David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.
Everyone standing on Earth looks up at the Sun each day and sees it traveling across the sky. If you didn't know better, it's fair to think that the Sun is going around Earth. After all, we seem to be staying still, while the Sun seems to be moving. Yet just the opposite is taking place: the Sun sits in the center of our solar system and Earth (as well as all other planets) orbits around it. The first astronomer to popularize the idea that Earth revolves around the Sun was Nicolaus Copernicus, one of the most famous and important astronomers in history.
Copernicus was born in Poland in 1473. His family was rich, meaning that he had the opportunity to study science at a time when only a very few people would ever attend a university. Copernicus studied astronomy at the University of Krakow. He became an official in the Catholic Church, and the Church gave him the money he needed to further study law and medicine at other universities.
During Copernicus' life, the Catholic Church taught that Earth was the center of the universe and that all things (the Sun, other planets, and the stars) all rotated around it. Anyone who tried to claim otherwise would be considered a heretic, meaning that that person's belief was not accepted and he or she would be punished. This meant that while Copernicus studied astronomy, he could not publish any of his research about Earth circling the Sun without getting into serious trouble.
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By 1514, Copernicus was well known as an astronomer although he kept his opinion on the solar system private. In fact, the Catholic Church asked him for help to create a new calendar. By 1530, Copernicus had finished writing the most important work of his life. Known as 'On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres~.'
It outlined the solar system as one in which the planets (the 'heavenly spheres') revolved around the Sun. This is known as a heliocentric solar system, meaning that the Sun sits at the center because 'helio' means 'Sun'. While Copernicus completed his book in 1530, he did not publish it until 1543, when he was near to death. He did this so that he could not get into trouble with the Church authorities once they learned of it.
The publication of Copernicus' work set off a lot of sparks. The Church declared it heretical and banned the book for the next three hundred years. Even so, Copernicus' research was extremely influential. Later, astronomers used mathematical formulas and telescopes to prove that the heliocentric model is correct and that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
Nicolaus Copernicus is known as the father of astronomy thanks to his work in creating a heliocentric model of the solar system, which presented the Sun as the center of the solar system, around which all the planets rotated. Copernicus only published his work upon his deathbed due to the controversy it created. He didn't want to be labeled as a heretic, a person whose belief is not accepted and who will be punished because of it. Despite the Catholic Church's opposition, his research has been proven correct and has influenced the study of astronomy ever since.
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Nicolaus Copernicus Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography
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