Nicolaus Copernicus correctly realized that the Earth orbits the Sun. Unfortunately his ideas were rejected and people came to believe that the Earth is the center of the universe. They believed that the Moon, the Sun and the other planets orbit the Earth. Copernicus realized that this is not so. The Sun is the center of the Solar System and the Earth and the other planets orbit it. This is called the Heliocentric system from the Greek word for Sun, Helios. (The older theory that the Earth is the center is called the Ptolemaic System after a Roman astronomer named Ptolemy (c 87-170 AD). Copernicus also realized that the Earth spins on its axis. The axis is tilted. That accounts for the seasons.
Copernicus worked out his new theory and wrote a manuscript but he only circulated it among close friends. He needed to make many mathematical calculations before he could publish his new theory. Finally by 1540 he was ready. The theory was published in 1543. The book was called On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies. It was dedicated to Pope Paul III.
Shortly afterwards on 24 may 1543 Copernicus died. However after his death Copernicus became famous throughout Europe. Yet it was a long time before the Copernican Heliocentric theory was widely accepted. In 1588 Tycho Brahe put forward an alternative system in which the other planets orbited the Sun and the Sun in turn orbited the Earth. Yet by the middle of the 17th century the Copernican theory was generally accepted.
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