Confirmed: Copernicus is dead

Also, he looked just like James Cromwell. Seriously. They could be twins.

Polish archaeologists found what they thought were Copernicus’ remains in 2005. A facial reconstruction of the skull matched contemporary portraits of the astronomer (and of James Cromwell), but they didn’t know for sure until they compared the DNA from the skeleton with DNA from two hairs found in a book Copernicus owned.

Swedish genetics expert Marie Allen analyzed DNA from a vertebrae, a tooth and femur bone and matched and compared it to that taken from two hairs retrieved from a book that the 16th-century Polish astronomer owned, which is kept at a library of Sweden’s Uppsala University where Allen works.

“We collected four hairs and two of them are from the same individual as the bones,” Allen said.

That was the easy part. It took archaeologists 2 years to locate Copernicus’ grave, and they already knew which church it was in.

Copernicus was known to have been buried in the 14th-century Frombork Cathedral where he served as a canon, but his grave was not marked. The bones found by Gassowski were located under floor tiles near one of the side altars.

Gassowski’s team started his search in 2004, on request from regional Catholic bishop, Jacek Jezierski.

“In the two years of work, under extremely difficult conditions — amid thousands of visitors, with earth shifting under the heavy pounding of the organ music — we managed to locate the grave, which was badly damaged,” Gassowski said.

So organ music literally moves the earth. The more you know.