|Birth Day:||December 27, 1571|
|Death Date:||Nov 16, 1630 (age 58)|
|Birth Place:||Weil der Stadt, Germany|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
As per our current Database, Johannes Kepler died on Nov 16, 1630 (age 58).
He would impress passersby at his grandfather's inn with his incredible mathematical acuity.
He was introduced to astronomy at an early age and developed a strong passion for it that would span his entire life. At age six, he observed the Great Comet of 1577, writing that he "was taken by [his] mother to a high place to look at it." In 1580, at age nine, he observed another astronomical event, a lunar eclipse, recording that he remembered being "called outdoors" to see it and that the moon "appeared quite red". However, childhood smallpox left him with weak vision and crippled hands, limiting his ability in the observational aspects of astronomy.
In 1589, after moving through grammar school, Latin school, and seminary at Maulbronn, Kepler attended Tübinger Stift at the University of Tübingen. There, he studied philosophy under Vitus Müller and theology under Jacob Heerbrand (a student of Philipp Melanchthon at Wittenberg), who also taught Michael Maestlin while he was a student, until he became Chancellor at Tübingen in 1590. He proved himself to be a superb mathematician and earned a reputation as a skilful astrologer, casting horoscopes for fellow students. Under the instruction of Michael Maestlin, Tübingen's professor of mathematics from 1583 to 1631, he learned both the Ptolemaic system and the Copernican system of planetary motion. He became a Copernican at that time. In a student disputation, he defended heliocentrism from both a theoretical and theological perspective, maintaining that the Sun was the principal source of motive power in the universe. Despite his desire to become a minister, near the end of his studies, Kepler was recommended for a position as teacher of mathematics and astronomy at the Protestant school in Graz. He accepted the position in April 1594, at the age of 23.
Kepler's first major astronomical work, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery, 1596), was the first published defense of the Copernican system. Kepler claimed to have had an epiphany on 19 July 1595, while teaching in Graz, demonstrating the periodic conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the zodiac: he realized that regular polygons bound one inscribed and one circumscribed circle at definite ratios, which, he reasoned, might be the geometrical basis of the universe. After failing to find a unique arrangement of polygons that fit known astronomical observations (even with extra planets added to the system), Kepler began experimenting with 3-dimensional polyhedra. He found that each of the five Platonic solids could be inscribed and circumscribed by spherical orbs; nesting these solids, each encased in a sphere, within one another would produce six layers, corresponding to the six known planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. By ordering the solids selectively—octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, cube—Kepler found that the spheres could be placed at intervals corresponding to the relative sizes of each planet's path, assuming the planets circle the Sun. Kepler also found a formula relating the size of each planet's orb to the length of its orbital period: from inner to outer planets, the ratio of increase in orbital period is twice the difference in orb radius. However, Kepler later rejected this formula, because it was not precise enough.
In December 1595, Kepler was introduced to Barbara Müller, a 23-year-old widow (twice over) with a young daughter, Regina Lorenz, and he began courting her. Müller, an heiress to the estates of her late husbands, was also the daughter of a successful mill owner. Her father Jobst initially opposed a marriage. Even though Kepler had inherited his grandfather's nobility, Kepler's poverty made him an unacceptable match. Jobst relented after Kepler completed work on Mysterium, but the engagement nearly fell apart while Kepler was away tending to the details of publication. However, Protestant officials—who had helped set up the match—pressured the Müllers to honor their agreement. Barbara and Johannes were married on 27 April 1597.
With the support of his mentor Michael Maestlin, Kepler received permission from the Tübingen university senate to publish his manuscript, pending removal of the Bible exegesis and the addition of a simpler, more understandable description of the Copernican system as well as Kepler's new ideas. Mysterium was published late in 1596, and Kepler received his copies and began sending them to prominent astronomers and patrons early in 1597; it was not widely read, but it established Kepler's reputation as a highly skilled astronomer. The effusive dedication, to powerful patrons as well as to the men who controlled his position in Graz, also provided a crucial doorway into the patronage system.
