Born in the Polish city of Torun in 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus was the youngest of four children of a wealthy merchant. His father died when Nicolaus was 10. An uncle took him under his wing and oversaw his education at the University of Krakow. He spent several years in Italy studying medicine and law, returning in 1503 to Poland, where he joined the canonry under his uncle, who was now Prince-Bishop of Warmia.
Copernicus was a master of both languages and mathematics, translating several important works and developing ideas about economics, as well as working on his astronomical theories. The theory he outlined in De Revolutionibus was daunting in its mathematical complexity, so while many recognized its significance, it was not widely adopted by astronomers for practical everyday use.