On 19 February, the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, the World Copernican Congress was officially opened in Toruń at the university bearing the astronomer’s name. The event was co-organised by three other Polish higher education institutions: the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Art History and Jagiellonian University.
The aim of the Congress is to present the current state of research of Nicolaus Copernicus’ life and legacy as well as his impact on science, art and culture. Debates will be held in three Polish cities with strong ties to Copernicus: Kraków (24–26 May), Olsztyn (21–24 June) and Toruń (12–15 September).
The Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń assembly hall was attended by members of the national and local governments as well as representatives of universities. The event began with speeches by Rector of the Nicolaus Copernicus’ University in Toruń Prof. Andrzej Sokala, Rector of the Jagiellonian University Prof. Jacek Popiel, Rector of the University of Warmia and Mazury Prof. Jerzy Przyborowski, Director of the Centre for Copernican Studies Prof. Krzysztof Mikulski and Minister of Education and Science Przemysław Czarnek. Additionally, letters from President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to the participants of the Congress were read out.
‘We see the celebration of out patron’s birthday as an occasion to reflect on our legacy and remind ourselves that even though a few centuries have passed, Copernicus can still be an inspiration for people of science, and his actions may reinforce our own moral compass’, said Prof. Andrzej Sokala. ‘Nicolaus Copernicus is considered to be one of the first Renaissance men. To deserve such recognition, one must not only have wisdom and skills, but also a keen mind that can see connections between various branches of knowledge that are seemingly unrelated’, he added.
JU Rector Prof. Jacek Popiel expressed his belief that the World Copernican Congress will bring together the entire Polish academic community. ‘By inviting everyone to Kraków, where we will discuss economy and philosophy, we’re also hoping to showcase places that have a direct link to Copernicus, such as the Jagiellonian Library, which safeguards the original manuscript of his most famous work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’, he said.
One of the most important parts of the opening ceremony was a lecture delivered by American-Canadian scientist Prof. Phillip James Edwin Peebles, one of the pioneers of theoretical cosmology and winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.