History News: The Face of Copernicus

This is truly fascinating. Copernicus died at age 70 in 1543, and scientist now say they have found his grave  and have reconstructed the features of his skull. The way they acquired his DNA is especially interesting.

image provided by the Kronenberg Foundation in Warsaw on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008,

WARSAW, Poland – Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA In this image provided by the Kronenberg Foundation in Warsaw on Thursday, Nov.from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer’s books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.

Swedish genetics expert Marie Allen analyzed DNA from a vertebrae, a tooth and femur bone and matched and compared it to that taken from two hairs retrieved from a book that the 16th-century Polish astronomer owned, which is kept at a library of Sweden’s Uppsala University where Allen works.

The reconstruction shows a broken nose and other features that resemble a self-portrait of Copernicus, and the skull bears a cut mark above the left eye that corresponds with a scar shown in the painting.

Copernicus was known to have been buried in the 14th-century Frombork Cathedral where he served as a canon, but his grave was not marked. The bones found by Gassowski were located under floor tiles near one of the side altars.

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