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Nicolaus Copernicus changed the universe. He brushed aside the dogma of the 16th century, which held that Earth was the center of the universe. Instead, he calculated that the Sun was the center, with Earth going around it. It was an idea that eventually brought him recognition as one of the great scientists in history. Scientists have named a space telescope, a chemical element, and a star in his honor.

He’s also the subject of many monuments, one of which was dedicated 50 years ago today, in Philadelphia.

Kopernik is a 12-foot stainless-steel sculpture. It uses his original Polish name, Mikolaj Kopernik. It was commissioned by a group of Polish-Americans to honor his 500th birthday.

The monument was created by Dudley Talcott. Born in 1899, he studied art in New York and Paris, then spent years in Norway — an experience that inspired him to write and illustrate several books. In 1932, art was an Olympic event, so he entered two works in the Los Angeles Games. He didn’t win any medals, but he was one of America’s leading sculptors for decades.

Kopernik features a 16-foot ring, which represents Earth’s orbit around the Sun; a disk inside the ring, which is the Sun beaming its light into the cosmos; and a connecting triangle, representing the astronomical instruments of the day.

The sculpture is still on display, at 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway — a monument to a man who changed the universe.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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