Thursday, November 20, 2008

Copernicus Found (Still Lost to Many)

Scientists have found the grave and remains of famed astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, a giant figure in the history of science. They have matched skeletal DNA with hair from a book of Copernicus and rendered facial reconstructions consistent with his portraits.

Copernicus established scientific heliocentrism - the theory that the sun is at the center of the solar system with the earth and other planets orbiting it. He is commonly credited with beginning the modern scientific revolution. Though he was a priest and his theories conflicted with church teaching, Copernicus escaped the persecution famously suffered by his advocate Galileo Galilei. This was in part because, though he had developed his theories decades before, his seminal work On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, was not published until the year of his death, 1543.

Almost 500 years later, 20% of Americans have not yet discovered Copernicus and believe the sun orbits the earth.

(image credit: title page of 2nd edition of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, 1566)