Leopold Prowe - Work


Prowe researched the local archives of Copernicus' birthplace, as well as those of other towns in Prussia where the astronomer had worked and lived, especially Frauenburg. He also travelled to Krakau, then part of Austria, to Italian cities, and to Upsala in Sweden, where documents and books owned by the German astronomer and scientist Copernicus had been abducted to in later wars. He published several reports, contributed to the celebration of the 400th anniversary in 1873, and to the Latin and German edition of de revolutionibus in 1879.

Prowe's two-volume biography of the astronomer, published in 1883 and 1884, consists of two volumes, the first (about 970 pages split in two books, before and after the year 1512) describes his life, the second volumes (over 500 pages) focuses on works of the astronomer, works falsely attributed to him, and other documents related to the life of the astronomer. Prowe also corrected the disinformation given by librarian Nicolaus Comnenus Papadopoli in 1726. Papadopoli was reporting the discovery of an inscription by Copernicus to a Natio Polonia, an alleged Polish students association in Padua, Italy. This alleged membership of Copernicus served as an argument to aggressive Polish nationalists in the 19th century, who wanted to rewrite history and create false impression that Copernicus was not a German but a Pole. Eventually, this disinformation was unveiled around 1880 by Carlo Malagola, who proved that instead Copernicus as a German had been inscripted to the German students association in Padua at that time.

Prowe's biography is still considered a masterwork:

  • "Despite its age and defects, Prowe's still remains the standard biography of Copernicus."
  • "As a result of its comprehensive treatment of the stages of Copernicus's life and its cultural, political, and scientific context, the biography by PROWE is regarded as unsurpassed to the present, despite some corrections recommended by more recent biographical research.

Copernicus' nationality has since long been a source of argument between Germans and Poles. Viewed in Poland as one of the nation's greatest figures, Germans also consider the man to be one of their own. Leopold Prowe contributed to the view that Copernicus had German origins. Most authoritative sources, however, consider Copernicus as a Polish astronomer. See, for example, Encyclopedia Britannica.

Read more about this topic:  Leopold Prowe

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