True genius. Creator of the heliocentric model of the Universe. Astronomer, mathematician, physician, lawyer, economist, philosopher: one of the most remarkable students of the University of Kraków and at the same time one of the most famous men of science in the world. Nicolaus Copernicus. Why is he so extraordinary? What proof do we have that he was Polish? What did he wait for thirty years before publishing his earth-shattering work, De revolutionibus? What is the most spectacular lie about Copernicus? What can we still learn from him today? The articles published in this special edition of Alma Mater monthly are an attempt at answering these and many more questions about the life and passions of the exceptional Polish scholar. The issue is published to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus and the 480th anniversary of his death.

Copernicus was a modest man. He was characterised by his humility in the pursuit of truth, curiosity about the world, consistency in avoiding rash actions and courage in the face of new challenges. His studies in 1491–1495 in Kraków had a profound impact on his scholarly career, and his most famous work, as stressed by Professor Marcin Karas in the issue’s opening interview, has its roots in Kraków. Professor Krzysztof Stopka writes about the thriving liberal arts school at the University of Kraków and the open-mindedness of young Copernicus’ teachers, while Reverend Professor Michał Heller, in a published fragment of his latest book Nicolaus Copernicus’ Theory of Relativity, emphasises that ‘in his work, Copernicus’ pioneering astronomical achievements are intertwined with his contemporary worldview on philosophy and nature’. The issue also features the fascinating story of the subsequent owners of the De revolutionibus manuscript and its way to the Jagiellonian Library told by Professor Zdzisław Pietrzyk. There are noteworthy texts about Copernicus as a physician, about the traces of his reflections in modern economic thought, about exhibitions devoted to the astronomer in the Royal Castle in Warsaw and in the Jagiellonian Library, about numerous Copernicana as well as Jan Matejko’s famous painting Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God owned by the Jagiellonian University.

I encourage you to read on, and I hope that the articles published in this issue of Alma Mater, together with more than 250 unique illustrations sourced mainly from the Jagiellonian Library and Jagiellonian University Museum, are a fitting commemoration of Copernicus’ life and work, presenting interesting insights into his biography and showing him in a new light.

I would also like to believe that the knowledge contained in this issue will intrigue the Readers and become an inspiration for creative endeavours in various fields. Maybe it will even give them an idea for a new research project and entice them to solve some mind-boggling research mysteries? As we have learned from Copernicus, everyone can become a discoverer, provided they have no shortage of passion…

Rita Pagacz-Moczarska

243 / 2023