Instead, he turned his attention to chronology and "harmony," the numerological relationships among music, mathematics and the physical world, and their astrological consequences. By assuming the Earth to possess a soul (a property he would later invoke to explain how the sun causes the motion of planets), he established a speculative system connecting astrological aspects and astronomical distances to weather and other earthly phenomena. By 1599, however, he again felt his work limited by the inaccuracy of available data—just as growing religious tension was also threatening his continued employment in Graz. In December of that year, Tycho invited Kepler to visit him in Prague; on 1 January 1600 (before he even received the invitation), Kepler set off in the hopes that Tycho's patronage could solve his philosophical problems as well as his social and financial ones.
On 4 February 1600, Kepler met Tycho Brahe and his assistants Franz Tengnagel and Longomontanus at Benátky nad Jizerou (35 km from Prague), the site where Tycho's new observatory was being constructed. Over the next two months, he stayed as a guest, analyzing some of Tycho's observations of Mars; Tycho guarded his data closely, but was impressed by Kepler's theoretical ideas and soon allowed him more access. Kepler planned to test his theory from Mysterium Cosmographicum based on the Mars data, but he estimated that the work would take up to two years (since he was not allowed to simply copy the data for his own use). With the help of Johannes Jessenius, Kepler attempted to negotiate a more formal employment arrangement with Tycho, but negotiations broke down in an angry argument and Kepler left for Prague on 6 April. Kepler and Tycho soon reconciled and eventually reached an agreement on salary and living arrangements, and in June, Kepler returned home to Graz to collect his family.
On 2 August 1600, after refusing to convert to Catholicism, Kepler and his family were banished from Graz. Several months later, Kepler returned, now with the rest of his household, to Prague. Through most of 1601, he was supported directly by Tycho, who assigned him to analyzing planetary observations and writing a tract against Tycho's (by then deceased) rival, Ursus. In September, Tycho secured him a commission as a collaborator on the new project he had proposed to the emperor: the Rudolphine Tables that should replace the Prutenic Tables of Erasmus Reinhold. Two days after Tycho's unexpected death on 24 October 1601, Kepler was appointed his successor as the imperial mathematician with the responsibility to complete his unfinished work. The next 11 years as imperial mathematician would be the most productive of his life.
In the first years of their marriage, the Keplers had two children (Heinrich and Susanna), both of whom died in infancy. In 1602, they had a daughter (Susanna); in 1604, a son (Friedrich); and in 1607, another son (Ludwig).
As Kepler slowly continued analyzing Tycho's Mars observations—now available to him in their entirety—and began the slow process of tabulating the Rudolphine Tables, Kepler also picked up the investigation of the laws of optics from his lunar essay of 1600. Both lunar and solar eclipses presented unexplained phenomena, such as unexpected shadow sizes, the red color of a total lunar eclipse, and the reportedly unusual light surrounding a total solar eclipse. Related issues of atmospheric refraction applied to all astronomical observations. Through most of 1603, Kepler paused his other work to focus on optical theory; the resulting manuscript, presented to the emperor on 1 January 1604, was published as Astronomiae Pars Optica (The Optical Part of Astronomy). In it, Kepler described the inverse-square law governing the intensity of light, reflection by flat and curved mirrors, and principles of pinhole cameras, as well as the astronomical implications of optics such as parallax and the apparent sizes of heavenly bodies. He also extended his study of optics to the human eye, and is generally considered by neuroscientists to be the first to recognize that images are projected inverted and reversed by the eye's lens onto the retina. The solution to this dilemma was not of particular importance to Kepler as he did not see it as pertaining to optics, although he did suggest that the image was later corrected "in the hollows of the brain" due to the "activity of the Soul." Today, Astronomiae Pars Optica is generally recognized as the foundation of modern optics (though the law of refraction is conspicuously absent). With respect to the beginnings of projective geometry, Kepler introduced the idea of continuous change of a mathematical entity in this work. He argued that if a focus of a conic section were allowed to move along the line joining the foci, the geometric form would morph or degenerate, one into another. In this way, an ellipse becomes a parabola when a focus moves toward infinity, and when two foci of an ellipse merge into one another, a circle is formed. As the foci of a hyperbola merge into one another, the hyperbola becomes a pair of straight lines. He also assumed that if a straight line is extended to infinity it will meet itself at a single point at infinity, thus having the properties of a large circle.
