Nicolaus Copernicus (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Copernicus discarded the Ptolemaic system and introduced the theory that the planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun. He defended the right of learned men to discuss scientific theories, even when they differ from currently accepted beliefs and contradict religious dogma.
Nicolaus Copernicus’ family origins and the commercial interests of his hometown, Thorn (modern Toruń), reflect the dual claim which Germans and Poles alike have upon him. His father, Mikołaj (Nicolaus) Kopernik, was an immigrant from Kraków who married a daughter of a prominent burgher family, Barbara Watzenrode, and, like other Thorn merchants, prospered from the exchange of Hanseatic goods for the wheat, cattle, and other produce of Poland. Thorn burghers were subjects of the Polish king, but Polish tradition allowed associated lands such as Prussia to govern themselves autonomously. Consequently, they made their political wishes felt through their representatives in the Prussian diet rather than directly to the king.
Had Mikołaj not died in 1483, his sons, Andreas and Nicolaus, would probably have entered upon careers in commerce. The guardianship, however, fell to their uncle, Bishop Lucas Watzenrode of Ermland (Warmia), who was best able to provide for them a future in church administration. A university education being indispensable to holding church offices, Bishop Lucas sent the boys...
(The entire section is 1930 words.)
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