcut, engraving, and painting portraits of Copernicus.
Signature of Nicolaus Copernicus

Nikolaus Kopernikus (born February 19, 1473 in Thorn ; † May 24, 1543 in Frauenburg ; actually Niklas Koppernigk , Latinized Nicolaus Cop [ p ] ernicus , Polonized Mikołaj Kopernik ) was a canon of the Duchy of Warmia in Prussia as well as an astronomer and doctor who himself also dedicated to mathematics and cartography .

In his main work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium he describes a heliocentric view of the world , according to which the earth is a planet, rotates on its own axis and also moves around the sun like the other planets. In addition, he for the first time interprets the slow shift of the vernal equinox as a change in direction of the earth's axis . Its reception led to the upheaval known as the “ Copernican turn ”.



Copernicus House in Thorn

Registration at the University of Krakow: Nicolaus Nicolai de Thuronia solvit totum
("Nicolaus, son of Nicolaus von Thorn, has paid the full fee")

Nikolaus Kopernikus was the son of Niklas Koppernigk , a wealthy copper merchant and lay judge in Thorn, and his wife Barbara Watzenrode. The Koppernigk family belonged to the German-speaking citizenship of the Hanseatic city of Thorn in the Kulmerland , the oldest city in Prussia , which had broken away from the Teutonic Order during the Thirteen Years' War in association with the Prussian Federation and in 1467, as part of the autonomous Royal Prussia, submitted to the King of Poland as patron . Copernicus' father had moved to Thorn between 1454 and 1458 from Kraków , where he had worked as a copper trader. The maternal family was also wealthy. She originally came from Wazygenrode . In 1370 she came to Thorn, where Copernicus' grandfather Lukas Watzenrode (the elder) worked as a lay judge from 1440 and later as lay judge master.

Copernicus' family was included in the Third Order of St. Dominic added. When his father died in 1483, Nikolaus was ten years old. His mother's brother, Lucas Watzenrode , Prince-Bishop of Warmia since 1489 , took care of the education of the four orphans after the death of their parents . The older brother Andreas, like Nikolaus, also became canon in Frauenburg, but fell ill with leprosy around 1508 , was later excluded and probably died around 1518 in Italy . The older sister Barbara Koppernigk became abbess in the monastery of Kulm , the younger Katharina married Barthel Gertner, a Cracow merchant.


Copernicus was initially trained at the St. Johannes School in Thorn. From 1488 to 1491 he attended a high school. While some Copernicus researchers would like to see this school in Leslau ( Włocławek ), numerous reasons speak in favor of visiting the particulars of the brothers from living together in Kulm (Chełmno), especially the close connection between the Koppernigk and Watzenrode families to this neighboring town of Thorn, where several Female relatives of Copernicus lived in the Cistercian monastery, including Copernicus' step aunt Katharina and later his sister Barbara as abbesses. Lukas Watzenrode was also particularly drawn to Kulm, so that in 1488 he even applied to the Polish Diet in Petrikau to move the Kulm cathedral chapter, to which he himself belonged, from Kulmsee ( Chełmża ) to Kulm.

From 1491 to 1494, Copernicus attended the University of Krakow with his brother Andreas , where he studied the Seven Liberal Arts . Among other things, he was a student of Albert de Brudzewo , but did not obtain a degree there. During this time he also met the Silesian scholar Laurentius Corvinus , who later worked in Thorn.

In 1495 Copernicus was appointed canon of the Warmian cathedral school in Frombork . His uncle Watzenrode sent him to the University of Bologna , where he began studying both rights in the winter semester of 1496/1497, but did not yet acquire a degree in them. In Bologna , Copernicus studied Greek with Urceus Codrus and astronomy and learned newer theories about the movement of planets from Domenico Maria da Novara . There he earned the title of Magister artium . Novara introduced him to the world of thought of Neoplatonism , for which the sun was of particular importance as a material image of God or of the One .

In 1500 Copernicus left Bologna and spent some time in Rome on the occasion of the Holy Year before returning to Frombork in Warmia in 1501 . He asked for permission to extend his study stay in Italy and that same year began studying medicine at the University of Padua . At the same time, he continued his law studies. During this time, Copernicus was given the office of scholastic of the Breslauer Kreuzkirche , which he did not exercise personally, but held until shortly before his death. Copernicus and his brother Andreas, who had also received a study permit, also stayed temporarily at the Curia in Rome as representatives of the Frauenburg cathedral chapter.

Copernicus received his doctorate in Canon Law ( Doctor iuris canonici ) on May 31, 1503 at the University of Ferrara . He did not get a degree in medicine.

Worked as a doctor, canon and administrator

Tower in Frauenburg , which Copernicus owned for several decades until his death in 1543.

In 1503 he returned to Warmia and began to work as a secretary and doctor for his uncle Lucas Watzenrode, the Prince-Bishop of Warmia. Copernicus became a doctor and got by his uncle a place in the Warmia cathedral chapter in Frombork , in hoc remotissimo angulo Terræ ( "in the far corner of the world"), as he described the location of his place of work in the preface to the Pope in his major work. Watzenrode planned to let his nephew also become prince-bishop.

As administrator, Copernicus had to regulate the affairs of state. In the negotiations on the reform of the Prussian coinage system, he worked out the position of the Prussian cities. He published a letter on this that was still regarded centuries later as groundbreaking for monetary theory . In 1504 Copernicus took part in the Prussian state parliaments in Marienburg and Elbing , and in 1506 he spoke at the Prussian Estates Assembly in Marienburg. As administrator, he wrote the Locationes mansorum desertorum ( The Distribution of Abandoned Farms ) from 1516 to 1521 .