In October 1604, a bright new evening star (SN 1604) appeared, but Kepler did not believe the rumors until he saw it himself. Kepler began systematically observing the nova. Astrologically, the end of 1603 marked the beginning of a fiery trigon, the start of the about 800-year cycle of great conjunctions; astrologers associated the two previous such periods with the rise of Charlemagne (c. 800 years earlier) and the birth of Christ (c. 1600 years earlier), and thus expected events of great portent, especially regarding the emperor. It was in this context, as the imperial mathematician and astrologer to the emperor, that Kepler described the new star two years later in his De Stella Nova. In it, Kepler addressed the star's astronomical properties while taking a skeptical approach to the many astrological interpretations then circulating. He noted its fading luminosity, speculated about its origin, and used the lack of observed parallax to argue that it was in the sphere of fixed stars, further undermining the doctrine of the immutability of the heavens (the idea accepted since Aristotle that the celestial spheres were perfect and unchanging). The birth of a new star implied the variability of the heavens. In an appendix, Kepler also discussed the recent chronology work of the Polish historian Laurentius Suslyga; he calculated that, if Suslyga was correct that accepted timelines were four years behind, then the Star of Bethlehem—analogous to the present new star—would have coincided with the first great conjunction of the earlier 800-year cycle.
He then set about calculating the entire orbit of Mars, using the geometrical rate law and assuming an egg-shaped ovoid orbit. After approximately 40 failed attempts, in late 1604 he at last hit upon the idea of an ellipse, which he had previously assumed to be too simple a solution for earlier astronomers to have overlooked. Finding that an elliptical orbit fit the Mars data, Kepler immediately concluded that all planets move in ellipses, with the Sun at one focus—his first law of planetary motion. Because he employed no calculating assistants, he did not extend the mathematical analysis beyond Mars. By the end of the year, he completed the manuscript for Astronomia nova, though it would not be published until 1609 due to legal disputes over the use of Tycho's observations, the property of his heirs.
After hearing of Galileo's telescopic discoveries, Kepler also started a theoretical and experimental investigation of telescopic optics using a telescope borrowed from Duke Ernest of Cologne. The resulting manuscript was completed in September 1610 and published as Dioptrice in 1611. In it, Kepler set out the theoretical basis of double-convex converging lenses and double-concave diverging lenses—and how they are combined to produce a Galilean telescope—as well as the concepts of real vs. virtual images, upright vs. inverted images, and the effects of focal length on magnification and reduction. He also described an improved telescope—now known as the astronomical or Keplerian telescope—in which two convex lenses can produce higher magnification than Galileo's combination of convex and concave lenses.
Around 1611, Kepler circulated a manuscript of what would eventually be published (posthumously) as Somnium [The Dream]. Part of the purpose of Somnium was to describe what practicing astronomy would be like from the perspective of another planet, to show the feasibility of a non-geocentric system. The manuscript, which disappeared after changing hands several times, described a fantastic trip to the Moon; it was part allegory, part autobiography, and part treatise on interplanetary travel (and is sometimes described as the first work of science fiction). Years later, a distorted version of the story may have instigated the witchcraft trial against his mother, as the mother of the narrator consults a demon to learn the means of space travel. Following her eventual acquittal, Kepler composed 223 footnotes to the story—several times longer than the actual text—which explained the allegorical aspects as well as the considerable scientific content (particularly regarding lunar geography) hidden within the text.
In 1611, the growing political-religious tension in Prague came to a head. Emperor Rudolph—whose health was failing—was forced to abdicate as King of Bohemia by his brother Matthias. Both sides sought Kepler's astrological advice, an opportunity he used to deliver conciliatory political advice (with little reference to the stars, except in general statements to discourage drastic action). However, it was clear that Kepler's future prospects in the court of Matthias were dim.
