Talk:Nicolaus Copernicus

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Former good article nominee Nicolaus Copernicus was a Natural sciences good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
September 18, 2006 Good article nominee Not listed
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German?[edit]

Per List of German inventions, should Copernicus be regarded as "German"? Andy Dingley (talk) 21:19, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Look at the sources rather than opinions of some IP: Copernicus "German astronomer" brings up hits which are talking about Copernicus' influence on Kepler or his relations with Rheticus (German astronomers). Copernicus "Polish astronomer" has sources which are actually referring to Copernicus. Or here is Britannica.Volunteer Marek 06:53, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
There was of course no Germany at the time, but it is disputed whether Copernicus was ethnically and culturally German or Polish. TFD (talk) 06:58, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure. Still, need sources.Volunteer Marek 07:03, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
More to the point, there was no Germany in Kepler's time either but there's a ton of sources which happily and rightly describe him as a "German astronomer".Volunteer Marek 07:04, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
His family background is mentioned in the article and is sourced. TFD (talk) 07:08, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Yup.Volunteer Marek 18:18, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
As Copernicus was born in Royal Prussia, which was just a decade before his birth still part of the State of the Teutonic Order, and there is evidence he spoke and wrote German and had strong German ties (as joining he German natio in Bologna) you can imho safely put him into the "German" category. As Royal Prussia acknowledged the Polish king as souvereign and in the decades to come became incorporated into Poland (until the partition some 300 years later) and he lived and studied in Cracow you can also put him into the Polish category. He was a citizen of Prussia during this time of transition from a German dominated state into a Polish province (just as the rest of the Teutonic order during his lifetime), and so I think you can use both, either or no classification (calling him just Prussian). His parents or family might have German roots, but his descendants (if there had been any) certainly would have become Polish. ASchudak (talk) 21:25, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
This has been discussed before (particularly the "German natio" in Bologna - see the section on "Languages"). Again, at the end of the day you need sources which call him a "German astronomer" or ones which call him a "Polish astronomer". There really aren't any for the former, at least not ones dating to after WWI. There's plenty for the latter. There are also very few which refer to him as "Polish-German Astronomer" [1].
I actually don't care if his nationality is mentioned in the lede or not. The part that annoys me is that some users abuse this "no nationality in the lede" dictum to remove any mention of his association with Poland (like the fact that he led Polish troops in battle, that he was a finance minister to the Polish king, etc.). That right there is sacrificing the encyclopedianess of the article and inclusion of useful information on the altar of nationalistic intransigence.Volunteer Marek 22:07, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
If the overwhelming majority of reliable sources say he was a "Polish astronomer" then we should say so. — ArtifexMayhem (talk) 03:35, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
I absolutely agree with ArtifexMayhem, Copernicus should be mentioned as "Polish astronomer". --Yemote (talk) 16:21, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
And could you change the Schweidnitz (Świdnica). Swidnica was under Piast (Polish royal family) rule up to 1380 and after that long in Bohemia (a Slavic rule) the name was originally and long after Copernicus Świdnica. Watzenrodes (Copernicus' mather) family moved from there somewhat around 1380 into mainland of Polish Kingdom. It is unknown how many generation they were in Świdnica, however we know they were in close relation to Polish Royal interests and Polish families merchants a noble already there. --Yemote (talk) 16:38, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure Copernicus is a German astronom. NightoverBratland (talk) 23:48, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
According to the Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography he was a "Polish doctor and astronomer" - could someone add it to the list of sources referring to Copernicus as Polish? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2001:630:206:FFFF:0:0:3128:B (talk) 12:40, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Can you provide complete bibliographical details of The Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography (where published, name of publisher, year of publication) and the page numbers of the "Copernicus" entry? Nihil novi (talk) 05:23, 27 April 2014 (UTC)

He was never German. This is the same claim as for Nikola Tesla, being an American or even German. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 195.210.244.186 (talk) 15:15, 26 April 2014 (UTC)

Well... that somebody claims Tesla as an American is proof for exactly what regarding Copernicus? 8 years of debate here, spread over half a dozen archive pages, reflecting on some 290 years of historical debates, and finally we have the argument that concludes its all. Please read the archive and if you have something NEW to add you will find an audience here.ASchudak (talk) 22:29, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Name listing[edit]

So why is the German name listed before the Polish? NE Ent 11:27, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

