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May 24, 1543

Copernicus: when science emancipated from religion


On May 24, 1543, canon Nicolas Copernicus dies in Frauenburg, Poland. As a Renaissance man, monk Copernicus studied at the prestigious university of Krakow before traveling all around Europe. A scholar, thirsty for knowledge, he studied every single field of knowledge: theology, medicine, mathematics, economy and astronomy. Pope Paul III, who wanted to reform the calendar, asked him to study the planets and the Sun to verify Claudius Ptolemaeus’ theory, a Greek geographer of the Second Century who said the Earth was located in the middle of the universe whereas the Sun and the planets revolved around it. The Catholic doctrine was based on this thesis to affirm that the Man and, consequently, the Earth, were in the center of the creation. However, in a very short period of time, Copernicus showed how incoherent this theory was. As a prudent man, he justly feared the theologians’ reactions and waited until the end of this life to publish his conclusions on De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. His work had a great impact and freed scholars from the theological prejudices presented as divine truths...

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