Nicolaus Copernicus died a nobody in 1543, and his theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun was condemned for centuries by the Catholic Church. He finally got his due this Saturday - the former heretic received a hero's burial.
Copernicus served as a canon at his church in Frombork, Poland. After forensic testing corroborated that a corpse found in an unmarked grave under the Frombork cathedral was Copernicus (the corpse's DNA matched a hair found in Copernicus' books and its skull structure synced with 16th century illustrations of the astronomer), his body was reburied with a granite tombstone emblazoned with a model of a golden sun encircled by six planets. The tombstone credits him as both the father of heliocentric theory and a church canon. Says Copernicus researcher Jack Repcheck:
There is no indication that Copernicus was worried about being declared a heretic and being kicked out of the church for his astronomical views [...] Why was he just buried along with everyone else, like every other canon in Frombork? Because at the time of his death he was just any other canon in Frombork. He was not the iconic hero that he has become.
I'm sure somewhere out there in the unknown galactic aether, Nick really appreciates the gesture.
[Via AP. AP Photo/Jerzy Mytka.]