One side in the 9 year old edit war was a tiny bit more persistent than the other? Volunteer Marek (talk) 14:26, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Because WP:COMMONNAME says we should use the name most commonly used in reliable sources. TFD (talk) 21:46, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
What does that have to do with the German name? Volunteer Marek (talk) 21:51, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
His "German name" is the name most commonly used in reliable sources. TFD (talk) 22:34, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Umm, no. Volunteer Marek (talk) 22:44, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Concur with Volunteer Marek. WP:COMMONNAME refers to article titles, not the order in which variant spellings are included in the lede, and it specifies "English-language reliable sources". There is no policy-based or guideline-based reason for the German variant to come before the Polish one. Risker (talk) 22:51, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Umm, yes. And even if COMMONNAME is intended for article titles, the same reasoning applies, and is consistent with WP:NEUTRALITY. Because English-speaking readers are most likely to recognize the "German name." Similarly we refer to Confucius, which is his latinized name, rather than Kong Fuzi. TFD (talk) 23:08, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
Umm, no. The guideline specifically does not give any guidance on that. The section that applies is treatment of alternative names. Risker (talk) 23:20, 19 February 2014 (UTC)
"Nicolaus Copernicus" is the common name used in reliable sources for English readers. Every description I've read, including my current physics text [1] describes him as Polish, so the Polish name would seem most logic to list after the English one. NE Ent 04:04, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
References
  1. ^ Conceptual Physics, 12th edition, Paul G. Hewitt, Pearson (c) 2015
What about using the name "Nicolas Copernicus" which is what he was called until recent decades? It is latinized rather than German. TFD (talk) 07:34, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
To avoid another ridiculous discussion about his "real" name, the different variants should be listed in alphabetical order. The alphabet is not influenced by any kind of nationalism and thus a way to sort the names neutrally. HerkusMonte (talk) 10:21, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
Alphabetically Mikołaj Kopernik comes before Nikolaus Kopernikus. NE Ent 11:05, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
And German before Polish.HerkusMonte (talk) 11:41, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
Good point. So "alphabetical," rather than being neutral, is arbitrary, and can just as easily be used to support one's preferred version by picking when the name or language should be "alphabetical." So, from the "nationalist" standpoint of a English reader, given NC is generally known as a "Polish astronomer," the logical secondary name would be the Polish one. NE Ent 19:51, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
Alphabetically, Copernicus comes before Kopernik, at least in the Latin alphabet, which is used in the English Wikipedia. TFD (talk) 19:09, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
Again, what does that have to do with anything? No one's saying that we should retitle the article to Mikołaj Kopernik.Volunteer Marek (talk) 19:41, 20 February 2014 (UTC)
Since Germany revised spellings c. 1900 so that "c" became "k", Nikolaus Kopernikus would appear to be the modern German spelling. Since it is unlikely that anyone would have spelled his name that way, do we need to include it? TFD (talk) 14:32, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
treatment of alternative names does list "historical names" as something that can be included, so I'm fine with it either way. NE Ent 14:43, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
His name at birth was Kopernik, which he "latinized" to Copernicus, which is how he is generally known. Around 1900, Germans started spelling his name "Kopernikus", in line with their new spelling rules. Why do we have to mention the new German spelling? And why say Kopernik was his name in Polish. It was his actual original name. The article on Władysław Sikorski for example does not have the Polish spelling of his name in brackets. TFD (talk) 17:04, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
According to the article, his birth name was written "Niclas Koppernigk". I do not actually see a good argument to include the modern Polish or German spellings of his name. —Kusma (t·c) 19:28, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
That's how his name was recorded, but it's not how it's spelled today. You'd be hard pressed to find many historical figures whose names are currently spelled as they were when they were alive. We follow modern usage.Volunteer Marek (talk) 22:00, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
We use the modern usage in among English-speakers. TFD (talk) 22:31, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

Copernicus was Polish beyond all doubt[edit]

How come people say that Copernicus was German, and omitting Poland? Copernicus was Polish! His first language (mother tongue) was Polish, nevertheless he spoke German, Italian, Latin and Greek too. As far as I remember, there was a large wave of protests and controversy in Poland after the German media announced that Copernicus was a German astronomer, and they didn't mention Poland in one word. Copernicus's family tree was comprised of 80% Polish people (with pure-Polish or Germanised-Polish last names) and barely 20% Germans/Prussians as his distant relatives. "Copernicus" is a Latin name by which you know a person, whose real last name was "Kopernik". Germans transliterated it into "Kopernikus", "Koppernigk" and "Kopperlingk" - a last name which does not exist nowhere but this particular case. The last name "Kopernik" however, exists in Poland till nowadays - there are families with this surname and it's not so extremely rare, it's even described there: http://lastnames.myheritage.pl/last-name/Kopernik This is why I think that Copernicus's REAL name "Kopernik" should be in the brackets on the first place, before the German transliteration. What do you people think about it? Tell me, why here, on the English-version of Wikipedia, people are so afraid to put the word "Polish" as an adjective describing Kopernik? Why is it so "taboo", and why such a confusion about these obvious facts? BTW - Happy 541-st birthday to Mr Mikołaj Kopernik! Yatzhek (talk) 21:55, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

There is no conclusive fact whether he was Polish or German. Firstly, due to the place he was born and the year. Would you be able to provide a source that his first language (mother tongue) was Polish?

