Getting to know Nicolaus Copernicus

Early Life

Copernicus is known for several studies and also by a few names. He was an Astronomer, Philosopher and Mathematician. He was known as Nikolaus Kopernikus, Niccolo Copernico, and Niclas Koppernigk amongst others. He is of German/Polish descent and his parents were Nicolaus Copernicus Snr and Barbara Watzenrode. He had 3 siblings and all were brought up as Catholics and he became a clergyman. He lived from February 1473 until May 1543.


Having lost his father by the time he was 10, he was brought up by an uncle. In 1491, he went from St Johns School to the University of Krakow and began his love affair with the planets. He moved to the University of Bologna in 1497 and studied Canon Law. By 1500 he had travelled to Rome and lectured in Mathematics and it was here that his partnership with George Rheticus began. The following 2 years saw Copernicus study medicine at Padua before becoming Canon Scholar at the Holy Cross Church in Wroclaw.

Working Life

Although some of his studies and work coincided, 1507 saw him become physician to the Bishop before moving to Frombork 2 years later and getting involved in politics while working on maps of the borders of Royal Prussia.

He moved on to reforming the calendar in Rome before returning to Frombork and a return to politics and organising the defence against the Teutonic Knights and their captured territories. Following this he returned to writing and produced The Eighth Sphere about Jupiter’s orbit.

Private Life

Copernicus never married but was believed to have had relationships causing the woman involved to be dismissed from her post. Despite his faith, his book “De Revolutionibus” was banned by the Vatican until the 1830s.


His work is seen to be a catalyst for the works of many great scientists including Kepler, Galileo and Newton.