Despite the difficult situation in Prussia, where cities and people fought for and against the Catholic government, Watzenrode, as Prince-Bishop at the same time, sovereign, and his nephew Copernicus were able to preserve the independence of Warmia from the order and self-government powers from the Polish crown. For Chancellor of the cathedral chapter Ermländer Copernicus in 1510, 1519, 1525 and 1528 was chosen. In 1510, Copernicus made his first official act as Chancellor, together with the future Prince-Bishop Fabian von Lossainen , a trip to Allenstein . The following year he took part in the wedding of Sigismund I as his uncle's representative . After the death of the previous Ermland bishop Mauritius Ferber , Copernicus was proposed as bishop by Tiedemann Giese in 1537 , but was defeated by Johannes Dantiscus von Höfen .

In the armed conflicts between the Teutonic Order and Poland, Copernicus, like his uncle, represented the side of the Prussian Confederation , which was allied with Poland against the Teutonic Order. After the destruction of Frauenburg by troops of Albrecht I of Brandenburg-Ansbach in 1520 in the so-called equestrian war , Copernicus moved his residence to Allenstein . There he organized the defense of the city against the knights of the order. Copernicus returned to Frauenburg in 1521. He became part of a royal Polish embassy to the Grand Master of the Order and Commissioner of Warmia for the restitution of the possessions of the Polish crown. From King Sigismund of Poland he obtained the clearance of Warmian places that were occupied by (friendly) Polish troops. A clearance of places occupied by troops of the Teutonic Order could not be achieved.

Copernicus was still practicing as a doctor when he was 69 years old, when Duke Albrecht wrote to him on April 6, 1541, asking him to assist Georg von Kunheim the Elder , the governor of Tapiau , who was sick . For his correspondence, Copernicus used either the Latin or the German language well into his old age.


Astronomical research

Own observations

Triquetrum from Nicolaus Copernicus

Copernicus was active as an observing astronomer, albeit with aids that - compared to the possibilities of his time - were quite primitive. The exact nature of his instruments is not known; only the use of a three- bar seems to be certain . Only 63 of his own observations are known, of which he used only a small part for his main work . The accuracy he was aiming for was 10 minutes of arc , which he missed considerably in some cases, while Tycho Brahe achieved an accuracy of half a minute of arc a little later. Copernicus based his main work largely on the ancient data available to him.

Conversely, it was Copernicus in Frombork "because of the fumes" of the western front of Gdansk Vistula never succeeded, the innermost planets in the evening sky Mercury to observe or even to determine its location. He therefore borrowed corresponding observations from contemporaries, such as the Frankish astronomer Johannes Schöner .

History of origin About the revolutions of the heavenly circles

In his unpublished Commentariolus , Copernicus put forward his theory of the orbit of the planets around the sun and the apparent movement of the fixed stars caused by the rotation of the earth. Shortly before his death in 1543 he published his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium , in which he explained the precession of the vernal equinox by a slow movement of the earth's axis . When describing the orbits of the planets, Copernicus used superimpositions of uniform circular motions with a center near the sun. All of Copernicus 'predecessors followed Hipparchus' view , who assumed that the cause of the precession was a slow rotation of the fixed star sphere. Copernicus' friends, in particular Bishop Tiedemann Giese and Nikolaus Cardinal von Schönberg , as well as Johannes Dantiscus von Höfen , tried to persuade Copernicus to publish his astronomical work. Cardinal Schönberg offered to pay the printing costs. He hesitated for a long time, possibly because his partially imprecise calculations of the planetary orbits , based on Aristotle 's idea - the circle as ideally harmonious, perfect mathematical structure - could not be supported by observations; therefore a rejection by the scientific or church establishment was to be feared. The British historian Hugh Kearney , on the other hand, with reference to Copernicus' pupil Georg Joachim Rheticus , suspects that he rather refrained from publication because of his Neoplatonic background, because in the New Pythagorean - esoteric tradition of this school of thought, these important truths are only allowed to mathematically trained people, not but make it accessible to the masses.

Page from Copernicus' manuscript of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium

With Rheticus' help, the Narratio prima was printed in advance by Rhode in Danzig in 1540 . Shortly before Copernicus' death in 1543, Pope Paul III went to print with Johannes Petreius in Nuremberg . dedicated main work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium ( On the revolutions of the heavenly circles ). Copernicus was not the first scientist at the turn of the modern age to consider a heliocentric system. This idea was discussed before him by Nikolaus von Kues , who, however, lacked the means for a mathematical elaboration, and by Regiomontanus , whose early death put an early end to his work. Copernicus built on the work of these two scientists.

The reformer Andreas Osiander had also added a foreword on his own initiative and anonymously, in which the new worldview is presented as a mere calculation aid, as a mathematical auxiliary construction for easier calculation of the planetary orbits. In doing so, however, he had falsified Copernicus' statements and made them contradictory. In fact, the Prussian tables newly created by Erasmus Reinhold based on Copernicus' model were easier to calculate than the older Alfonsian tables .


