Archive for July 12th, 2009

Update: Copernicus had blue eyes

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I posted a while back about the recent genetic tests comparing hair found in a book Copernicus owned with the remains thought to be his.

That was a big deal because even though people know what church he was buried in, the actual location was unknown, so the DNA confirmed that the excavated remains were his.

Now more details about the genetic analysis have been released and it turns out that Copernicus looked even more like James Cromwell than we realized.

The 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.

Recent studies have shown that this HERC2 variant is also associated with lighter hair color and lighter skin.

“Indeed, Copernicus most probably had blue eyes and should also have lighter skin and hair color,” Wojciech Branicki, at the Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow, Poland, told Discovery News.

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

Why would he have been so portrayed? The researchers point to a common contemporary portraiture technique called chalcography, which is an engraving on copper or brass. It didn’t render color accurately, so artists might have repeated an original chalcography error in their potraits of Copernicus.

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