An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His MotherBook - 2004
Set against the backdrop of the witchcraft trial of his mother, this fascinating biography of Johannes Kepler, "the Protestant Galileo" and 16th century mathematician and astronomer who discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion, reveals the surprisingly spiritual nature of the quest of early modern science.
In the style of Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, Connor's book vividly brings to life the tidal forces of Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and social upheaval in the early days of the modern world. The wall between Science and Religion has not always been so high. While in the 21st century, we have become used to mechanical solar systems and Godless universes, in the early days of the scientific revolution, many scientists explored the natural world for spiritual reasons. This was especially true for Johannes Kepler, who discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion. He was in many ways the Protestant Galileo, persecuted for his support of the Copernican system. Along the way, a neighbour lady accused his mother of witchcraft, and Kepler abandoned his post as the Imperial mathematician for a time to defend her. James Connor, an author whose star is on the rise, tells the story of Kepler's life as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey into the modern world through war and disease and terrible injustice, a journey reflected in the evolution of Kepler's geometrical model of the cosmos into a musical model, harmony into greater harmony. The leitmotif of the witch trial stitches the biography together and adds a third dimension to Kepler's life by setting his personal life deep within his own times. The acts of this trial, including Kepler's letters and the accounts of the witnesses, have been published in their original German dialects but have never before been translated into English. As Dava Sobel did as part of her work on Galileo's Daughter, Connor has translated the witch trial documents into English for the first time.
David Koch, the Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA's Kepler Mission, provides a foreword revealing Kepler's many contributions to the world of science. Kepler is a man whose name every student of science knows, an icon of the modern age, but few know anything the man himself.