Erik Kwakkei (@erik_kwakkei) drew my attention to a rather nice short video from Prager University by Anthony Esolen of Providence College explaining that the Middle Ages were anything but Dark and should actually be called the bright ages. This is a very well done little piece managing to correct a whole series of myths in a very short time span. However I can’t resist taking a pot shot at his completely inaccurate description of Nicolaus Copernicus.
Nicolaus Copernicus was, “a priest astronomer at a Polish university”.
The only part of this brief statement that is correct is that Copernicus was an astronomer. However, it is important to point out that he was only ever an amateur astronomer; astronomy was his hobby so to speak. He never taught it at a university.
Copernicus started his undergraduate studies at the University of Kraków in Poland but left without taking a degree. He continued his studies a various universities in Northern Italy, where he studied law and medicine, not astronomy, completing his studies in 1503 with a doctorate in canon law from the University of Ferrara.
Already as a teenager Copernicus had been appointed a
cannon canon of the Chapter of Frauenburg Cathedral in Warmia, where his Uncle Lucas Watzenrode was Prince Bishop. The cannons canons of the cathedral were the administration or government of Warmia.
After graduation Copernicus became private physician and secretary to his Uncle. Later he served the chapter in numerous administrative positions until his death in 1543, this being his profession and not astronomy.
Although attached to the cathedral all of his life Copernicus never took holy orders and was thus never a priest. The false claim that he was appears to have been put into the world by Galileo.
As always I find it disappointing that in an otherwise good video disposing of myths about the Middle Ages the one sentence about Copernicus should consist of false facts. A little bit of research, about five minute, could have avoided this piece of stupidity.