Kopernik (1972)

by Dudley Talcott (1899 - 1986)

Photo Caption: Photo James Abbott © 2006 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title


  • Artist

    Dudley Talcott (1899 - 1986)

  • Year

    1972; installed 1973

  • Location

    18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway

  • Medium

    Stainless steel, on red granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 12′, width 16', depth 5'7" diameter 16′ (base height 11’8″)

Commissioned by a committee of Polish-Americans of Philadelphia

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

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Mikolaj Kopernik (1473–1543), better known by the Latinized version of his name, Nicolaus Copernicus, laid the foundations of modern astronomy. In an age when philosophers and the Church believed that the entire universe centered on the earth, the Polish mathematician and churchman dared to suppose that the earth revolved around the sun.

Dudley Talcott's "Kopernik" sculpture with the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul
Photo Caitlin Martin © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

The memorial sculpture by Connecticut artist Dudley Talcott was commissioned and donated to the city by a committee of Polish Americans formed to honor Kopernik on the 500th anniversary of his birth. In Talcott’s design, the 16-foot circle symbolizes the earth’s orbit; fixed at the center is the sun, its rays extending to infinity.

The angular framework alludes to Kopernik’s homemade astronomical instruments, some of which were exhibited at the Franklin Institute before the sculpture’s unveiling. The 1973 dedication of Kopernik climaxed a year-long celebration of ethnic heritage by Philadelphia’s large community of Polish Americans.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Voices heard in the Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program: Derrick H. Pitts is Chief Astronomer and Director of the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute. Joseph L. Zazyczny (1935-2020) was a founder and former President of the Polish Heritage Society. | Segment Producer: Ann Heppermann

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is the Association for Public Art’s award-winning audio program for Philadelphia’s outdoor sculpture. Available for free by phone, mobile app, or online, the program features more than 150 voices from all walks of life – artists, educators, civic leaders, historians, and those with personal connections to the artworks.

This artwork is part of the Along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway tour

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