Kepler


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Kepler

     As far as people who are well versed in just about every aspect of life, Johannes Kepler was one of the great few. Unlike many of the great thinkers of his era, he was not skeptical about writing down his findings in his correspondence and, in turn getting them published so he would receive full credit for his ideas. At the time of Kepler there were no scientific journals that he could post his findings on. His work in developing the Planetary Laws of Motion supercede all findings in celestial mechanics. This is not to mention that the man is credited with originating the word satellite as well as several firsts in the field of optics.
     Johannes Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, Wuttenberg on the 27th of December 1571. Wurttenberg was then part of the Holy Roman Empire, but now its borders lie in present day Germany. He died November 15th, 1630 in Regensburg which also currently lies in Germany. Kepler was the first child born to a mercenary soldier and the daughter of an innkeeper.# The very same inn that Johannes stayed for much of his childhood after the age of five when his father left the family to fight in the Netherlands. Kepler’s early work at a nearby seminary got him enough recognition to honor a scholarship to the University of Tubingen.1 It was there that he was first introduced to the ideas of Copernicus, which he seemed to take a strong liking to right away. In one of his first published works while earning his way as a Mathematics teacher in Graz he was the first to defend Copernicus and his Copernican system. The theory that the planets revolve around the sun not the Earth was still being refuted by some of the more prominent thinkers of the time. His school was undoubtedly Lutheran, which also was the religion of his family so the connection was strong. He held fast to the Augsburg Confession of Lutheranism, but refused to sign the Formula of Concord because of his disagreement with some of the values listed in it.# This did not sit well with those in authority and Kepler was excluded from the sacrament in the Lutheran Church. He also refused to convert to Catholicism during this time which left him no side to take in the Thirty-Years War. This did not deter him from his faith and belief in God.

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One can see in many of his published works that there are many references to God, and he saw his progression in the fields of astronomy and mathematics as a “fulfillment of his Christian duty to understand the Universe that He had created.”1 As a firm believer in the proposed ideas of Plato and Pythagoras that God had constructed the Universe in accordance to a mathematical scheme, he saw his ideas as a progression in the steps needed to figure out that plan.
     Two out of the three Laws of Planetary Motion were published in his Mysterium Cosmographicum. He worked hand in hand with the observations of Tycho Brahe who proceeded him as Imperial Mathematician. An abundance of findings from Brahe allowed Kepler to check his diagrams of possible orbits over and over again until he was satisfied.# Nearly a thousand folio sheets of arithmetic have survived over the years which lay out the process in which Kepler came up with his First Law. This tedious endeavor is often referred to as his personally coined “ My War with Mars.”1 Kepler proposed that the orbit of Mars was an ellipse with the Sun at its focal point. His Copernican ideals from his early work at the University of Tubingen were extremely important in his deriving of the three Planetary Laws of Motion. Also suggested by Kepler, which came to be known as his Second Law, revealed that a line joining the planet to the Sun moved out in equal areas in equal times, showing a direct correlation between the area of the orbit and a measure of time.1 Published in another one of his more famous works, Harmonices mundi libri V, was his Third Law. It states “that for any two planets the ratio of the squares of their periods will be the same as the ratio of the cubes of the mean radii of their orbits.”1 It was at this same time that he was working on his Third Law that his mother was charged with witchcraft. She was eventually released citing the authorities’ failure to adhere to legal procedures in the use of torture.1 The Laws of Planetary Motion, which are exclusively his, would be considered very significant if devoted to a lifetime’s worth of work. For his life -long achievements Kepler’s name is forever sketched at or near the top of any list of prominent minds. Furthermore, the most important thing to remember about Kepler is, that his knowledge was so universal it is important to note some of the other firsts that he is credited with inventing. Kepler was:
First to suggest that the Sun rotates about its axis in Astronomia Nova
First to derive the birth year of Christ, that is now universally accepted.
First to derive logarithms purely based on mathematics, independent of Napier's tables published in 1614.
First to explain that the tides are caused by the Moon
First to describe: real, virtual, upright and inverted images and magnification
First to explain the process of vision by refraction within the eye;
First to formulate eyeglass designing for nearsightedness and farsightedness;
First to explain the use of both eyes for depth perception.2


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