Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish scientist and astronomer who specialized in mathematics and optics. He is remembered mostly for advancing the idea that the sun is at he center of the solar system, not the Earth (On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, 1543).
This was somewhat controversial because Ptolemy‘s theory – that the Earth is the center of the universe – predominated at the time.
Not surprisingly, prominent Churchmen wanted to stamp out his theory. One of such tried to apply the philosophical arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas to do so (name not really worth remembering but if curious, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus#Controversy).
The German poet Goethe had this to say about Copernicus’s lasting influence in the history of ideas:
Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus.
Copernicus wasn’t exactly the first to come up with a heliocentric theory, however. See https://earthpages.wordpress.com/?s=+Aristarchus+of+Samos and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus#Predecessors.
- Nicolaus Copernicus’s revolutionary 1543 view of the… (exp.lore.com)
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