On the article at the moment:

"There survive a few documents written by Copernicus in German. The German philosophy professor Martin Carrier mentions this as a reason to consider Copernicus’ native language to have been German. Other arguments for German being Copernicus' native tongue are that he was born in a predominantly German-speaking city and that, while studying canon law at Bologna in 1496, he signed into the German natio (Natio Germanorum)—a student organization which, according to its 1497 by-laws, was open to students of all kingdoms and states whose mother-tongue ("Muttersprache") was German."

On the English Wikipedia people are not afraid of putting the description of him as Polish, this has already been explained why its not used. The decision can be found Talk:Nicolaus_Copernicus#name_listing (just above this), feel free to have your input.--Windows66 (talk) 14:16, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

? huh. The name listing discusses the order in which the Polish and German variants of his name are spelled, not whether he should be described as Polish. NE Ent 14:26, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

I wasn't on about the description of his nationality as Polish but rather the users' view on how his name should appear.--Windows66 (talk) 16:30, 22 February 2014 (UTC)


The Copernican Telescope[edit]

It should be mentioned somewhere in the article that all of Copernicus' astronomical observations were done without the benefit of a telescope - it hadn't been invented yet. 2607:F0B0:D:4C38:6091:AD92:290C:9D1 (talk) 00:32, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

This is true, 2607, but a statement of the obvious. Copernicus made very few observations, as he said. Some of these involved big errors. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.123.252.194 (talk) 12:35, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

"obvious"? to who? would you expect that only professional astronomers and telescope makers will read this Wikipedia article?...try this - ask a random sample of, say, a few hundred people when the telescope was invented then get back to us with the numbers of correct, or near-correct, answers... tip to save you a little time and effort: the number will be a close approximation to zero... similar result if you were to ask them to describe Copernicus' observational techniques... in truth, you'd likely have trouble just finding people who had any idea at all who Copernicus was, or why we remember him... 2607:F0B0:9:A005:6091:AD92:290C:9D1 (talk) 13:47, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

Good points. Wouldn't hurt to mention that Copernicus had no telescope, and what his observational techniques consisted in. Nihil novi (talk) 23:01, 12 April 2014 (UTC)
Something like Copernicus conducted astronomical observations in 1513–16 presumably from his external curia; and in 1522–43, from an unidentified "small tower" (turricula), using primitive instruments modeled on ancient ones—the quadrant, triquetrum, armillary sphere. At Frombork Copernicus conducted over half of his more than 60 registered astronomical observations perhaps? William M. Connolley (talk) 09:03, 13 April 2014 (UTC)
Sounds very good, especially if references are provided for these facts! Nihil novi (talk) 18:02, 13 April 2014 (UTC)
Its a quote from the article :-) William M. Connolley (talk) 21:04, 13 April 2014 (UTC)

Comment and suggestion[edit]

I found the article informative. One thing to be careful about is giving undue weight to a minority position (unfortunately a common occurrence in journalism). In the segment on nationality, if most sources ascribe Copernicus a Pole then dissenting statements should not lead nor take up the majority of its space. It's a very good article overall. Thanks. Lafanciulla (talk) 19:02, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

Copernicus was also a Catholic priest. He became a canon of the cathedral chapter of Frombork through his uncle, and he served the church of Warmia as a medical advisor.117.213.7.93 (talk) 03:01, 20 November 2014 (UTC)[1]

Current scholarly opinion seems to be that Copernicus was never ordained, and was therefore not a priest. There is no doubt about his being a canon, but that office did not require him to be a priest. The claim that he was has been raised and rebutted several times before on this talk page, most recently here.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 13:47, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

Name[edit]

"The surname likely had something to do with the local Silesian copper-mining industry,[27] though some scholars assert that it may have been inspired by the dill plant (in Polish, "koperek" or "kopernik") that grows wild in Silesia.[34]"

