Top 10 interesting Facts about Johannes Kepler


Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer, mathematician, astrologer, natural philosopher and writer on music who is best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonice Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae.

Kepler’s works also provided one of the foundations for Newton‘s theory of universal gravitation, which marked the unification of the previously described phenomena of gravity on Earth with known astronomical behaviors.

Below, we discuss the top 10 interesting Facts about Johannes Kepler, the man who discovered that the Earth and planets travel about the sun in elliptical orbits;

1. Kepler was quick to come to this world

Kepler’s birthplace, in Weil der Stadt – Wikipedia

Johannes was born prematurely on 27 December 1571, in the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt (now part of the Stuttgart Region in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, 30 km west of Stuttgart’s center).

As a child, Johannes Kepler also suffered from smallpox. The disease left with crippled hands and a weak vision. This limited his ability to focus his energies on the observational aspect of astronomy.

He himself claimed to have been weak and sickly as a child.

2. Kepler’s childhood passion

The Great Comet of 1577, seen over Prague on November 12, engraving made by Jiri Daschitzky – Wikipedia

Johannes was introduced to astronomy at an early age and developed a strong passion for it that would span his entire life.

He was introduced to astronomy by his mother who took him out at night to show him interesting things in the skies, including 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”.

3. Kepler’s mother was accused of witchcraft

Statue at the village well in EltingenKatharina dedicated to Kepler – Wikimedia Commonsated to

Kepler’s mother, Katharina Guldenmann, was a healer and herbalist who was considered to be a witch. At one point, Kepler had to hire lawyers to defend his mother from being sentenced to death.

The story goes, a certain Ursula Reingold claimed that Kepler’s mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, reaching the town’s council, and Katharina was accused of witchcraft.

It was claimed that she had been instructed in magic by an aunt, who had in fact been burned for sorcery. There was a witch hunt going on in the region and Katharina was one of 15 women who were accused.

When she was captured, she was told how she would be tortured, as a means of frightening her, but she refused to confess anything.

Johannes Kepler, who prepared an extensive defense for his mother, played a part in securing her release. Katharina was imprisoned in August 1620, but released 14 months later in October 1621.

4. A lineage accused of witches

Salem Witch Trials – Wikimedia Commons

It was not only Katharina Guldenmann, Kepler’s mother, who was accused of witchcraft, but also other female relatives of his.

For instance, during Katherine’s trail it was claimed that Katherine had been instructed in magic by an aunt, who had in fact been burned for sorcery.

Kepler’s own grandmother was tried in the Salem Witch Trials and sentenced to death.

5. Kepler’s humble career beginnings

Portrait of Johannes Kepler – Wikipedia

Kepler’s remarkable scientific career had a humble start, as he started out as a math teacher in a seminary in the Austrian city of Graz.

Despite his desire to become a minister, near the end of his studies at Tübingen, Kepler accepted an offer to teach mathematics and astronomy, in April 1594, as a replacement to Georg Stadius at the Protestant school.

While teaching there, he developed an instrumental friendship with Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, who financed most of his later experiments and inventions.

Through this friendish, Keppler became the chief mathematician of Emperor Rudolf II. At that time, he also met Tycho Brahe in Prague and began a long and fruitful cooperation with him.

6. The strange partnership that revolutionized science

Monument to Tycho Brahe and Kepler in Prague, Czech Republic – Wikipedia

Kepler had a tumultuous relationship with Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe; but it was the accurate planetary data of Brahe that enabled Kepler to make his great discoveries in astronomy.

Tycho Brahe was a Danish astronomer, known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical observations. Kepler become Tycho’s assistant in about 1600.

The two had different personalities, with Tycho being arrogant and merciless towards his opponents and Kepler being self-effacing and self-disparaging, referring to himself as a “housedog” and a “worm”.

Upon Tycho Brahe’s untimely death in 1601, his data fell into the hands of his mathematically gifted assistant. Through the use of this data, he was able to rise to the ranch of Imperial Mathematician in Prague.

7. Kepler was deeply religious

God of Creation, Earth texture is from NASA

Kepler incorporated religious arguments and reasoning into his work, motivated by the religious conviction and belief that God had created the world according to an intelligible plan that is accessible through the natural light of reason.

He regarded his three laws of planetary motion as celestial harmonies that reflected God’s design for the universe. In his famous work Harmonices Mundi, he found harmonies in nature to claim that the Earth has a soul because it is subjected to astrological harmony.

It was while finding these harmonies that Kepler discovered what came to be known as the third law of planetary motion: that the square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

8. Kepler laid the foundation of modern optics

A plate from Astronomiae Pars Optica, illustrating the structure of eyes of various species – Wikipedia

Apart from his laws of planetary motion, Kepler made important contributions to optics, including formulation of the inverse-square law governing the intensity of light.

Kepler was able to invented his own version of the refracting telescope, which helped him understand the structure and working of the eye.

9. NASA’s First Planet Hunter

Kepler’s launch on March 7, 2009 – Wikipedia

William Borucki at NASA’s Ames Research Center begins researching the potential of finding Earth-size planets beyond our solar system by searching for the slight dips in starlight as a planet crosses in front of its star — a technique called “transit photometry.”

After four rejections by NASA, in 2001 the Kepler space telescope mission is at last approved as NASA’s tenth Discovery-class mission. The scientific goal is an exploration of the structure and diversity of planetary systems including Earth-size planets in the habitable zone surrounding other stars, the region where liquid water could pool on the surface and support life.

On 6th March 2009, NASA’s Kepler space telescope is launched. Kepler observed 530,506 stars and detected 2,662 planets.

10. The mystery surrounding Kepler

A statue of Kepler in Linz – Wikipedia

Johannes Kepler passed away on November 15th, 1630 in Regensburg after suffering with fever. He was buried at the local cemetery.

Unfortunately, the exact location of Kepler’s grave was lost for good during the Thirty Years’ War between Germany and Sweden after the Swedish army destroyed the churchyard.