Happy Birthday, Nicolaus Copernicus!

Today, February 19, 2021, Nicolaus Copernicus turns (or rather, would turn) 548 years old. Copernicus is best remembered as the first “modern” scientist to develop a model of the solar system with the Sun at the center instead of Earth. He was not the first scientist to ever record that thought; Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos posited that theory about 1,700 years before Copernicus did.

But Copernicus published On the Revolution of Celestial Orbs in 1543, shortly before he died. This writing proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system, and is still regarded as a milestone in the academic evolution of astronomy. In fact, On the Revolution of Celestial Orbs made such an impact that it completely replaced the Ptolemaic view that Earth was the center of the solar system and ushered in a scientific revolution that saw seminal works from Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Francis Bacon.

In addition to being an astronomer, Copernicus was a mathematician, theologist, and translator. In fact, Copernicus is known to have spoken German, Polish, and Latin fluently, and had a firm grasp on Greek, Italian, and Hebrew.

Copernicus is especially relevant with the Mars rover Perseverance landing on the Martian surface yesterday.

So today take some time to appreciate not being the center of the solar system. Maybe brush up on some Latin. But perhaps most importantly, let’s focus on the good of a successful Mars rover landing in the midst of a bad Texan snowpocalpyse.

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