Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Discovering the Cranium of Copernicus: Putting a Face to the Historical Name

I am an unabashed geek; so I'm taking some time away from politics, economics, and the circus of current events to indulge that interest in science and history.

Copernicus was an amazing individual, one of the most accomplished men in history - the man to whom the revolution of the study of science (and the revolution of the earth around the sun) is attributed (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium).  But astronomy was only one of his many talents, almost a hobby.

So, it has been a disappointment to me that in conversations about the discovery below, not very many people were very conversant with the details of his life or significance.  One of the benefits of having a correct image of what Copernicus looked like is that it makes him more vivid, more real, and that in turn makes his life and accomplishments more present for us.  It connects us to our history.

It is remarkable how closely the computer generated forensic image resembles the contemporary portraits of Copernicus.

And, no, he is not the Renaissance astronomer who had a fake/ prosthetic nose.  That was the Dane, Tycho Brahe.  And no, he is not the one who was under house arrest for writing that the earth revolved around the sun; that was Galileo Galilei, and it was arguing FOR the concepts of Copernicus that got him in hot water.  Likewise, Kepler was another proponent for Copernicus' ideas about astronomy and cosmology.

So, out of respect for the enormous contributions made by this extraordinary individual, I offer the following news item in that context. Wherever you are, stop and take a moment to raise your cup, bottle, or glass of your beverage of choice to Copernicus. Without his role in history, we would not live in the wonderful world of scientific discoveries that we do.

From MSNBC.com :

Archaeologists identify Copernicus’ skull

DNA tests planned to confirm Polish astronomer’s remains 

updated 11/15/2005 11:49:12 AM ET
A computerized portrait, released Thursday by Polish police, reconstructs the face of a man whose skull was found buried in a cathedral in the northern city of Frombork. Archaeologists believe the skull was that of the 16th-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
Archaeologists believe they have located the grave of 16th-century astronomer and solar-system proponent Nicolaus Copernicus in a Polish church, one of the scientists announced Thursday.
Copernicus, who died in 1543 at 70 after challenging the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth, was buried at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Frombork, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of the capital, Warsaw.
Jerzy Gassowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in the central Polish city of Pultusk, said his four-member team found what appears to be the skull of the Polish astronomer and clergyman in August, after a one-year search of tombs under the church floor.
“We can be almost 100 percent sure this is Copernicus,” Gassowski told The Associated Press by phone after making the announcement during a meeting of scientists.
Gassowski said police forensic experts used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled the features — including a broken nose and scar above the left eye — on a Copernicus self-portrait. The experts also determined the skull belonged to a man who died at about age 70.
The grave was in bad condition and not all remains were found, Gassowski said, adding that his team will try to find relatives of Copernicus to do more accurate DNA identification.


  1. pfffffffffffffffffffffffttttttttttttt!

    We have similar shows in the U.S., the various history detectives / secrets of the dead programming.

    I think you are safe in trusting this, Laci, LOL!

  2. FWM, my apologies for any glitches...

    am I incorrect, or did you make a comment on this post? I thought I saw one, which has inexplicably disappeared...

    IF you did write something, please, would you retry your comment?

  3. I just grunted that this was a fascinating story.