Friday, 21 Nov, 2008 Science

Scientists Found the Remains of Nicolas Copernicus


Polish experts performed DNA research of two strands of hair and a tooth to discover the remains of the father of modern astronomy Nicolas Copernicus. For centuries scientists hoped to find the tomb of the 16th century astronomer.

The remains were discovered in Frombork Cathedral, which is located in northern Poland.

Polish archaeologist Professor Jerzy Gassowski said that the research involved the comparison of the genetic material from a tooth in the skull to the strands of hair, which were discovered in a book written by Johannes Stoeffler and published in 1518, entitled "Calendarium Romanum Magnum." For many years this book was owned by Nicolas Copernicus.

According to Marie Allen of Uppsala University in Sweden, the tooth and the strands of hair have the same genome sequence. It is interesting to note that the book "Calendarium Romanum Magnum" along with several other books was brought to Sweden from Poland during the Polish-Sweden wars that took place in the 17th century. Currently these books are held by Uppsala University.

Until now the final resting place of the scientist, who was the first to state a scientifically-based heliocentric theory that put the sun and not the earth at the center of the universe, remained unknown. For two centuries scientists from Poland, France and Germany attempted to find the tomb.

"When the bishop of Frombork asked me to begin a search, I was sceptical. It seemed an impossible task. There are hundreds of remains buried in the cathedral," said Professor Jerzy Gassowski.

The famous astronomer was the canon of Frombork Cathedral, which is why he was buried beneath the floor. After scientists discovered in the main Holy Cross altar the remains of a 70-year-old man, they gave the skull for analysis to the Central Forensics Laboratory at Poland's National Police Headquarters. There experts applied computer graphics to recreate the face of an older man. They were amazed to discover that the face looked just like the portraits of the young Polish astronomer, reports ABC News.

"Now we will be able to pay homage to Copernicus with a tomb worthy of this illustrious historic personality," said Bishop of Frombork, Jacek Jezierski.

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