Copernicus was born in Thorn in 1473 and died at Frauenburg in 1543. His uncle, the bishop of Ermland, sent him to the University of Cracow, where he studied mathematics. The bishop made him a canon of the Cathedral of Frauenburg. He studied medicine at Padua and received a Canon Law degree at Ferrara. He returned to Poland in 1503, but was called to the Lateran Council in 1514 to reform the calendar.
In Poland, Copernicus followed a program of astronomical observations and published twenty-seven papers between 1497 and 1529. He rejected Ptolemy's accepted theory that the earth is the center of the solar system, instead proposing that the planets revolve around the sun. Copernicus developed his heliocentric theory and published "On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies" in 1543. Pope Clement VII (1478-1534) initially approved his work, but when he tried to publish his work at the age of 68, he met resistance.
On June 17, 1973, all the bishops of Poland and Cardinal Franz Koenig of Vienna were present at a Mass for the celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Copernicus, in the Cathedral of Frombork, Poland, where Copernicus had been a canon.
The 20-lire and 100-lire stamps show a view of the city of Thorn in the diocese of Chelmno, copied from an original in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. The Legend reads, "Nicolaus Copernicus, Thorn 1473." The 50-lire and 130-lire show a portrait of Copernicus from a painting in the National Library of Austria. The legend reads, "Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543".
The stamps were printed by the Austrian State Printing Works in Vienna. 1,400,000 sets were printed on white paper, without a watermark, with perforations of 14 x 14. They have unlimited validity.
"Nicolcaus Capernicus." Vatican Notes 22, no. 2 (September-October 1973): 2-4.