Copernicus Buried Again
To those who knew him, the man who would revolutionise astronomy seemed most unrevolutionary. Nicholas Copernicus quietly moved through society in the honoured position of a churchman. This quiet man led a secret life of science--his nights were spent on the church walls observing the sky. Quietly he collected and checked his observations for a book, but delayed publishing until the end. "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" argued that Earth is not the centre of everything, but circles the Sun. It was published in 1543 the day before Copernicus died quietly in bed.
A quiet end was not in store for another man of the church. Giordano Bruno was born 5 years after Copernicus died, educated as a Dominican, and eagerly embraced the Copernican theory. Bruno’s own ideas went even further—he speculated that the Universe was boundless, our solar System was one of countless others, and these other systems could be home to life! These seemingly heretical ideas caused Bruno big trouble with authorities. Unable to lead a steady life, Bruno taught and traveled from Italy to Switzerland to England to stay ahead of his persecutors. Finally a local official of the Inquisition ordered him burned at the stake. Revolutionary ideas nearly always meet with opposition.
Born in 1564, Galileo Galilei was fascinated by experimentation since childhood. Though he was an excellent student, financial reasons forced Galileo to leave university before graduating. Among his many experiments, Galileo attempted to measure the speed of light. Most likely he learned of the new invention called a telescope from sailors, and was the first to turn it toward the sky. Galileo’s telescope saw craters on the Moon and the phases of Venus. He was the first human to glimpse the main satellites circling Jupiter, and the strange protuberances of Saturn’s Rings. Though Galileo was initially skeptical of Copernican theory, observations led him to eagerly accept it.
After his death, Copernicus was buried in an unmarked grave. In 2004, urged by a local bishop, scientists began searching for the remains. Thanks to modern day CSI, the skeleton of a 70-year old man was positively identified as Copernicus. Saturday Copernicus was reburied with the help of an honour guard and the blessing of Poland's highest ranking priest.
Copernicus' theory conflicted with the Earth-centred cosmology of the time. At the time of his death it was incomplete, lacking a mechanism such as gravity. It was easier for scholars of the day to reject Copernicus and preach about epicycles. Today scientists try to sell "dark energy" to the public, while insisting that the speed of light is constant. Nicholas Copernicus showed that truth can't be buried forever.