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Nicolaus Copernicus

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Nicolaus Copernicus is the most famous citizen of Torun. The fame of Copernicus is connected with his astronomical theory – the heliocentric theory – which assured him a place among the most outstanding scientists in history (“He stopped the Sun and moved the Earth”).

Nicolaus CopernicusHe was born in Torun on February 19th, 1473 at St. Anne Street, today 17 Copernicus Street, which now houses a museum dedicated to the astronomer. In the town of his birth, Copernicus was baptized in a parish church, today’s St. Johns Cathedral, spent his childhood there and a part of his youth. He acquired the basic knowledge at a municipal school at St. John’s church (the corner of Lazienna and St. John’s Street) and continued his education at a university department of liberal arts. In 1491, at the age of 18, under the influence of his uncle, bishop Lukasz Watzenrode, Nicholas began to study at the University of Cracow. At that time he left his home city, but he never forgot his origins.

During the four years spent in Cracow, Nicolaus was exposed to many scientific disciplines and listened to lectures by many great scholars, among others, in Astronomy which had a considerable influence on his future. He continued his studies in Bologna, Rome, Padua and Ferrara where, except for taking legal and medical courses, he broadened his astronomical knowledge and carried out his own observations.

In 1503 he came back to Poland and after several years spent in Lidzbark in the Warmia Land at bishop Watzenrode's court, finally, he settled down in Frombork where after his uncle’s death he held many responsible administrative functions, among others, the chancellor of the chapter. As the Warmia canon, holding many positions in the administration of the bishopric, he also dealt with matters connected with the defences of Olsztyn. He also wrote economic dissertations and advised the Polish king on matters connected with monetary circulation. However, he devoted most of his time to his great astronomical passion.

The most famous work of Nicolaus Copernicus, "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" ("On the Revolutions of Celestial Bodies"), appeared in print in the same year the astronomer died. In contrast to the theory propagated by the Church, it rationally presented the real existence of the world and was to cause a revolution in the opinions on the construction of the Universe. The legend says that one of the printed copies was delivered to Copernicus lying on his death bed, though he was so bedridden he was unable to look at it.

Copernicus died on the 24th of May, 1543 in Frombork and was buried in the local cathedral. In 1853 in the Torun Market Square a monument in honour of the great astronomer was erected, and the street in which he was born was named after him. One of the best Polish universities bears the name of the great astronomer – the University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Torun, and also the producer of the famous Torun gingerbread cookies: The Confectionary Factory "Copernicus" (Fabryka Cukiernicza "Kopernik").

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