Kepler postponed the move to Linz and remained in Prague until Rudolph's death in early 1612, though between political upheaval, religious tension, and family tragedy (along with the legal dispute over his wife's estate), Kepler could do no research. Instead, he pieced together a chronology manuscript, Eclogae Chronicae, from correspondence and earlier work. Upon succession as Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias re-affirmed Kepler's position (and salary) as imperial mathematician but allowed him to move to Linz.
On 30 October 1613, Kepler married the 24-year-old Susanna Reuttinger. Following the death of his first wife Barbara, Kepler had considered 11 different matches over two years (a decision process formalized later as the marriage problem). He eventually returned to Reuttinger (the fifth match) who, he wrote, "won me over with love, humble loyalty, economy of household, diligence, and the love she gave the stepchildren." The first three children of this marriage (Margareta Regina, Katharina, and Sebald) died in childhood. Three more survived into adulthood: Cordula (born 1621); Fridmar (born 1623); and Hildebert (born 1625). According to Kepler's biographers, this was a much happier marriage than his first.
His first publication in Linz was De vero Anno (1613), an expanded treatise on the year of Christ's birth; he also participated in deliberations on whether to introduce Pope Gregory's reformed calendar to Protestant German lands; that year he also wrote the influential mathematical treatise Nova stereometria doliorum vinariorum, on measuring the volume of containers such as wine barrels, published in 1615.
Since completing the Astronomia nova, Kepler had intended to compose an astronomy textbook. In 1615, he completed the first of three volumes of Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae (Epitome of Copernican Astronomy); the first volume (books I–III) was printed in 1617, the second (book IV) in 1620, and the third (books V–VII) in 1621. Despite the title, which referred simply to heliocentrism, Kepler's textbook culminated in his own ellipse-based system. The Epitome became Kepler's most influential work. It contained all three laws of planetary motion and attempted to explain heavenly motions through physical causes. Though it explicitly extended the first two laws of planetary motion (applied to Mars in Astronomia nova) to all the planets as well as the Moon and the Medicean satellites of Jupiter, it did not explain how elliptical orbits could be derived from observational data.
In 1615, Ursula Reingold, a woman in a financial dispute with Kepler's brother Christoph, claimed Kepler's mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, and in 1617 Katharina was accused of witchcraft; witchcraft trials were relatively common in central Europe at this time. Beginning in August 1620, she was imprisoned for fourteen months. She was released in October 1621, thanks in part to the extensive legal defense drawn up by Kepler. The accusers had no stronger evidence than rumors. Katharina was subjected to territio verbalis, a graphic description of the torture awaiting her as a witch, in a final attempt to make her confess. Throughout the trial, Kepler postponed his other work to focus on his "harmonic theory". The result, published in 1619, was Harmonices Mundi ("Harmony of the World").
Though the details would be modified in light of his later work, Kepler never relinquished the Platonist polyhedral-spherist cosmology of Mysterium Cosmographicum. His subsequent main astronomical works were in some sense only further developments of it, concerned with finding more precise inner and outer dimensions for the spheres by calculating the eccentricities of the planetary orbits within it. In 1621, Kepler published an expanded second edition of Mysterium, half as long again as the first, detailing in footnotes the corrections and improvements he had achieved in the 25 years since its first publication.
In 1623, Kepler at last completed the Rudolphine Tables, which at the time was considered his major work. However, due to the publishing requirements of the emperor and negotiations with Tycho Brahe's heir, it would not be printed until 1627. In the meantime, religious tension – the root of the ongoing Thirty Years' War – once again put Kepler and his family in jeopardy. In 1625, agents of the Catholic Counter-Reformation placed most of Kepler's library under seal, and in 1626 the city of Linz was besieged. Kepler moved to Ulm, where he arranged for the printing of the Tables at his own expense.
