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Science & Technology => History of Science => Topic started by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:02:51 am



Title: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:02:51 am
Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News


July 9, 2009 -- Nicolaus Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy, gazed at the sky through bright blue eyes, according to genetic research that has identified the scientist's remains.

Published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research -- announced last November -- details the identification of the remains, while also suggesting that Copernicus most likely had blue eyes, fair skin and light hair color.

"This is the end of a search that has lasted for at least two centuries," Swedish and Polish researchers who carried the genetic tests wrote.

Unsuccessful searches for the final resting place of the priest and astronomer, whose theories identified the sun, not the Earth, as the center of the solar system, were carried out in 1807 by Napoleon and again just before the outbreak of World War II.

Four years ago, a team led by Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski found an incomplete skeleton under the St. Cross altar of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Frombork, on Poland's Baltic coast. Indeed, Copernicus was responsible for the very same altar during his tenure as priest at the Cathedral.


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:03:23 am
Despite missing the lower jaw, the skull provided additional clues that led to the identification of the remains. It belonged to a man who died at the age between the age of 60 and 70, and had suffered a broken nose. The skull also featured a cut mark above the left eye.

Indeed, Copernicus, who died in Frombork on May 24, 1543 at the age of 70, had a crooked nose -- the consequence of an accident as a child. Furthermore, his self portrait shows a scar above the left eye.

Although forensic facial reconstruction of the skull matched contemporary portraits, a DNA test was performed in order to identify the remains.

Because of a lack of genetic material from maternal or paternal relatives, "the hope to find a reference DNA that could be linked to Copernicus was focused on an astronomical reference book, Calendarium Romanum Magnum by Johannes Stoeffler," said the researchers.

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/09/copernicus-blue-eyes.html


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:04:33 am
(http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/09/gallery/copernicus-324x205.jpg)

Portrait of Copernicus


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:05:23 am
(http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/09/gallery/copernicus-face-324x205.jpg)

Copernicus Reconstructed


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:07:32 am
Kept at the Museum Gustavianum at Uppsala University, the book was owned by Copernicus for decades. Scattered within the pages, there were 9 hair samples. The researchers found sequence data of mitochondrial DNA -- which is passed intact from mother to child -- on four of the hair samples.

"Of these, two were identical to each other and to the profile from the skeletal remains recovered from the St. Cross Altar tomb," Marie Allen, a genetic expert at Uppsala University, told Discovery News.

The researchers concluded that the "skeletal remains derived from the St. Cross Altar tomb at Frombork Cathedral are those of the great Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus."

The genetic analysis also found a variation in a gene called HERC2, which is usually found in people with blue eyes and is very common in Northern Europe.


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:07:47 am
Recent studies have shown that this HERC2 variant is also associated with lighter hair color and lighter skin.

"Indeed, Copernicus most probably had blue eyes and should also have lighter skin and hair color," Wojciech Branicki, at the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow, Poland, told Discovery News.

The finding is rather unexpected, since the great astronomer is usually portrayed with dark eyes.

According to the researchers, a possible explanation for this discrepancy is that contemporary portraits of Copernicus were often made using a chalcography technique, which does not reflect actual colors.

"Thus, it is possible that the initial impression of dark eye color created by a faulty technique color could have been replicated by other artists," the researchers concluded.


Title: Re: Copernicus Had Blue Eyes
Post by: Tannhäuser on July 12, 2009, 01:08:13 am
(http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/09/gallery/copernicus-book-324x205.jpg)

Copernicus' Book