Copernicus behind Skłodowska-Curie among key figures for development of science, finds poll

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

A survey to commemorate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus found that 45 percent of respondents considered the scientist to be the most important figure for the development of modern science and natural sciences.

Maria Skłodowska-Curie was ranked at 55 percent.

The Centre for Public Opinion Research, which carried out the research said: “First, we asked the respondents which of the eight listed figures had the most important role in the development of modern science and natural sciences (respondents could choose no more than two). It is worth noting that this was the first question, so at that point respondents did not know that the poll would focus on Nicolaus Copernicus. Despite this, he as in a high, second place (selected by 45 percent respondents).”

Copernicus ranked behind Maria Skłodowska-Curie (55 percent), but ahead of such great scientists responsible for changing scientific paradigms as Albert Einstein (35 percent) and Isaac Newton (15 percent). In further places there were: Louis Pasteur, Charles Darwin and Galileo.

According to the poll report, these answers clearly depended on the respondents' level of education.

The Research Centre said: “The higher it was, the less often the respondents selected Nicolaus Copernicus (55 percent among people with basic vocational education compared to 32 percent among people with higher education) or Maria Skłodowska-Curie, and more often Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. Einstein is ranked first in the higher education group (52 percent).

The poll also touched on the nationality of Copernicus, which had been the subject of Polish-German disputes for many decades.

The Centre said: “The results show that the vast majority of Poles have a strong opinion on this subject - three out of four respondents (76 percent) consider Copernicus to be Polish, and only 15 percent say that it is difficult to clearly assign a nationality to him. Another 6 percent of respondents have no opinion on this subject, and 2 percent consider him to be German.”

Respondents were also asked whether they felt that Nicolaus Copernicus was sufficiently commemorated today.

The study found: “Most of them (62 percent) answered positively. Every fourth (25 percent) was of the opposite opinion, and 13 percent had no opinion on this subject.”

The Centre for Public Opinion Research conducted the mixed-mode poll on a representative named sample of adult residents of Poland, randomly drawn from the PESEL database. It was carried on 9-22 January 2023 on a sample of 1,028 people.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Toruń on February 19, 1473. He studied law, medicine and mathematics at the University of Kraków and in Bologna, Rome, Ferrara and Padua. The most famous work of Copernicus is De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), published in 1543. In it, he presented the theory of the heliocentric structure of the Solar System, demolishing previous views. According to Copernicus, the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun, and not the Sun and the planets around the Earth, as in the medieval model explaining the structure of the Universe.

Copernicus was not only an astronomer, but a real Renaissance man. He was also an active mathematician, doctor, lawyer, economist, and tried his hand at translating literature. (PAP)

PAP - Science in Poland, Szymon Zdziebłowski

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