Nicolaus Copernicus Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

One of the great astronomers of history, Nicolaus Copernicus, put forth the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun instead of the other way around. Learn about the life and achievements of Copernicus in this lesson. Updated: 05/12/2020

Nicolaus Copernicus

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~.'

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