Nicolaus Copernicus was born in 1473 in the town of Torun in Poland, the youngest child of a well to do family of German origin.
By the age of 10 both his parents had died, leaving him under the care of his wealthy, influential and educated Uncle.
In 1491, at the age of 18, Copernicus attended the University of Krakow. In his four years of study there he developed a keen interest in astronomy, mathematics and geometry, amongst other subjects.
By 1496 Copernicus had moved on to the University of Bologna in Italy, although there primarily to study law he became associates of influential thinkers and astronomers of the time.
It was during his time in Bologna that Copernicus began to question the accepted geocentric theory put forward by ancient Greek and Roman astronomers, which placed the Earth at the center of the Universe.
By the age of 30 Copernicus had moved back to Poland to work for his Uncle. There he began writing a book outlining his belief that the universe was in fact heliocentric, which placed the sun and not the Earth at its center. Copernicus worked on the book for several decades before it was finally published in the year of his death in 1543.
The book which was written in Latin, was called “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” or “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”. The idea that the planets revolved around the sun and not the Earth was a sensational and controversial theory at the time. Indeed it would take more than a century before the idea was fully accepted, underlying how far Copernicus was ahead of his time.
The book is considered enormously important by modern day astronomers and is believed to have heralded the scientific revolution in Europe. Copernicus had taken astronomy out of the ancient world and kick started modern scientific thinking.