In particular, Copernicus' heliocentric cosmos model was largely ignored or ignored after it became known, both among Catholics and Protestants . It was only approved by a few Neoplatonists. Contrary to popular belief, the propagation of the heliocentric view of the world was by no means viewed as heresy during his lifetime, but rather as a pipe dream. After all, the geocentric system, anchored in the then scientifically undisputed reference figures Ptolemy and Aristotle, also seemed to agree much better with common sense than a moving earth: When moving, you should feel a wind, falling objects have an inclined path ; The fixed stars should also perform an apparent circular motion in the course of the year , argued the opponents of Copernicus in accordance with the teachings of Ptolemy , but this could not be confirmed subsequently with astronomical observations, for example by Tycho Brahe .

The new mathematical calculations of the planetary movements, which Copernicus had created together with the heliocentric cosmos model, were widely received and applied, because with them many hoped to finally be able to create precise ephemeris for concrete astronomical-astrological purposes. But the ephemeris based on Copernicus planetary orbit calculations, such as the Prutenic tables , also showed clearly recognizable deviations over the years and decades from the planetary positions actually observed, as was the case with the inaccurate Alfonsine tables that have been used for centuries based on the Ptolemaic planetary orbit calculations. Another inhibiting effect was that Copernicus still needed the ancient epicyclic theory and had clung to the ancient spherical or spherical shell model, but Tycho Brahe's astronomical observations of a comet passage through the supposed Venus sphere in the 1570s, but no references to the Existence of the 'sphere', which has been thought of as 'solid' since ancient times. Brahe himself did not recognize the heliocentric cosmos model of Copernicus. It was only Johannes Kepler who left the circular model of spheres that has been handed down since antiquity with the elliptical planetary orbits, which he described in his three laws, and created the correct mathematical calculation bases that are still valid today. With the law of gravity, Isaac Newton finally provided the physical justification of Kepler's laws on which the heliocentric worldview is based. However, the empirical proof was only achieved by James Bradley in 1728 with the discovery of the aberration of light as a result of its finite speed and the movement of the earth, and in 1838 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel with a fixed star parallax calculated for the first time from observations of the sky .

A rejection specifically of the central position of the sun in Copernicus was made by Protestants and others. a. by Melanchthon . In 1549 he claimed in his work Initia doctrinae physicae that the doctrine of Copernicus was merely a renewal or repetition of the heliocentric theory of the ancient astronomer Aristarchus of Samos , which Archimedes described in his so-called "sand calculation ". In fact, the Opera Archimedis (Works of Archimedes) was not published for the first time until 1544, one year after the death of Copernicus. During his lifetime, only the only surviving writing by Aristarchus About the size and distances of the sun and the moon , which Aristarchus wrote from a geocentric point of view, was known. The heliocentric system described by Copernicus in Commentariolus cannot therefore be based on Aristarchus. That is why Copernicus, in an effort to prove that he was by no means the only one who regards the Ptolemaic worldview as inaccurate, could always only refer to the teachings of Philolaos , Eudoxus of Knidos and Herakleides of Pontus . Nevertheless, the misjudgment of the aristarchical suggestion of Copernicus crept into the history of science. From a passage deleted by Copernicus himself in his handwritten manuscript for De revolutionibus at the end of the 11th chapter of the first book, however, it emerges that in addition to Hiketas , Philolaos, Ekphantos , the Pythagoreans and Herakleides, Aristarchus of Samos was at least named as one of those ancient Knew astronomers who assumed that the earth would move in any form, for example according to the writings of Aetius , Vitruv and Plutarch available at the time (e.g. De facie in orbe lunae , c. 6, 922 F - 923 A) .

Martin Luther is credited with a critical statement about the central thesis of Copernicus, according to which the heliocentric worldview contradicts the Bible, since it is said in the Old Testament that Joshua ordered the moon and sun to stand still in the fight against the Amorites . Jos 10: 12-13  LUT . According to the physicist and science historian Andreas Kleinert, this statement attributed to Luther is a "tangible historical lie". As he can prove, Luther was made an opponent of the Copernican world system by two Catholic historians during the culture war in the 19th century. Since there is only one known statement by Luther on this, the conclusion that the reformer was not interested in this subject is reasonable.

Economy and coinage

In the Teutonic Order state there was a uniform and relatively well-regulated currency . With its decline , which began in the 15th century, all the minters ( grand masters , kings of Poland , West Prussian City Council ) that were now available made their coins lighter and lighter. From 1517 Copernicus dealt with coinage and was the first to formulate the quantity theory of money, according to which inflation results from an increase in the amount of money.

He regularly took part in an advisory capacity in discussions about the development of a new coin order. In his Münzdenkschriften , Copernicus, as a theoretically trained thinker, went back to conceptuality in order to clarify the practical problems and found the dual function of money, being at the same time the measure of prices and means of circulation. Even before Thomas Gresham he formulated what was later called Gresham's law , according to which bad money with a low precious metal content displaces good money with a high precious metal content. The matter was provisionally decided by the Polish King Sigismund I in his coinage order from 1528 and without taking into account the findings of Copernicus. In addition to his power as the highest sovereign, the king had the advantage that his position was somewhere between that of the estates and that of the duke. The Prussian cities retained their previous rights to make their own coins. The comparable coin values ​​of the royal and ducal Prussian, Polish and Lithuanian currencies created the largest currency area in Europe at that time.

The bread price regulation drafted by Copernicus was part of his administrative work. The order is characterized by mathematical considerations that were atypical for the time. Copernicus creates a functional connection that leads to a hyperbola that could not be analytically described in the 16th century. He is devoted to a problem that is presumably Roman in origin and known in practical mathematics as the Pfennigbrot.

