From: djones@megatest.UUCP (Dave Jones)
Subject: Kepler (Re: lost in translation)
Date: 15 Mar 90 05:56:46 GMT
Organization: Megatest Corporation, San Jose, Ca
From article <1990Mar14.email@example.com>, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Aki Tapani Taskinen):
> Would you call Kepler a blind thinker via religious creed? Kepler
> was a very devout Christian, yet produced marvelous things in his
Kepler (1571-1630) was a German astrologer and mathematician, who
taught grade school for the state-run Church which had raised him as
a child. His story marks a clear transition from the Dark Ages to
Indeed for much of his life, he was a "blind thinker", plagued with
superstition. But he triumphed over his beliefs. His is a fantastic, heroic
His belief was that mathematics was a universal truth that preceded
God, and that God was the perfect mathematician. He knew that there
were five regular polyhedrons, and that there were five planets. He
reckoned that God, the perfect mathematician, had devised the heavenly
spheres around the perfect solids. He worked for much of his life
to substantiate that preconception.
Because he could not prove his hypothesis, he decided that his observations
over the years must have been faulty. He needed better instruments and more
data. Finally, he asked for and received permission to go to the court of Tyco
Brahe, the eccentric court astrologer. (Brahe had a gold nose, which was
the result of a duel over who was the better mathematician.) Brahe
was suspicious of Kepler and allowed him little information, but when
Brahe died, Kepler persuaded the widow to allow him to read over
Still the data would not fit. They were only off by a bit here and
there, but Kepler could not ignore the discrepancies.
Finally, perhaps as much a result of exhaustion as anything, Kepler
agonizingly allowed himself to drop his religious beliefs just a little.
For the first time, he sought any model which would fit the data, regardless
of whether that model was consistent with his concepts of God and beauty.
The result is the theory which today is known as "the laws of planetary
motion". They were tweaked ever so slightly this century by Dr. Einstein,
but in their original form they serve admirably well for such applications
as putting satelites into orbit, sending men to the moon, and sending
space probes to Jupiter and beyond.
Because of his flight from superstition to reason, it has been said that
Kepler was the last astrologer and the first astronomer. To me, he is a hero
of grand proportions. To recognize that for most of your life you have been
adamantly wrong, and then to abandon your old beliefs and seek the truth
courageously: That is heroism.