MAS September Monthly Meeting

Copernicus: A Life on the Frontiers

MAS September Meeting with Dr. Michael Shank

The September MAS meeting will be a virtual meeting hosted with Zoom.

UW Madison emeritus professor of the history of science Dr. Michael Shank will present on “Copernicus: A Life on the Frontiers.”

Description: An unexpected invitation to write a general-audience biography of Copernicus has forced this historian of medieval science to wrestle anew with the founding figure of the Scientific Revolution. I expected the assignment to be quick and easy. Instead, it has driven me back to the sources and completely changed my picture of the man. Copernicus was far more buffeted by Baltic politics and indebted to his late-medieval background than I had ever expected. In this talk, I emphasize his early life in a changing frontier context: the post-colonial political and economic turmoil of the southeastern Baltic frontier (13-15th c.), the astronomical excellence of the late-medieval University of Cracow, and the unsettled life of a prince-bishopric buffeted between the Prussia of the Teutonic Knights and the Kingdom of Poland during the emergent Reformation.

Michael H. Shank is Professor emeritus in the now-defunct Department of the History of Science at the UW-Madison, specializing in 14-15th-c. natural philosophy and astronomy. Most recently, he was Visiting Professor in the Department of History of Science at Tsinghua University (Beijing; fall 2017, fall 2019) and Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Zhejiang University (Hangzhou; fall 2018).

The September meeting will be a virtual event, hosted with Zoom. Members will receive an email with link and instructions to join a day or two before the event. Again this month we are opening the virtual meeting up to Facebook Group members who may want to join in. If you would like to attend the MAS virtual meeting, send an email to by noon Friday Sept 11 to let us know of your interest. We will email you the Zoom link at 3pm Friday Sept 11 that will get you into the meeting at 7:30 on Friday evening.