Ignaz Jastrow estimates that Copernicus' economic writings are simply the most important monetary theoretical achievement of the 16th century . Copernicus was the most important economic thinker after Aristotle and before the bourgeois, classical epoch of economic theory ; he was the first to break through the natural economic barriers that were still in place on the economic thinking of the late Middle Ages by explaining the rise and fall of the value of money without contradiction , thereby recognized and recognized the laws of this movement and consequently treated it as an exclusively economically interpretable state of affairs.


In 1526, Copernicus worked with Bernard Wapowski on the map of the united state of the Kingdom of Poland - Grand Duchy of Lithuania , and in 1529 he also made a map of the Duchy of Prussia . Georg Joachim Rheticus , until then a university professor in Wittenberg , came to Frauenburg for three years in 1539 to study with Copernicus.


The altar of Copernicus in the Frombork Cathedral

Detail from the Copernicus epitaph of the Church of St. John in Thorn ( Toruń )

Each of the 16 canons in Frombork was assigned one of the 16 columned altars in the nave. The question of what the altar of Copernicus was has not yet been fully clarified.

The Copernicus researcher Leopold Prowe decided in 1866 for the seventh columned altar in the right row, firstly because the canons were usually buried at their altar and the Copernicus epitaph of the Warmian bishop Martin Cromer was located in the immediate vicinity of this altar , which was after him Decision was placed on the cathedral wall by the grave of Copernicus, secondly because this altar is the fourteenth altar if the counting starts with the altar of the provost and then counting alternately from left to right. Prowe saw in this a connection to the fourteenth numerical canon of Copernicus.

In 1942 Hans Schmauch published a resolution of the Frauenburg Cathedral Chapter of January 11, 1480, through which the altars were reassigned to the canons when they returned to Frauenburg after a twenty-five year absence (due to wartime). It was stipulated that the canons always have to take over the altar of their predecessor. The option of an altar was only granted in the event that the previous one could no longer be determined or "if individual altars became vacant as a result of their previous owners being chosen as prelates [provost, dean, custodian or cantor]". Since the fourth columnar altar in the right row was assigned to the predecessor of Copernicus in the fourteenth numerical canon, Johannes Zanau, Schmauch concluded that this altar was taken over by his successor Nicolaus Copernicus after Zanau's death in accordance with the statutes. Schmauch saw this conclusion secured by the fact that later successors of Copernicus in the fourteenth numerical canonate in the years 1562 to 1639 also held this altar. No documentary evidence has yet been found for Copernicus himself and his immediate successor Johannes Loitze.

In response to Schmauch's conclusion, Eugen Brachvogel replied in an article in the same year that when a prelate was promoted, a canon always released an altar to take over his prelature altar. The canon who took over the vacated altar, however, also released an old altar, which in turn could be taken over by another canon, so that a change of the prelature resulted in or at least could have several changes of the altar. Brachvogel therefore conceded the possibility that in the year of his death Copernicus could have owned the sixth or seventh columned altar in the right row - as Prowe suspected - and was therefore buried there.

Since there was no change of prelature between 1480, when Johannes Zanau, the predecessor of Copernicus, was assigned the fourth columned altar in the right row, and 1495, when Copernicus was appointed canon, it can be assumed that Copernicus took over the altar. In the 48 years that followed, up to the death of Copernicus, at least 16 changes of prelature took place with certainly more changes of altar. It can therefore not be regarded as certain that in the year of his death Copernicus still held the same altar that he was assigned when he took office. On the other hand, this cannot be ruled out either.

Two canons employed at the same time with Copernicus at Frombork Cathedral, Georg Donner and Leonhardt Niederhoff, who handled Copernicus' estate, were later also buried in Frombork Cathedral.

The four tombs in the Frombork Cathedral

Text of the original epitaph by Martin Cromer , 1581

Copernicus epitaph of Bishop Cromer (1581)

In the 16th century, the Frauenburg canons were usually buried near their altar in the floor of the cathedral, although a grave slab with an inscription was only made in exceptional cases if the deceased left the funds in his will or his relatives provided this. The grave of Copernicus initially received no epitaph. However, decades after his death, his book De revolutionibus , published in 1543, prompted scholars and admirers to visit his grave in the Frauenburg Cathedral. In 1580 the incumbent Warmian bishop and historian Martin Cromer wrote to his cathedral chapter:

“Since Nicolaus Copernicus was an adornment not only of his church but also of all of Prussia, his homeland, during his lifetime and is still so now, after his death, I consider it inappropriate that he should be honored after his death lack a tombstone or memorial, which, as I have heard, learned guests and foreign visitors sometimes demand. "

In 1581, Cromer had an epitaph in memory of Copernicus installed on the outer wall of the cathedral near the seventh columned altar in the right row. Since the visitors did not complain that the grave could no longer be precisely located, only that a commemorative plaque was missing, the location of the grave was obviously still very well known at that time. This is also supported by the fact that Cromer in no way gave the order to first find the exact location in the cathedral. Rather, he gave the clear written order to put the epitaph "on the wall near his grave" (parieti ad sepulcrum eius affigi) . In 1551, d. H. Cromer, who came to Frauenburg as canon only eight years after the death of Copernicus, also had sufficient opportunity to speak to living witnesses of Copernicus' funeral from among the canons. How important this epitaph was to Cromer can be seen from the fact that he wrote the inscription himself and also assumed the entire cost of its manufacture and installation.

