Nikolaj Kopernik (1473 - 1543), who would later sign his works with the Latin version Nicolaus Copernicus, was born on February 14, 1473, in the small town of Torun on the Vistula River, Poland.
At the age of ten, Nicholas and his three older brothers lost their father. Out of custom and charity, a rich and powerful uncle took over the orphans.
In 1497, at the age of 24, he went to Italy to study medicine, astronomy and art.
His first studies at Natio Germanorum in Bologna led him to meet Domenico Novarra. Although nineteen years older than Nicholas, Novarra became his friend and gave him extensive guidance in astronomy studies. The first astronomical observation made by Copernicus, on March 9, 1497, in Bologna, was the occult of the star Aldebaran.
Meanwhile, although absent from Poland, he was elected canon of Frauenburg, and his uncle accepted the position by proxy of his nephew, who would not take office until 1501. And in Italy, unperturbed, Copernicus continued his studies. Still in Bologna, he became interested in the Greek language, a knowledge that would have a fundamental influence on his future career.
After Bologna, he went to Rome, where he lectured on mathematics. There, he definitely fell in love with art and science. At his uncle's insistence, he returned to Poland to take possession of the canonicate, but soon afterwards was allowed to return to his activities on the peninsula.
He entered the University of Padua, where for almost four years he studied law, theology and medicine. Finally, in 1504, when he finally returned to Poland, Copernicus was up to date with the knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, theology, classical languages, and law. His intellectual background was complete.
In return for his protection, he served his uncle in Krakow until 1512, the year he died. An example of his personal detachment was the free exercise of medicine in Frauenburg, where he cared for the poor.
By this time, Claudius Ptolemy's geocentric system already seemed unsatisfactory to Copernicus and many other astronomers. Frequently, the observations seemed to belie the theory, which forced them to review the arrangements of deferents and epicycles. All this made Copernicus imagine that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Ptolemaic system. In an attempt to discover the error, he read all the works that preceded Ptolemy's theory. And found out. Thanks to his solid knowledge of Greek, he went to know in detail the heliocentric theories proposed around 300 BC by astronomers such as Aristarchus of Samos. Copernicus still assumed that the orbits of the planets were circular, he realized that the idea of the sun as the center of the planet's orbits made sense, was more logical than the geocentric idea. But geocentrism was an article of faith, not just a scientific prejudice. And the canon Nicholas kept to himself what the scientist Nicholas had discovered.
But intimately Copernicus discussed the matter with disciples and friends. Most insisted that Copernicus put his ideas out in public for criticism and proof, but the kindly cleric had no special attraction for the controversy. Nevertheless, in 1530 he published a small work entitled Commentariolus, in which he shyly expounded the heliocentric theory, but without calculations or diagrams that gave it the power of thesis or theory.