Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A contemporary of Galileo and a forerunner of Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a pioneering German scientist and a pivotal figure in the history of astronomy. This colorful, well-researched biography brings the man and his scientific discoveries to life, showing how his contributions were every bit as important as those of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton.
It was Kepler who first advocated the completely new concept of a physical force emanating from the sun that controls the motion of the planets--today we call this gravity and take it for granted. He also established that the orbits of the planets were elliptical in shape and not circular. And his three laws of planetary motion are still used by contemporary astronomers and space scientists.
The author focuses not just on these and other momentous breakthroughs but also on Kepler's arduous life, punctuated by frequent tragedy and hardships. His first wife died young, and eight of the twelve children he fathered succumbed to disease in infancy or childhood. He was frequently caught up in the religious persecutions of the day. His mother narrowly escaped death when she was accused of being a witch.
Intermingling historical and personal details of Kepler's life with lucid explanations of his scientific research, this book presents a sympathetic portrait of the man and underscores the critical importance of Kepler's discoveries in the history of astronomy.
he probably didn't realize it, it was almost certainly the smallpox that also left him with poor eyesight for the rest of his life; he suffered both from short sight and a defect that caused him to see multiple images, a cruel fate for anybody, not least an astronomer.9 Late in 1575, not long after returning from the war in the Netherlands, Heinrich gave up his citizenship of Weil, and the family moved to Leonberg, about 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) from Weil, in the safely Lutheran state of
concerned about the religious affiliations of those who worked for him. Rudolph's attitude was the main reason why Kepler's time in Prague was the only period in his adult life when he never suffered any religious persecution.34 Three people were needed to enable Kepler to arrive at his laws of planetary motion: Kepler himself, Tycho Brahe (together with his treasure trove of extremely accurate planetary observations), and the Emperor Rudolph. Tycho and Kepler would never have found themselves
had now done it again with this question about snowflakes. And even though he—inevitably—failed to get the right answer, it had caused many other interesting questions to enter his fertile mind. THE GREAT COMET OF 1607: HALLEY'S COMET Comets are dirty snowballs, mixtures of ice and dust. (The term “dirty snowball” was first coined by Fred Whipple in the 1950s.) They are deep-frozen time capsules that preserve a record of conditions during the formation of the Solar System about 4.5 billion
telescope (which he referred to as a spyglass) that was superior both in quality and in magnifying power to anything else in existence at the time. In November 1609, he turned a telescope that magnified twenty times on to the night sky and changed the nature of astronomy forever. His early discoveries were recorded in his book The Messenger from the Stars, which he published early in 1610. Kepler's books were always lengthy, ponderous, and hard going. The many gems within them can be hard to
them. In contrast, in Copernicus's system, determining the order of distances of planets from the Sun had become a straightforward series of calculations. There was a compelling internal logic to the new system. One of the few passages in Copernicus's book where he is clearly trying to sell his new idea brings out this distance-time relationship: “Therefore in this ordering we find that the world has a wonderful commensurability and that there is a sure bond of harmony for the movement and