In 1628, following the military successes of the Emperor Ferdinand's armies under General Wallenstein, Kepler became an official advisor to Wallenstein. Though not the general's court astrologer per se, Kepler provided astronomical calculations for Wallenstein's astrologers and occasionally wrote horoscopes himself. In his final years, Kepler spent much of his time traveling, from the imperial court in Prague to Linz and Ulm to a temporary home in Sagan, and finally to Regensburg. Soon after arriving in Regensburg, Kepler fell ill. He died on 15 November 1630, and was buried there; his burial site was lost after the Swedish army destroyed the churchyard. Only Kepler's self-authored poetic epitaph survived the times:
Several astronomers tested Kepler's theory, and its various modifications, against astronomical observations. Two transits of Venus and Mercury across the face of the sun provided sensitive tests of the theory, under circumstances when these planets could not normally be observed. In the case of the transit of Mercury in 1631, Kepler had been extremely uncertain of the parameters for Mercury, and advised observers to look for the transit the day before and after the predicted date. Pierre Gassendi observed the transit on the date predicted, a confirmation of Kepler's prediction. This was the first observation of a transit of Mercury. However, his attempt to observe the transit of Venus just one month later was unsuccessful due to inaccuracies in the Rudolphine Tables. Gassendi did not realize that it was not visible from most of Europe, including Paris. Jeremiah Horrocks, who observed the 1639 Venus transit, had used his own observations to adjust the parameters of the Keplerian model, predicted the transit, and then built apparatus to observe the transit. He remained a firm advocate of the Keplerian model.
Among many other harmonies, Kepler articulated what came to be known as the third law of planetary motion. He tried many combinations until he discovered that (approximately) "The square of the periodic times are to each other as the cubes of the mean distances." Although he gives the date of this epiphany (8 March 1618), he does not give any details about how he arrived at this conclusion. However, the wider significance for planetary dynamics of this purely kinematical law was not realized until the 1660s. When conjoined with Christiaan Huygens' newly discovered law of centrifugal force, it enabled Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, and perhaps Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke to demonstrate independently that the presumed gravitational attraction between the Sun and its planets decreased with the square of the distance between them. This refuted the traditional assumption of scholastic physics that the power of gravitational attraction remained constant with distance whenever it applied between two bodies, such as was assumed by Kepler and also by Galileo in his mistaken universal law that gravitational fall is uniformly accelerated, and also by Galileo's student Borrelli in his 1666 celestial mechanics.
A new edition was planned beginning in 1914 by Walther von Dyck (1856–1934). Dyck compiled copies of Kepler's unedited manuscripts, using international diplomatic contacts to convince the Soviet authorities to lend him the manuscripts kept in Leningrad for photographic reproduction. These manuscripts contained several works by Kepler that had not been available to Frisch. Dyck's photographs remain the basis for the modern editions of Kepler's unpublished manuscripts.
Max Caspar (1880–1956) published his German translation of Kepler's Mysterium Cosmographicum in 1923. Both Dyck and Caspar were influenced in their interest in Kepler by mathematician Alexander von Brill (1842–1935). Caspar became Dyck's collaborator, succeeding him as project leader in 1934, establishing the Kepler-Kommission in the following year. Assisted by Martha List (1908–1992) and Franz Hammer (1898–1979), Caspar continued editorial work during World War II. Max Caspar also published a biography of Kepler in 1948. The commission was later chaired by Volker Bialas (during 1976–2003) and Ulrich Grigull (during 1984–1999) and Roland Bulirsch (1998–2014).
Modern translations of a number of Kepler's books appeared in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the systematic publication of his collected works began in 1937 (and is nearing completion in the early 21st century).
In Austria, Kepler left behind such a historical legacy that he was one of the motifs of a silver collector's coin: the 10-euro Johannes Kepler silver coin, minted on 10 September 2002. The reverse side of the coin has a portrait of Kepler, who spent some time teaching in Graz and the surrounding areas. Kepler was acquainted with Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg personally, and he probably influenced the construction of Eggenberg Castle (the motif of the obverse of the coin). In front of him on the coin is the model of nested spheres and polyhedra from Mysterium Cosmographicum.
Johannes had twelve children between his wives Barbara Muehleck and Susanna Reutlinger.
Currently, Johannes Kepler is 450 years, 7 months and 12 days old. Johannes Kepler will celebrate 451st birthday on a Tuesday 27th of December 2022. Below we countdown to Johannes Kepler upcoming birthday.
Happy Birthday, Johannes Kepler!
Johannes Kepler was born on this date in 1571. A contemporary of Galileo and an assistant to
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