Today on February 19th 1474, the Father of Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, was born in Poland.
Nicolaus Copernicus is perhaps the most famous astronomer and well-known Polish scientist. Copernicus had an impressive career beyond astronomy, making significant contributions as a mathematician, physician and economist. He was born in Torun, Poland to a wealthy merchant family. His birth place was previously part of western Prussia so his first language was German - it's likely he spoke some Polish as well. While still debated among historians, its commonly held that Copernicus sparked the Scientific Revolution within Europe, leading to the emergence of modern science.
Copernicus played an instrumental role in establishing the concept of a heliocentric universe. His new theory suggested the planets orbited around the sun, and not around the Earth. In 1514, he first shared his discoveries and new celestial model in his book called Commentariolus. The challenge was a heliocentric universe directly opposed the teachings of Catholicism. The Bible suggested the Earth stood still and the planets, moons and suns revolved around it. The concept of a geocentric universe was first documented by Plato and his student Aristotle thousands of years earlier. Copernicus further refined his theories in his second book ‘On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres’, which was later banned by the Vatican.
Interestingly, Copernicus was not the first to suggest a heliocentric universe. Contrary to his contemporaries, the Ancient Greek mathematician Aristarchus of Samos proposed a similar model. However, it is believed that Copernicus independently formulated his similar theories. He also obtained a doctorate in canon law and established the quantity theory of money, which became a key concept in modern economics. In 1519, he also published the economic principle called Gresham’s Law, stating that “bad money drives out good money”.