Copernicus really Polish?
expert Howard Margolis is featured in the University of Chicago Magazine
February/02) for his book, It Started with Copernicus: How Turning the World
Inside Out Led to the Scientific Revolution. The writer refers to "the
Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus." If it is important enough to include
the national and/or cultural provenance, then this aspect of "our debt to
Copernicus" may need to be expressed more correctly. Looking at the historic
context at the time, Copernicus was most likely more German than any other nationality.
His father's family stemmed from the Neisse Bistum in Schlesien (Silesia), and
the writing of Koppernigk (his German name) are in two languages only, German
and Latin. Unquestionably, major stations in Copernicus's life and activities
were associated with the German state of Prussia in Heilsberg, Frauenburg, Mehlsack,
regions that now belong to Poland were for many centuries mixed settlements with
changing political dominations. Under these uncertain historic circumstances,
for any nation to claim Copernicus with any degree of certainty is difficult in
retrospect. To claim or designate Copernicus as Polish is barely justified.
E. Stumpf, PhD'67
Chapel Hill, North Carolina