The reference [27] for assertion that Kopernik's name had something to do with the copper mining industry, is not a linguistic dissertation of scientific value, but a journalistic relation by Stefan Melkowski of a discussion panel held at Mikołaj Kopernik University in Toruń, on a subject of ethnic and national affiliations of Copernicus. The passage linking the name Kopernik to the copper industry correctly points out the common Slavic or Polish suffix of the name “-nik”, denoting an agent noun, like in beatnik, or sputnik, proving the name is Slavic: Polish, or Silesian in origin. However statement that adding the suffix to the root “kopr” denotes a person dealing with copper artifacts, may well be a joke, appropriate for such an article. “Kopr” is Czech for “dill”, as is “koper” in Polish. Similarity of the medieval spelling of the name Kopernik (with double “p”) with “copper” does not prove the name has originated from the copper metal. English has not been spoken in medieval Silesia and Poland. The Polish for copper is “miedź”, while in Czech it is “měď”. The German name for copper is “Kupfer”, with variations like “kuper”, “kupfar”, “kuffar”, “kupar”, “kuppar”, not quite similar to Kopernik . The German Kupfer originates from Latin cuprum, and is a term unlikely used by the early medieval Silingi, the supposedly Germanic tribe that inhabited Silesia in antiquity. The Gothic (East Germanic early medieval language) name for copper alloys may have been “aiz”. While German settlers started to arrive in Poland, including Silesia, since the thirteenth century, along with founding new and existing towns on the Magdeburg Law by the Polish Piast princes, the Silesian village Kopernik, or Koperniki, near the town of Nysa, Neisse in German, the likely source of Kopernik family name, according to the Nuremberg Chronicle has still been inhabited by a Polish population at the time of issue of the Chronicle in 1493, when Nicolaus Copernicus was 20 years old. It states about the countryside surrounding Nysa: “plebs rustica polonici ydeomatis...” In approximate translation:“Polish plebeian villagers all around (Nysa)”. Today, according to a Polish ancestry webpage Moikrewni.pl, there are 130 persons living in Poland, bearing the last name Kopernik. Its German counterpart, Verwandt.de reports 22 phone book entries with that name. The name spelled Koppernigk is absent there. The Polish Moikrewni.pl webpage also reports numerous similar names, like Kopernok (mostly in Silesia), Kopernicki, etc. As far as the meaning of the Kopernik village name, it could have been derived from the name for dill, or one could also speculate that it has something to do with the Silesian dialect verb „kopyrtnąć”, “kopertnąć”, meaning to jump, to go fetch something, to fall down, to trip, to die suddenly, possibly from no longer used “kopyra” or “kopera”, meaning a hare, and similar to also archaic Polish expression :”sunąć w koperczaki” – to move in a lively, dance like fashion, meaning “to pay court to a lady”. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Abc966 (talkcontribs) 05:57, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Observations[edit]

There should be a discussion of the errors in the observations made by Copernicus. One of his observations involved an error of about 2 degrees of arc. This is big for the unaided eye. One of his observations of Mars was in error by about 2 degrees. This is about 120 times the reasonable minimum for those made with the unaided eye, which is about 1 minute of arc.

See Tycho Brahe, where there is a discussion of Tycho's errors, made with the unaided eye.
See Tycho_Brahe#Tycho's_observational_astronomy — Preceding unsigned comment added by 73.4.151.141 (talkcontribs)
Copernicus made only a few observations, a dozen or two, and it would take very little time to study them.

Influences[edit]

ClueBot decided that this edit by @White373737:, which added Martianus Capella to the infobox as an influence, was possible vandalism. I don't get it. Sure, I don't know the topic but it appears, on the face of it, to be at least just a good faith edit even if it is wrong. Or is there some horrendous history here which means that the insertion is indeed disruptive? For now, I am AGFing and restoring it. Please feel free to put me right on this ... thanks and best wishes DBaK (talk) 23:12, 15 March 2015 (UTC)

It was probably just reacting to the string “anus“. (I’ve noticed a couple of false positives from it lately.)—Odysseus1479 00:55, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
Blimey - I hadn't even thought of that! Thanks DBaK (talk) 08:05, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I'm sure that it's a false positive, and I reported it as such not long after the reversion was done. I didn't re-revert, however, because I don't believe that Capella's influence was sufficient to warrant his being listed in the infobox. The same applies even more so to Aristarchus, who's also there. To justify listing these ancient writers as "influences", we really need some good secondary sources to tell us that Copernicus got rather more from them than what he records in De revolutionibus or its draft.
David Wilson (talk · cont) 11:04, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
That's fine, and thanks very much. Please feel free to remove it - now it's decoupled from the vandalism false positive I've no personal commitment to it. I just didn't want the new editor's contribution lost in that way ... but if it's merely wrong, not evil, please carry on! I'm absolutely not qualified to go in to bat for either side here. Cheers DBaK (talk) 12:49, 16 March 2015 (UTC)