The Myth About Nicolaus Copernicus That Needs To Be Forgotten

Polish Renaissance Man Nicolaus Copernicus was many things: a mathematician, an economist, and a linguist, among other accomplishments. But four-and-a-half centuries after he died, the scientist is mostly known for his work in astronomy. He spent so much of his life studying the movement of the stars and planets, according to History, that the Catholic Church tapped him to help reconcile issues with the Julian calendar, which was in use at the time. He spent decades putting together what he hoped was an explanation that made sense, and even so, the math didn't work out, and Copernicus held off on publishing his seminal work on the movement of the celestial bodies until shortly before his death.

What Copernicus came up with was the notion that, rather than the Earth being the center of the universe, and all celestial bodies revolving around it (the predominant belief among European scholars at the time), the Earth revolved around the Sun. It was a revolutionary idea, but contrary to legend, he was not the first to suggest it.

Copernicus wasn't the first person to ditch the geocentric universe idea

You may have heard that when Copernicus bravely theorized that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, he blew everybody's minds with his new theories, and that his work was subsequently banned by the Catholic Church for challenging established dogma. That's not exactly how it worked out.

In much the same way that the people of Columbus' day didn't actually think the Earth was flat (the Ancient Greeks having figured that out thousands of years before him), Copernicus wasn't the first to come up with the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun. According to Mental Floss, he was beaten to the punch in that regard by Ancient Greece as well as Islamic scholars. Specifically, Aristarchus of Samos, who lived a full 1,800 years before the Pole, had come up with a heliocentric model of the universe; Copernicus even credited him in an early draft of his work. However, he later removed his citation, for reasons that remain unclear.