Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Johannes Kepler

Portrait of Johannes KeplerJohannes Kepler (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German Lutheran mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and a key figure in the 17th century astronomical revolution. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion, based on his works Astronomia nova and Harmonice Mundi; Kepler's laws provided one of the foundations of Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation. Before Kepler's laws, planets' orbits were believed to be circular. Kepler's laws of planetary motion proved that the planets' orbits were actually elliptical.

Through his career Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a Graz seminary school (later the University of Graz, Austria), an assistant to Tycho Brahe, court mathematician to Emperor Rudolf II, mathematics teacher in Linz, Austria, and adviser to General Wallenstein.

He also did fundamental work in the field of optics and helped to legitimize the telescopic discoveries of his contemporary Galileo Galilei.

Kepler lived in an era when there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology, while there was a strong division between astronomy (a branch of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a branch of the more prestigious discipline of philosophy); he also incorporated religious arguments and reasoning into his work, such that the basis for many of his most important contributions was essentially theological.


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