It can therefore be considered certain that Copernicus was buried in the cathedral floor in front of the outer wall near the seventh columned altar in the right row. However, it cannot necessarily be concluded from this that Copernicus also held the seventh columned altar. Burial at the altar was common at that time, but there were exceptions as well as when changing altars in the case of a prelate promotion. In his letter, Cromer does not write ad altare , but ad sepulcrum .

Epitaph in Frauenburg Cathedral on the second column on the left, 1735

In the following centuries the church's interest in honoring Copernicus waned after some passages from his main work De revolutionibus were included in the index of forbidden books in 1616 . In the 18th century, Cromer's epitaph had to give way when, in 1746, at the same place, a few meters east of the entrance to a side chapel built fourteen years earlier by the Warmian bishop Christoph Andreas Johann Szembek , a wall memorial was added to commemorate Szembek after his death has been. According to documentary evidence, the Cromer Copernicus epitaph should be re-attached in the immediate vicinity. This plan was ultimately not carried out and the epitaph was lost.

Copernicus epitaph with picture (1735)

Presumably as a replacement for the lost Cromer epitaph, the Warmian Cathedral Chapter had an epitaph in honor of Copernicus with the inscription carved in marble on the second column on the left (Michaelis altar) in 1735:

“Nicolaus Copernicus from Thorn, the former canon of this cathedral in Warmia, the famous astronomer, whose name and fame filled both circles [earth and heaven]. This monument was erected by the prelates, canons and the entire Warmia Chapter as a token of their brotherly love and esteem. "

Bust of Copernicus (1973)

In the 20th century, the cathedral chapter had a bust of Copernicus attached to the seventh column on the right (Bartholomäus altar) with the inscription:

"Nicolaus Copernicus on the 500th anniversary of his birth in homage to the Warmia cathedral chapter."

Copernicus tomb with coffin (2010)

Tomb in Frauenburg Cathedral on the fourth pillar on the right (2010)

In 2004, the local historian Jerzy Sikorski took up Hans Schmauch's assumption that the burial site, if it still exists, must be near today's Holy Cross altar (fourth altar column on the right). At the suggestion of the responsible bishop, a team led by the Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski began research. In the summer of 2005, it discovered the remains of 13 graves, some of which were badly damaged, near the altar, one of them with the remains and the skull of a 60 to 70 year old man. In November 2005 a reconstruction of the face was made based on the skull.

A DNA analysis should follow for identification. A search for living relatives of Copernicus in the maternal line was unsuccessful, as only one of his sisters had descendants and their maternal descendants could only be traced until the 18th century. Nine hairs were found in a book that was once in the possession of Copernicus and then ended up in the library of Uppsala University as spoils of the Polish-Swedish wars of the 17th century (Calendarium Romanum Magnum). Useful genetic material could be obtained from four hairs. They belonged to three different people. On November 20, 2008, the Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski and the Swedish DNA expert Marie Allen announced that the DNA analysis of two hairs from the book and one tooth from the skull found that both are very likely to be attributed to the astronomer can. However, the DNA analysis also showed that the skull belonged to a person with light (blue or gray) eye color, which differs from all historical color portraits of Copernicus, on which he is always depicted with dark brown eyes and dark hair. Gene analysis was discussed by several scientists at a Copernicus conference in Kraków in 2010.

The remains were solemnly reburied on May 22, 2010 as those of Copernicus in the Frauenburg Cathedral . On the fourth column on the right is the inscription:

"† Nicolaus Coppernicus · natus February 19, 1473 Thoruniae · defunctus May 21, 1543 Frauenburgi · astronomus · heliocentrismi artifex · canonicus warmiensis"


Nicolaus Copernicus , bust (1807) by Schadow in the Walhalla

1807 was commissioned by Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria by Johann Gottfried Schadow made one of the first Copernicus busts, which opened in 1842 Walhalla is issued, which led to the Polish protest.

One of the first complete Copernicus monuments was created by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1822 and executed by the Warsaw bell caster Jan Gregoire in 1833, whereby the base inscriptions in Polish and Latin proclaimed that the (Polish) compatriots had erected the memorial as thanks to the fatherland . After the Warsaw Uprising , the monument was torn down by the German occupiers in October 1944 and brought to the Neisse area in Upper Silesia to be melted down, but this no longer happened. After the war, the memorial could be rebuilt on July 22, 1945.

The hometown of Thorn, which belonged to Prussia from 1793 to 1807 and from 1815 to 1920, has been trying to get a monument since the end of the 18th century, especially since the Prussian royal house had promised its support. A committee was formed for this purpose, which erected a monument created by Friedrich Tieck in 1853 . The Coppernicus Association for Science and Art in Thorn emerged from the monument committee , which in the following decades researched the history of the city and its most famous son, which led to the German translation of his main work and Prowe's biography. Prowe also demanded that Copernicus should not be seen as a Pole but as a German. Prowe summarized the memory of Copernicus in posterity up to around the middle of the 19th century in an essay.

