November 21, 2008

DNA confirms remains of Copernicus

DNA from strands of hair found in a 16th century book confirm human remains uncovered in Poland belong to astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Jerzy Gassowski, head of the Archeology and Anthropology Institute in Pultusk, Poland, announced the results of the DNA testing Thursday in a news conference.

Copernicus, who first formed the hypothesis that the sun was the center of the universe, died in 1543 at the age of 70. The remains were found buried inside Frombork Cathedral in northern Poland in 2005.

While researchers have long believed the skeleton was Copernicus, they could not be sure until the identity was confirmed using DNA found in a book housed in Sweden's Uppsala University, the Swedish newspaper The Local said.

There has been a project working on Copernicus for some time, Marie Allen, a professor at Uppsala University, told the newspaper. We tested pieces of bone and tooth from the site in Poland with the hair found at Uppsala. The pieces were tested twice, once in Sweden and once in Poland to ensure the accuracy of the results. The data collected confirmed that the skeleton found in 2005 is that of Copernicus.