Nicolaus Copernicus Dies

Copernicus died in Frombork on 24 May 1543.

Legend has it that the first printed copy of De revolutionibus was placed in his hands on the very day that he died, allowing him to take farewell of his life's work. He is reputed to have awoken from a stroke-induced coma, looked at his book, and then died peacefully.

Copernicus was reportedly buried in Frombork Cathedral, where archeologists long searched in vain for his remains. In August 2005, a team led by Jerzy Gąssowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in Pułtusk, after scanning beneath the cathedral floor, discovered what they believe to be Copernicus' remains. The find came after a year of searching, and the discovery was announced only after further research, on November 3, 2008.

Gąssowski said he was "almost 100 percent sure it is Copernicus." Forensic expert Capt. Dariusz Zajdel of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Polish Police used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled the features — including a broken nose and a scar above the left eye — on a Copernicus self-portrait. The expert also determined that the skull belonged to a man who had died around age 70 — Copernicus' age at the time of his death. The grave was in poor condition, and not all the remains of the skeleton were found; missing, among other things, was the lower jaw. The DNA from the bones found in the grave matched hair samples taken from a book owned by Copernicus which was kept in the library of the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

On November 21, 2008, National Public Radio reported that confirmation had been made that the skull was indeed Copernicus'. The NPR website contains a portrait, reconstructed on the basis of the skull, of what Copernicus may have looked like.