A Copernicus exhibition (with Foucault's pendulum ) and a memorial are located on the cathedral hill in Frombork. Under an epitaph there is a plate with a stylized bronze palm branch with the Polish inscription “For Nicolaus Copernicus on the first anniversary of the regaining of Warmia - May 1946. The government of the Republic of Poland ”. In addition, on the occasion of the 500th birthday of Copernicus in 1973, a memorial was erected at the foot of the cathedral hill in Frombork. In the Castle of Allenstein ( Olsztyn ) there are exhibits on Copernicus and original manuscripts for calculations to establish the Copernican view of the world in a special section. A bronze sculpture depicting Copernicus is placed in front of the castle entrance.

Various Copernicus streets were named after him.


The heliocentric worldview is often referred to as the "Copernican worldview". The chemical element Copernicium , the star Copernicus , the lunar crater Copernicus and the asteroid (1322) Coppernicus were named after Copernicus , as were the university founded in Toruń in 1945 and the multimedia science center Centrum Nauki Kopernik, which opened in Warsaw in autumn 2010 .

On his 500th birthday, numerous commemorative events took place in Poland, the two German states and around the world. Copernicus is still claimed by the German and Polish sides for their own nation, whereby the appropriation in Poland is part of state policy: On June 12, 2003 the Polish Senate , the second chamber of the Polish parliament, passed a declaration in memory of the great Poland Mikołaj Kopernik.

On the occasion of his 500th birthday, the Nuremberg planetarium was renamed the Nicolaus-Copernicus-Planetarium in 1973 . Wroclaw Airport has been named after him since December 6, 2005 . On February 19, 2010, his 537th birthday, the Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis web portal, managed by scientists from Thorner University, was activated.

A genus of plants named Copernicia Mart is named after Copernicus . ex Endl. from the palm family (Arecaceae).

The May 24 is the calendar of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in America His feast day.


Latin translation of the Greek epistles of Theophylactus Simokates, 1509



The biographical notes made by Rheticus are lost. Over three dozen of the first “Copernicus Biographies from the 16th to 18th Centuries” are dealt with in Volume IX of the Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition , beginning with Alexander Scultetus , a friend of Copernicus. Important early biographies were written by Bernardino Baldi in 1588 and by Pierre Gassendi in 1655 . In 1883, Leopold Prowe presented a comprehensive biography which is still regarded as unsurpassed in the two-volume work Nicolaus Coppernicus .

Classic biographies
Modern biographies

On the reception of his work (selection)

  • Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Gerstenberg and Akademie Verlag, Hildesheim and Berlin 1974-2004, ISBN 3-05-002651-0 .
  • Owen Gingerich : The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus . Walker & Co., New York 2004, ISBN 0-8027-1415-3 .
  • André Goddu: Copernicus and the Aristotelian Tradition: Education, Reading, and Philosophy in Copernicus's Path to Heliocentrism . Brill, Leiden 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-18107-6 .
  • Georg Hermanowski : Nicolaus Copernicus. Between the Middle Ages and the modern age . Verlag Styria, Graz 1985, ISBN 3-222-11592-3 .
  • Hubert Kinzel: The Copernicus Legacy . Projekt-Verlag Cornelius, Halle 2012, ISBN 978-3-86237-765-7 .
  • Michał Kokowski: Różne oblicza Mikołaja Kopernika. Spotkania z historią interpretacji . Instytut Historii Nauki PAN, Warszawa [u. a.] 2009, ISBN 978-83-87992-67-5 .
  • Arthur Koestler : The Night Walkers - The History of Our Knowledge of the World . Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, Volume 579. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1988 (3rd ed.). ISBN 3-518-37079-0 .
  • Fritz Krafft : Nicolaus Copernicus. Astronomy and the worldview at the turn of the modern age. In: Hartmut Boockmann, Bernd Moeller , Karl Stackmann (eds.): Life lessons and world designs in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern age. Politics - Education - Natural History - Theology. Report on colloquia of the commission to research the culture of the late Middle Ages 1983 to 1987 (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen: philological-historical class. Volume III, No. 179). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1989, ISBN 3-525-82463-7 , pp. 283-335.
  • Andreas Kühne : The reception of Copernicus as reflected in biographies . In: M. Kokowski (Ed.): The Global and the Local: The History of Science and the Cultural Integration of Europe. Proceedings of the 2nd ICESHS (Cracow, Poland, September 6-9, 2006). Pp. 342-349 ( PDF ).
  • Thomas S. Kuhn : The Copernican Revolution . Braunschweig u. a. 1981, ISBN 3-528-08433-2 .
  • Markus Piccio: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543): School time and studies . In: Concilium medii aevi . Volume 2, 1999, pp. 13-28 ( PDF ).
  • Edward Rosen: Copernicus and the scientific revolution . Malabar 1984, ISBN 0-89874-573-X .
  • Erich Sommerfeld (Ed.): The theory of money from Nicolaus Copernicus . Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1978, ISBN 3-289-00167-9 .
  • Erich Sommerfeld: Copernicus (1473–1543) and the Katoptrik . Neunplus 1, 2001, ISBN 3-936033-04-8 .
  • Robert S. Westman: The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order . Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles 2011, ISBN 978-0-520-25481-7 .
  • Gudrun Wolfschmidt (Ed.): Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543): Revolutionary against his will. Book accompanying the Copernicus exhibition. Exhibition from July 22 to October 19, 1994 in the Zeiss Großplanetarium in Berlin on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the death of Copernicus and his major work De revolutionibus, published 450 years ago in Nuremberg. Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-928186-16-7 .

