Copernicus: Body-Snatchers and Astronomical Revolution

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Fellows Lecture by Dr. Karl Galle at Linda Hall Library, “The Unknown Copernicus: Spies, Printers, Amazons, and Body Snatchers in an Age of Astronomical Revolution.” I’ve included a few images from the lecture and reception in the library’s Rare Book Room.

Dr. Galle’s April 28th lecture capped a six month visit to the library in order to study more on the life and work of Copernicus, a subject that began as a simple sidebar in his dissertation.

Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
While the place of Copernicus in the history of astronomy is well documented and quite secure, there were other aspects of his life that are far less appreciated, and paint a more fascinating portrait of a man that until now is usually only thought of as a ‘sixteenth century astronomer.’

Georg von Peuerbach’s
Theoricae novae planetarium (1542)

What Dr. Galle found from his time among the open and closed stacks of the LHL’s rare books was that in addition to being next to impossible to make a living as an astronomer in Copernicus’s time, his ‘day job’ as a government functionary contained high adventure and intrigue, including when his apartment ransacked for a map that was thought to show geographic boundaries. He also had a physiologist acquaintance that were known to snatch bodies of the executed for truly scientific purposes.

Dr. Galle is now returning to his day job at the American University in Cairo, and hopes to have developed a book proposal by the end of 2016 dealing with his findings at the LHL.

Follow Dr. Galle on

Georg von Peuerbach’s
Theoricae novae planetarium…ab Erasmo Reinholdo…auctae (1553)