Along with Galileo, Kepler operated in the outbreak of new ideas that included the reformation religious movement. They both rejected the medieval standard of "saving the appearances" - fitting what was seen with no attempt to understand the deeper principles - to a modern view of science as reflecting a deep understanding of the way nature behaves. Unfortunately for Kepler, he was in the middle of the political storm created by the reformation - Galileo was much better protected in Italy. ribbon.jpg (3557 bytes)

Kepler went to the renowned university at Tubingen. His intellectual abilities were recognized, but he gave a lecture defending the system of Copernicus and was thenceforth disqualified from receiving a faculty position, instead settling in Graz. A few years later he joined Tycho at Benatek Castle, near Prague, which had been granted to Tycho as “Imperial Mathematicus” to Emperor Rudolph II. The highest scientific interest there was however not astronomy, but alchemy – the doomed attempt to convert base metals into gold by chemical means. Alchemy would now be considered pseudo-science because it did not live by the rules of testing by colleagues to build toward a consensus foundation. Instead, each alchemist tended to hoard his secrets for personal gain. (as summarized in the cartoon from Sidney Harris, see also

cartoon: one man says to another: "You've turned lead into gold? Good. Do it again, write a detailed description of how you did it, and submit it to peer review."

Kepler’s house is now a museum in Prague.

Kepler's house in Prague

(From Petr Hadrava,

A fascinating account of the development of theories of the solar system, with Kepler as subconscious hero, can be found in “The Sleepwalkers” by A. Koestler.