Web links

Commons : Nikolaus Kopernikus  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Nicolaus Copernicus  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume 6, Part 2, p. 28.
  2. ^ Anton Friedrich Büsching : Extract from a description of the earth. First part, which contains Europe and the northern part of Asia . Hamburg 1771, pp. 162-166.
  3. ^ Franz Hipler , Spicilegium copernicanum: Festschrift of the historical association for Warmia for the four hundredth, 1873, p. 298; Ludwig Birkenmajer , Nicolaus Copernicus and the German Order of Knights, Krakau 1937, pp. 20, 22; Leopold Prowe , Nicolaus Coppernicus. Second volume: certificates. Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Berlin 1884, 467-468; Ignatius Polkowski, Zywot Mikolaja Kopernika, Gniezno 1873, p. 95.
  4. NCU patron: Nicolaus Copernicus. on the Nicolaus Copernicus University website
  5. Extensive discussion by Hans Schmauch in “Die Jugend des Nikolaus Kopernikus” , Kopernikusforschungen , 1943.
  6. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume 6, Part 2, p. 30.
  7. Eugen Brachvogel: For Koppernikus research . In: Zeitschrift zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Ermlands 25 (1935), p. 244 f.
  8. Hugh Kearney: "and a new worldview emerged." The Scientific Revolution half a millennium ago. Kindler, Munich 1971, p. 100 f.
  9. Copernicus resigned from office in Breslau in 1538
  10. ^ F. Hipler: Spicilegium. 1873, p. 268.
  11. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume 6, part 2, p. 62 f.
  12. ^ Andreas Kühne: The edition of letters, documents and files in the Munich Nicolaus Copernicus complete edition . 141. . In: Hans-Gert Roloff, Renate Meincke: Editionsdesiderate zur Early Modern Age: Contributions to the meeting of the Commission for the Edition of Texts of the Early Modern Age . Working group for Germanistic edition. Commission for the Edition of Texts from the Early Modern Period. Workshop, Published by Rodopi, 1997, ISBN 90-420-0332-4 .
  13. ^ Leopold Prowe: Nicolaus Coppernicus . Second volume. P. 117ff. dig .
  14. Faber: A contribution to the life story of Nicolaus Kopernikus . In: Contributions to the customer of Prussia . Volume 2, Königsberg 1819 pp. 265-267 .
  15. ^ Leopold Friedrich Prowe : Nicolaus Copernicus in his relations with the Duke Albrecht of Prussia. Lecture given at the public meeting of the Copernicus Society for Science and Art on February 19, 1855. Thorn 1855 ( online ).
  16. ^ Johann Matthias Watterich : Nikolaus Koppernik a German . In: Magazine for the history and archeology of Warmia . Volume 1, year 1858–1860, Mainz 1860, pp. 400–405 .
  17. Jürgen Hamel: Nicolaus Copernicus. Life, work and effect . 1994, pp. 173-181.
  18. Johann Elert Bode (Ed.): Berliner Astronomisches Jahrbuch for the year 1816, 19th year, Berlin 1791, p. 187.
  19. ^ Johann Elert Bode (Ed.): Berlin Astronomical Yearbook for the year 1794, 41st year, Berlin 1813, p. 96.
  20. ^ Nicolaus Copernicus: De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium. 3rd book, chapter 1. (Link Wikisource)
  21. Gottsched, 1743, eulogy of the Canon Copernicus
  22. Hugh Kearney: and a new worldview emerged. The scientific revolution half a millennium ago. Kindler, Munich 1971, pp. 101 and 104.
  23. Jürgen Hamel, The reception of the mathematical-astronomical part of the work of Nicolaus Copernicus in the astronomical-astrological literature around 1600 . In: Cosmographica et Geographica: Festschrift for Heribert M. Nobis on his 70th birthday , eds. Bernhard Fritscher / Gerhard Brey. ALGORISM. Studies on the history of mathematics and natural sciences , issue 13, 1st half volume. Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Munich 1994, pp. 315-335, p. 332.
  24. Hugh Kearney: and a new worldview emerged. The scientific revolution half a millennium ago. Kindler, Munich 1971, p. 104.
  25. John Freely: Kopernkus. Revolutionary of Heaven. Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart 2015, p. 244.
  26. Jürgen Hamel: History of Astronomy. From the beginning to the present. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel / Boston / Berlin 1998, p. 140.
  27. ^ Fritz Krafft, sphaera sive orbis coelestis. From the basics of astronomy to Johannes Kepler . In: Mathematics Celestial and Terrestrial. Festschrift for Menso Folkerts for his 65th birthday , Joseph W. Dauben u. a. (Ed.). German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, Halle (Saale) 2008. On commission at Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH Stuttgart. Pp. 489-506, p. 498.
  28. John Freely: Kopernkus. Revolutionary of Heaven. Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart 2015, p. 244.
  29. Jürgen Hamel: Nicolaus Copernicus. Life, work and effect. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, Heidelberg / Berlin / Oxford 1994, pp. 291–294.
  30. Eugen Brachvogel: Nikolaus Koppernikus and Aristarchus of Samos . In: Magazine for the history and archeology of Warmia . Volume 25, 1935, pp. 697-767.
  31. Andreas Kleinert: “A tangible historical lie. How Martin Luther was made the opponent of the Copernican world system. ”In: Reports on the history of science. 26/2003, pp. 101-111
  32. Whether he did this on his own initiative or on behalf of the Warmian bishop or the cathedral chapter can no longer be determined (Hans Schmauch: Nikolaus Coppernicus und die Prussische Münzreform. Braunsberg 1940; Nicolaus Copernicus Gesamtausgabe . Volume V, p. 113)
