When Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492 and proved Earth is a sphere, astronomers started thinking differently about Earth’s place in the universe.
For 1,400 years the Ptolemaic system, with Earth at the center of the universe and all other celestial bodies revolving around it in transparent spheres, had remained unquestioned.
The powerful Catholic and Protestant churches vehemently defended the Ptolemaic view of man at the center of all things.
Some scholars, though, were beginning to have doubts about Ptolemy’s views. One was about to prove him wrong with one of the most important scientific discoveries in history.
Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torurf , Poland, in 1473 into a wealthy family with strong ties to the local Catholic church.
His education was remarkably complete. At the University of Krakow, he studied philosophy, mathematics, geography, and astronomy. He also studied in Italy, where he received a law degree, a medical degree, and a doctorate in church law.
Throughout all his years of study, Copernicus’s true passion remained astronomy.
In 1506, he succeeded his uncle as the bishop of Frauenburg Cathedral in Poland. Copernicus turned one of the towers of the cathedral into an observatory.
He cuts holes into the ceiling and observed the movements of the planets and stars.
Copernicus recorded their position year after year and worked out mathematical formulas to calculate their movement.
By 1530, he was sure that Ptolemy was wrong.
Copernicus’ epochal book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, published just before his death in 1543, is often regarded as the defining epiphany that began the scientific revolution.
His heliocentric model, with the Sun at the center of the universe, stimulated further scientific investigations, and is often referred to as the Copernican Revolution.