Rosie’s Post: Kepler – the beginning of the Cosmographer

I want to start telling you a few things about Kepler, this great Mathematician, Astronomer and Astrologist. He played such an important role in our quests, in my father’s work, in Newton’s research and so on. Kepler had quite a turbulent life. He was a complicated man and a really bright mind. It is worth talking about him. It will be fun, I promise.

 

In 1589, Kepler started his theology studies at the University of Tübingen. He wanted to become a priest, but soon he became famous in the University for his abilities as a mathematician and astrologist. He was offered a job as a teacher of Mathematics and Astronomy at the protestant school of Graz (Austria). He accepted this position on April 1594, at the age of 23.
You see, at that time studying theology, the divine elements of the Universe was not in opposition with science. On the contrary. Or to rephrase it: science and scientists did not dare think that they will contradict the religion beliefs of society. Not that they wanted to.
Two years later, in 1596 Kepler published his first astronomical book «Mysterium Cosmographicum» with which he lays the scientific foundations for the heliocentric system envisioned by Copernicus.  Does this ring a bell? ‘The secret of the Cosmographer’ is the title of our first Time Squatters novel. Is there a connection with that? Well, to put it simply: Yes.
Kepler was born in 1571 in Weil der Stadt. His father was a soldier, a little bit like Alex’s father. Unfortunately for Kepler, his father abandoned them when he was only five years old. His grand father had a small inn and young Johannes Kepler made quite an impression to all guests with his ability in maths and astrology. He was always interested in the planets, their observation as well as all mysteries, stories and fairy-tales about them. But his vision was weak, so, soon he turned into theoretical studies rather than observation.
Graz is becoming more and more strict and when Tycho Brahe invites Kepler in 1599 to a city outside Graz he accepts the invitation. After Tycho Brahe’s death in 1601, Kepler succeeds him as an Imperial Mathematician of Hapsburg. He kept this position till his death in 1630. Brahe, had asked Kepler to study the orbits of all planets, especially Mars. “I confess that after Tycho Brahe’s death I took advantage of the absence of heirs and took the enormous data of his planet observations under my protection, or one could say that I seized them” he mentions in one of his letters in 1605.

You must also realize that at the time symmetry, simplicity and tidiness was an absolute must when it came to scientific theories that described natural phenomena. Everything in the universe was thought to portray God’s face, His will, His way of thinking, so it had to be clean, linear, the orbits circular, everything in harmony.
After many efforts Kepler abandons his theory of circular planet orbits and admits that the orbits have to elliptical, with one center of the ellipse being the Sun and the other being the planet. His belief to the Creator of Perfect Universal Geometry is shaken. It is a critical moment in his life. This opens a new chapter for him that led a few years later to his new theory which was called Astronomia Nova (the new Astronomy)!
But more about this later on. I do not want to bore you. Just remember that these are moments that can shake a person entirely. All his world can fall apart. Today this may seems as predictable, insignificant, but back then people were killed for less important thoughts… Dark days!

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