Topics of coins

Nicolaus Copernicus

The year 2023 will mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, outstanding astronomer, creator of the heliocentric theory, physician, economist – author of one of the versions of the law governing the circulation of money (bad money always drives out good money), and faithful subject of Polish kings – defender of Olsztyn against the Teutonic Knights.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Toruń on 19 February 1473 to the family of a wealthy merchant Nicolaus Copernicus and Barbara née Watzenrode. His father came from Silesia and his mother from a patrician Toruń family.

The future astronomer was fi rst educated in Toruń, then probably in Chełmno. In 1491–1503, he studied in Kraków, Bologna and Padua. He completed his studies with a doctorate in canon law in Ferrara in 1503.

In 1503 Copernicus returned to Poland and settled in Warmia, where his uncle and patron Łukasz Watzenrode was bishop. Before, in 1495, the astronomer had become a canon of Warmia. From 1503 to 1510, he lived with his uncle in Lidzbark Warmiński, and from 1510 onwards he basically stayed permanently in Frombork, and only in 1519-1521 in Olsztyn.

Copernicus’s most important work is De revolutionibus orbium coelestium [On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres]. Copernicus is believed to have started writing it in 1514 and to have fi nished it around 1530. He delayed its publication for a long time – it was published in 1543 thanks to the eff orts of the German scholar Joachim Rheticus. It is uncertain whether the author saw his work before he died in May 1543.

Krzysztof Mikulski, PhD, DSc, ProfTit

The reverse of the coin features a fragment of the monument to Nicolaus Copernicus in Warsaw and a stylised image of sunrays.

The obverse features – in addition to the regular elements such as the image of the Eagle established as the state emblem of the Republic of Poland, the face value and the notation of the year of issue – an image of the Solar System from Nicolaus Copernicus’s work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.