Nicolaus Copernicus (known in Polish as Mikołaj Kopernik), born in one of the Gothic houses on St Anne’s Street (ulica św. Anny) on the 19th of February 1473, is the best known son of the city, and its greatest pride.
You can still see, in the nearby cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, the original font in which he was baptised, while the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum (Muzeum Mikołaja Kopernika), established in the house of his birth, displays old editions of his works and the wooden astronomical instruments he used to develop his heliocentric model. Toruń’s residents expressed their gratitude to Copernicus for making the city famous by erecting an impressive monument to the astronomer in the very centre of the Old Town. The granite plinth bears the Latin inscription: Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis Terrae motor, Solis Caelique stator (Nicolaus Copernicus of Toruń, moved the Earth, stopped the Sun and heavens).
As befits a town of Copernicus’ birth, Toruń boasts an excellent Planetarium – the most modern in Poland. Its science-popularising shows are watched by 150,000 visitors every year. In 2005, the Planetarium added another attraction to its offer, the Orbitarium, showing simulations of space phenomena and a model of a space probe.
In the village of Piwnice nearby, the scientist from Toruń Centre for Astronomy, the Toruń’s University observatory, survey the sky using enormous radio telescopes.
The peaceful charm of the city, combined with the Copernican scientific tradition make Toruń a popular place for study. More than 45,000 students are enrolled at The Nicolaus Copernicus University (Uniwersytet Mikołaja Kopernika), named after the astronomer, and the largest university in northern Poland.
Other higher education institutions in Toruń include: WSB School of Banking (Wyższa Szkoła Bankowa), Teachers’ College of Foreign Languages (Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języków Obcych), Higher Theological Seminary (Wyższe Seminarium Duchowne) and the College of Social And Media Culture (Wyższa Szkoła Kultury Społecznej i Medialnej).
This gives Toruń, despite its ancient architecture, a very youthful vibe. The student folk fill the numerous pubs, student clubs and night clubs, and faithfully attend many of the city events and festivals.