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Nicolas of Cusa

German cardinal and philosopher

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Nicholas of Kues (1401 – August 11, 1464), also referred to as Nicolaus Cusanus and Nicholas of Cusa, was a cardinal of the Catholic Church from Germany, a philosopher, theologian, jurist, mathematician, and an astronomer. He is widely considered one of the great geniuses and polymaths of the 15th century.

August 11, 1464
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Nicholas of Cusa (Nicolaus Cusanus) (1401–1464), German humanist, scientist, statesman, and philosopher, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

The son of a fisherman, Nicholas was educated at Deventer, Heidelberg, Padua, Rome, and Cologne. He became bishop of Brixon (Bressanone) in 1450 and instituted widespread, though temporary, reforms of the monasteries. As papal legate he traveled throughout Europe preaching and negotiating diplomatic affairs for the Holy See. Nicholas' greatest achievements were in science and philosophy. His researches and writings formed major advances in Renaissance mathematics, astronomy, and mysticism. He held, before the time of Copernicus and Newton, that the nearly spherical earth revolves on its axis about the sun and that the stars are other worlds. He described the Gregorian calendar reform in detail, before it occurred. In mathematics Nicholas propounded significant concepts of the infinitesimal and contributed to modern relativity theory. His mystical religious philosophy was set forth in his essays De Docta Ignorantia [of learned ignorance] (1440, tr. 1954), De Conjuncturis Libri Duo, and De Visio Dei [vision of God] (1453, tr. 1928). It anticipated the direction of growth of Renaissance conjecture concerning the nature of man and his relationship to the cosmos.


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