www.whyville.net Oct 28, 1999 Weekly Issue

Nicolaus Copernicus

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      Have you noticed that the streets of Myville are all named after famous scientists and artists from the Renaissance? In case these folks aren't so famous to you, you might want to follow along this series of articles, and get to know the person on whose street you're living. This week's article is about Nicolaus Copernicus, who is one of the greatest astronomers of all time.

by Lois Lee
Times Staff

Have you ever wondered why the sun rises and sets? Or why the days are light and the nights are dark? The answers to these questions were first figured out by Copernicus.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Poland in 1473. His uncle paid for him to go to several colleges in Italy where he studied liberal arts, medicine and law. After getting his degrees, he got a job as a lawyer in Frauenberg, near where he was born. There, he became interested in astronomy, which is the study of the stars and planets.

From the roof of the cathedral in Frauenberg, he watched the stars and planets at night. He wrote down what he saw every night. From these observations, he concluded that the earth rotates once daily and that the spinning of the earth causes the sun to "rise and set" on the horizon. It then also made sense that when a person is on the side of the earth facing the sun it is light out and when a person is on the side of the earth not facing the sun it is dark. Even more stunning at the time, Copernicus concluded that the earth rotated around the sun once a year.

Aftering working on his research for over 30 years, he wrote his ideas in a book called De Revoluntionbus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), which was published in 1543, the year he died.

The idea that the Earth revolved around the sun was new, and upset many people. At the time everyone believed that the earth did not move and that everything else in the sky rotated around the earth. (In other words, they believed that the Earth was the center of the Universe).

Click here or here to learn more about Nicolaus Copernicus.


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