  33. ^ J. Taylor: Copernicus on the Evils of Inflation and the Establishment of a Sound Currency. In: Journal of the History of Ideas. 16 (1955). Quote p. 544: "Money loses its value when it is issued in too great a quantity."
  34. Ignaz Jastrow: Copernicus' coin and money theory. In: Archives for Social Science and Social Policy. (1914), vol. 38, p. 735 ff.
  35. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume V: Opera Minora. The humanistic, economic and medical writings. Texts and translations. Edited by Stefan Kirschner and Andreas Kühne. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1999, ISBN 3-05-003498-X , pp. 109–168: Economic writings.
  36. Ignaz Jastrow: Copernicus' coin and money theory . In: Archives for Social Science and Social Policy . Volume 38, 1914, pp. 743 ff.
  37. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume V, p. 114.
  38. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume V: Opera Minora . Akademie Verlag, 1999, ISBN 3-05-003498-X , pp. 137–146: Ökonomische Schriften ( online ( Memento from December 31, 2013 in the Internet Archive )).
  39. Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition . Volume VI / 2: Documenta Copernicana. Documents, files and messages. Arranged by Andreas Kühne. Among employees by Stefan Kirschner. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-05-003009-7 , p. 323 f.
  40. J. Tropfke: history of elementary mathematics. Vol. 1, 1980, p. 517 f. - not viewed; see. NCG VI / 2, p. 324 f.
  41. Ignaz Jastrow: Copernicus' coin and money theory. In: Archives for Social Science and Social Policy. (1914), vol. 38, pp. 734-751, cited above. in Nicolaus Copernicus complete edition . Volume V, p. 114.
  42. Erich Sommerfeld (ed.): The theory of money from Nicolaus Copernicus . 1978, p. 7.
  43. ^ Leopold Friedrich Prowe : About the place of death and the grave of Copernicus . In: New Prussian Provincial Papers . Third episode, Volume 11, Königsberg 1866, pp. 213–245 ( online ).
  44. Hans Schmauch: The altar of Nicolaus Copernicus in the Frauenburg cathedral . In: Magazine for the history and archeology of Warmia . Volume 27, Braunsberg 1942, pp. 424-430.
  45. Eugen Brachvogel: The Altar of Coppernicus . In: Magazine for the history and archeology of Warmia . Volume 27, Braunsberg 1942, pp. 585-587.
  46. Castri Dominae Nostrae Litterae Annales , Vol. II, Baltic Research Center Frauenburg, 2005
  47. ^ Letter from the Warmia prince-bishop Martin Cromer to his cathedral chapter on November 12, 1580, published by Leopold Prowe in About the place of death and the grave of Copernicus , Thorn 1870.
  48. Reconstruction of the face. (JPEG) (No longer available online.), archived from the original on February 20, 2007 ; Retrieved March 29, 2008 .
  49. For relatives of Copernicus in mixed line, see articles on Copernicus and his relatives .
  50. Calendarium Romanum Magnum by Johannes Stöffler , with his proposal for calendar reform , printed in Oppenheim in 1518 by Jakob Köbel , who was probably a fellow student of Copernicus in Cracow.
  51. To są szczątki Kopernika . (accessed August 25, 2011).
  52. Wiesław Bogdanowicz, Marie Allen, Wojciech Branicki, Maria Lembring, Marta Gajewska, Tomasz Kupiec: Genetic identification of putative remains of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Volume 106, 2009, pp. 12279-12282, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.0901848106 .
  53. ^ The Nicolaus Copernicus grave mystery. A dialogue of experts. (Kraków, February 22-23, 2010). February 23, 2010, accessed September 29, 2013 .
  54. Astronomer Copernicus reburied as hero in Poland . In: The Guardian . May 22, 2010.
  55. Adrian Krzyżanowski: "Kopernik does not belong in the Walhalla". In: year books for Slavic literature, art a. Science. (Leipzig) 1 (1843), pp. 247-252, and "Kopernik w Walhalli". In: Rozmaitości, Pismo dodatkowe do Gazety Lwowskiej (1843), No. 16.
  56. ^ Leopold Friedrich Prowe : The memory of Copernicus in the grateful posterity . In: New Prussian Provincial Papers . Third episode, Volume 11, Königsberg 1866, pp. 353-402 ( online ).
  57. Print nr 417 Polish Senate, June 12, 2003, accessed August 14, 2016 (Polish).
  58. ^ About the airport. History. Wroclaw Airport Co., 2011, accessed August 14, 2016 .
  59. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names . Extended Edition. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin, Free University Berlin Berlin 2018. [1]
  60. May 24th in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  61. Copernicus 'Translation of Theophylactus' Letters
  62. Edward Rosen: Three Copernican Treatises. 1939 ( Google books 2004)
  63. E. Brachvogel: For Koppernikus research. In: Magazine for the history and archeology of Warmia. Volume 25, 1935, pp. 237-242.
  64. ^ Edward Rosen: Copernicus and his successors . Continuum International Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 1-85285-071-X ,
  65. .. the biography by PROWE is regarded as unsurpassed to the present, despite some corrections recommended by more recent biographical research. - Andreas Kühne: Copernicanism. In: Reader's Guide to the History of Science pp. 150-153. , Taylor & Francis, 2000, ISBN 1-884964-29-X , ISBN 978-1-884964-29-9 .