Copernicus' eyes were blue, not dark brown

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Washington, July 10 (ANI): Father of modern astronomy Nicolaus Copernicus' eye colour was blue and not dark brown, as had been believed earlier, revealed genetic research on the scientist's remains.

The study details the identification of the remains, and has also suggested that Copernicus most likely had blue eyes, fair skin, and light hair colour.

"This is the end of a search that has lasted for at least two centuries," Discovery News quoted Swedish and Polish researchers behind the genetic tests as saying.

Copernicus was a priest and astronomer, whose theories identified that the Sun, not the Earth, is at the centre of the solar system.

Four years ago, a team led by Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski found an incomplete skeleton under the St. Cross altar of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Frombork, on Poland's Baltic coast.

Copernicus was responsible for the very same altar during his tenure as priest at the Cathedral.

While forensic facial reconstruction of the skull matched contemporary portraits of the artists, the researchers also performed a DNA test to identify the remains.

They then matched the DNA sequence with that of some hair samples of the astronomer, found in one of his books.

"Of these, two were identical to each other and to the profile from the skeletal remains recovered from the St. Cross Altar tomb," said Marie Allen, a genetic expert at Uppsala University.

The researchers concluded that the "skeletal remains derived from the St. Cross Altar tomb at Frombork Cathedral are those of the great Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus."

Later, a genetic analysis also found a variation in a gene called HERC2, which is usually found in people with blue eyes, and is very common in Northern Europe.

And recent studies have shown that the HERC2 variant is also linked with lighter hair colour and lighter skin.

"Indeed, Copernicus most probably had blue eyes and should also have lighter skin and hair colour," said Wojciech Branicki, at the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow, Poland.

The finding is rather unexpected since the great astronomer is usually portrayed with dark eyes.

The researchers have said that the discrepancy could be because contemporary portraits of Copernicus were often made using a chalcography technique, which does not reflect actual colours.

"Thus, it is possible that the initial impression of dark eye color created by a faulty technique color could have been replicated by other artists," concluded the researchers.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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