5 Major Accomplishments of Nicolaus Copernicus

5 Major Accomplishments of Nicolaus Copernicus


Nicolaus Copernicus was an astronomer and mathematician credited with several discoveries, rather revelations, that had changed our understanding of the universe. As is the case with all great discoveries or revelations, his views were controversial at the time. Inspired by the likes of Aristotle, Ptolemy and Al-Battani, Copernicus himself was an inspiration for Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Digges and Giordano Bruno. Here are some of Nicolaus Copernicus major accomplishments.

Sun Is The Center Of The Universe

As a Renaissance astronomer and mathematician, Copernicus had to battle numerous archaic notions about the universe, the world we inhabited and various other thoughts that had grown and become common at the time. One such belief was that the earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it. Copernicus said that it was the sun that formed the center of the universe and that all planets and moons revolve around the sun. Obviously, he was not aware of the concept of multiple galaxies or solar systems forming the universe. Five centuries ago, it was just one universe and the sun was the only major star in the vicinity capable of supporting a solar system. The idea that the sun was the center of the universe ruffled many and his idea was also rejected outright by several thinkers of the day. However, he persisted and his idea did not just change the perception about the universe but helped in the further evolution of our acumen in astronomy.

Objects Move Around Us By The Virtue Of Or Motion

His idea was criticized by many who seemed to believe in the daily and nightly movement of suns, stars, moon and other objects in the sky and that we or earth was fixed. Copernicus stated that the objects appear to move around us because of our motion. He used the changes in the sky, the positions of the sun and other stars to illustrate this. He however did not acknowledge the movement of the moon or revolution of other planets, nor rotation. But he did suggest that the longer the distance between the sun and a planet, the larger would be its orbit.

Celestial Spheres

Circa 1514, Nicolaus Copernicus wrote Little Commentary or Commentariolus. It was a manuscript that described his concepts of heliocentric spheres. It was a hypothesis at the time. His theories running into forty pages discussed various assumptions that he continued to work on for years. While not published initially because of the unwillingness of Copernicus who feared a backlash, the manuscript did get published as De revolutionibus orbium coelestiumin or On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1532.

The Seven Assumptions or Hypotheses

Copernicus believed that a sphere or any celestial circle did not have one center. There were several and they could be used to explain the motions of other objects. In addition to clarifying that the earth was not the center of the universe, he also stated that it is the center of the lunar sphere and gravity. Before concluding that the sun is the center of the universe, he reasoned that every planet or sphere revolving around the sun has the star as its midpoint. Copernicus was the first one to indicate that the earth’s distance from the sun was nothing as compared to the distance of the last object in the solar system, then known as celestial sphere. Copernicus called it the firmament and referred to distances as heights. Copernicus stated that the earth rotates around its pole and does so in changing patterns which is why the heavens or skies appear to change from time to time. He iterated that celestial bodies did not change their positions as such and neither did earth but it was rotation that caused the changes in the skies, thus shedding light on the inclined rotation.

General Theory of Money

Nicolaus Copernicus is famous as an astronomer but he also had his theories about money. He studied how money was valued and circulated to arrive at a theory that if more money was pumped into the society and there was more money in circulation then the price of goods would increase in proportion. His theory was explained in an essay called Monetae cudendae ratio or On the Minting of Coin. He had also worked on a theory that bad money will drive out good money from circulation. These ideas were worked on by Thomas Gresham. It is now known as Gresham’s Law. The same law is called Copernicus-Gresham Law in Poland and parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Nicolaus Copernicus did not live long enough to see the impacts of his theories. Fortunately because there was backlash as he expected and unfortunately because he was right and all his theories helped in several discoveries.