Nicolaus Copernicus

Scientists Identify Remains of Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus

November 21, 2008 02:02 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
DNA tests have confirmed that skeletal remains found in a cathedral belong to the 16th century astronomer who first proposed that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Finding Copernicus

Researchers in Poland announced that they have answered a centuries-old question about the final resting place of Nicolaus Copernicus.

According to the BBC, archaeologists uncovered a skull three years ago at Frombork Cathedral in Poland, the place Copernicus once lived and worked, that “bore a striking resemblance” to portraits of the astronomer. Scientists compared DNA from a tooth and additional skeletal remains that were retrieved to DNA from strands of hair found in one of his books.

Copernicus was both a priest and an astronomer. He theorized that the Sun was the center of the universe, not Earth.

When he proposed his idea, people found the suggestion “patently absurd,” Owen Gingerich, professor emeritus of astronomy and the history of science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Smithsonian magazine. “It would take several generations to sink in. Very few scholars saw it as a real description of the universe.”

Smithsonian magazine reported that Copernicus once wrote, “The scorn which I had to fear on account of the newness and absurdity of my opinion almost drove me to abandon a work already undertaken.”

Copernicus was buried in an unmarked grave in 1543. His death was not recorded in church records.

Related Topic: Galileo

Reference: Astronomy resources


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