Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish Astronomer

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Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473 - May 24, 1543) was a Polish Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. This system contrasted with the thousand year old Earth-centered Ptolemaic system to which the Roman Catholic church held. He feared persecution and delayed publication of this model in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres). The book was banned by the Roman Catholic church from 1616 until 1835. Copernicus was a polyglot and polymath who obtained a doctorate in canon law and also practiced as a physician, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat, and economist. Toward the close of 1542, Copernicus was seized with apoplexy and paralysis. Legend has it that he was presented with the final printed pages of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium on the very day that he died, allowing him to take farewell of his life's work. He is reputed to have awoken from a stroke-induced coma, looked at his book, and then died peacefully, at the age of 70, in 1543.

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