A Short Reflection on Nicolaus Copernicus and some Events during his Life

Mikołaj Kopernik, Wikipedia

Few individuals hold such prominence in historical Astronomy as Nicolaus Copernicus, the father of the so-called Copernican Revolution. He lived from 1473 to 1543 and started the shift which led to the jettisoning of the geocentric model of the solar system in favor of the (correct) heliocentric model. Copernicus thus followed in the footsteps of the ancient Greek astronomer Aristarchus, who the Greeks unfortunately did not listen to (Here is a great source on Copernicus!). During Copernicus’ life, Christopher Columbus paved the way for even more understanding about our planet by inadvertently discovering the Americas in 1492. Only a few decades later in 1529, the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Europe was halted at Vienna, which ensured that the future advances in astronomy would have to deal with Christian religious authorities (which often didn’t work out very well) and not Muslim authorities. During all of this, William Tyndale (1494-1536) translated the Bible into English, paving the way for the Church of England to later separate from the Catholic Church which set the stage for Britain’s future religious conflict with their colonialist competitors from Spain and France.

Paying close attention to the dates in which Copernicus lived and subsequently connecting the dots to how his life overlapped with other influential figures and events of the past puts it all into perspective. As we can see, while Copernicus was discovering that the sun was the center of the solar system and thereby changed the accepted view of the earth in relation to the universe, Columbus found a New World and changed the common understanding of the earth itself. People like Tyndale and events like the Siege of Vienna also greatly affected the future of Europe and thus its astronomers, ensuring Christian rule across most of the continent even as Christians turned against each other with the Protestant Reformation. It’s easy when looking at history to miss how consequential lives and events often overlap!


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