Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO – Kopernik by artist Dudley Talcott

[Derrick Pitts] When you look at the sculpture you can immediately identify that it is something astronomical. [Joe Zazyczny] The center is the sun. [Pitts] And the ring, going around the center. [Zazyczny] Riding around in a circle [Pitts] Reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. I’m Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin Institute. [Zazyczny] My name is Joe Zazyczny. I was one of the youngest city councilmen ever elected in Philadelphia, and I also was a president of the Polish Heritage Society. [Pitts] We are standing at the sculpture “Kopernik.” [Zazyczny] The artist was Dudley Talcott. This monument was dedicated in 1973, and the monument itself was an idea which I came up with because we were approaching the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth. [Harpsicord begins playing] [Pitts] Copernicus was a 15th century scholar. [Zazyczny] And he reversed the idea that had dominated astronomy for thousands of years. [Pitts] His idea was very simply that it’s not the earth that stands at the center of the solar system but it’s the sun that stands at the center of the universe as he would describe it then. [Zazyczny] And the Polish Heritage Society they didn’t want a statue as such, we wanted something to relate to his findings at that time, and his theory. [Pitts] Copernicus straightens out thousands of years years of misunderstanding about how our solar system works, and from that point on, we never look back. [Harpsicord playing] [Zazyczny] As you walk closer to the monument, you will see the name on the monument of Kopernik. [Symphony begins] [Pitts] Most people in modern times know the name of this great scientist as Nicolas Copernicus, that’s his Latinized name. [Zazyczny] So, the Polish Heritage Society, we wanted to acquaint our American friends about the accomplishments of Poles and Polish Americans because Polish people are not ones to push out their chests and say, “Look at what we’ve done,” but when there is someone who has contributed, like Kopernik contributed, you take pride it in and say, “Oh yes, he was a Pole.” [Symphony ends, choral music fades in] [Pitts] So where we are looking at the statue is a really interesting location. [Zazyczny] If you look behind it, is the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Derrick Pitts: And it’s right across the street from the Franklin Institute. The temple of science in Philadelphia if you will. And it’s a great story to have the Church pitted against Science all the time, particularly in the case of astronomy where there’s this titanic battle of cosmic forces of God and the Astronomers, but Kopernik was not an antagonistic person towards the Church at all. [Zazyczny] He was a devout Catholic. [Pitts] Raised pretty much by his uncle – [Zazyczny] – uncle who was a bishop! [Pitts] And so for him it’s not so much how do I force people into understanding or believing what I’m saying as it is for him to present the correct alternative possibility for what the structure of the solar system is. [Pitts] So this is a fabulous location for this sculpture to be located because Kopernik sort of makes a junction between Church and Science and the work of Kopernik stands at the vertex of these two sides of the that view of the universe. [Choral music fades out]

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