The Earth revolves round the Sun, which lies at the centre of the universe. A theory by Nicolaus Copernicus that changed the way the solar system was perceived.

Google on Tuesday celebrated the 540th birth anniversary of the Nicolaus Copernicus with a doodle depicting his theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of the other way round as was the common belief earlier.

Copernicus’ theory came to be called as heliocentric theory and represented the astronomical model where the Earth and other planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the centre of the Solar System.

Though Heliocentricism is now accepted, it wasn't the case during Copernicus's time. Many thinkers, leaders and even religious institutions believed that the Earth was at the centre of the universe. This belief has been termed Geocentrism.

Today’s doodle depicts the planets known during the Copernicus’ time - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - revolving around the Sun, while the Moon revolves around the Earth.

Born in 1473 at Thorn, in the province of Royal Prussia, Poland; Copernicus, completed his matriculation in 1491-92.

Copernicus became a pupil of the famous Albert Brudzewski, who was the first to state that the Moon moves in an ellipse and always shows its same side to the Earth, and was an established name in astronomy during the time.

Copernicus published the first draft of his heliocentric theories some time before 1514. His seminal work, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres), where he expressed his heliocentric hypothesis, was expressed much later.

However, legend has it, that Copernicus died in 1543, the very day the first printed copy of De revolutionibus was placed in his hands.

abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 19, 2013)
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