Johannes Kepler was born on December 27, 1571 in Weil der Stadt, a small town in Swabia, Germany. After his father Heinrich Kepler’s death during a war, Kepler’s herbalist mother, Katharina Guldenmann supported him and herself by running her father’s inn.
Kepler had crippled hands and his eyesight had got affected adversely by small pox at an early age. Despite his physical impairments, he wasn’t devoid of intelligence. His extraordinary skill with numbers allowed him to solve difficult mathematical problems at a very young age.
Kepler received his early education at the Protestant Seminary of Maulbronn. He then attended the University of Tübingen in 1589 and studied courses like Theology, Philosophy, Greek, Hebrew, but excelled majorly in Mathematics. After completing his degree, he accepted the position of lecturer for Mathematics and Astronomy, offered to him by a Protestant School in Austria in 1594.
Kepler had developed a great interest in planets and their orbits. In 1595, he proposed a theory regarding distances between the planets and the sun and explained it in his book Mysterium Cosmographicum, also known as Cosmographic Mystery. According to this theory, there were certain geometrical figures which he called ‘the perfect solid’ that had identical sides and determined the orbits for all planets around the sun. What Kepler needed the most after this, was statistical/mathematical/physical data to prove his theory. Luckily, Tycho Brahe, the Imperial Mathematician and an observatory to Rudolph II, identified his talent and hired him as his assistant in 1609.
The position of Imperial Mathematian, after the death of Tycho in 1601, was handed down to Kepler as his successor. He offered his services till 1612 and made a lot discoveries and publications. He discovered three laws of planetary motion; two of which were discovered through his work on Mar’s orbit with Tycho. These laws were published in 1809 in his book, Astronomia Nova (New Astronomy) and summarizes as follows;
- First Law deals with the orbits of planets and explains how each planet move around the Sun in its elliptical orbit.
- Second Law highlights the proportionality between time and area of the orbits.
Some of the other publications of Kepler during these eleven years include;
- Astronomia pars Optica or The Optical Part of Astronomy (1604)
- De Stella Nova or Concerning the New Star (1606)
- Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo or Conversation with the Sidereal Messenger (1610),
- Narratio de Observatis Quatuor Jovis Satellitibus or Narration about Four Satellites of Jupiter Observed
- Dioptrice (1611).
In 1612, Kepler was made the District Mathematician of Linz, Austria for fourteen years until 1626. Many of Johannes Kepler’s famous publications are found from this time period. These include;
- De Vero Anno quo Aeternus Dei Filius Humanam Naturam in Utero Benedictae Virginis Mariae Assumpsit (Concerning the True Year in which the Son of God assumed a Human Nature in the Uterus of the Blessed Virgin Mary”). (1614)
- Harmonice Mundi or Harmony of the World (1618)
- Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae (“Epitome of Copernican Astronomy”), (1619)
Throughout his scientific journey, Kepler made prominent contributions on various topics including behavior of light in telescope, vision, solar system, music etc. by combining the fields of physics, astrology, astronomy, theology and philosophy.
In 1618, The Thirty Years War struck many countries of the Central Europe including Austria. Due to the country’s devastating state during war and persecution, he left Linz in 1626 along with his family and went to Prague. In 1627, Kepler got the Tabulae Rudolphine, or the Rudolphine Tables published which included the observations made, data collected by Tycho and calculations done by Kepler.
The last few years of his life were of great struggles for earning back a respectable and paid position. He finally died on November 15, 1630 in Regensburg. Johannes left immense scientific work for future scientists to work upon and bring forth new discoveries.