He Saw A New Light Break

“I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.”

Johannes Kepler

A Light

Johannes Kepler, the German mathematician, may not be as well-remembered as Nicolas Copernicus, but he was one of the key reasons why the Polish astronomer’s theories ultimately became widely recognized and accepted. Copernicus argued that the planets rotate around the sun.  Johannes Kepler validated this theory by providing the arithmetical and observational evidence.

Johannes Kepler, as many stargazers before him, faced strong resistance, particularly from his mentor Tycho Brahe, imperial mathematician to Rudolph II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.  Brahe was considered to be the most famous astronomer of the second half of the sixteenth century.  While Kepler held the Copernican view of the universe in high esteem, Brahe rejected it completely. When Brahe died in 1601, Kepler inherited his position in Rudolph’s court, which allowed him access to Brahe’s meticulous astronomical notes.

Johannes Kepler would struggle for eight more years to produce a satisfactory conclusion.  He believed, as Copernicus before him, that the planets orbited in perfect circles.  The answer came one day when he “awoke from sleep and saw a new light break.”  In a brilliant stroke of understanding, he realized that the planets did not rotate in perfect circles.  Instead, they orbited around an ellipse; that is, a flattened circle with two centres very close together.  The proof was acquired through a straightforward mathematical explanation.

The work of Ptolemy and Copernicus had been vindicated once and for all.  But that was not the end. Johannes Kepler’s findings would act as the stimulus for questions that would lead to Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity.  The journey would continue.

“Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife.”

Johannes Kepler

21 Comments

  1. You truly are amazing. How do you ever find these people to learn about?

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I was a halfhearted science student and then realized a few years ago that I missed some important lectures!!! Decided that it was time to catch up. Thank you so much for you support and encouragement.

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  2. Gallivanta says:

    Ah, that wonderful moment of clarity when everything suddenly makes sense.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Those are the moments to celebrate, even if you have to wait 8 long years….:)

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      1. Gallivanta says:

        It was his Eureka moment.

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      2. Clanmother says:

        Well said!!

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  3. Dina says:

    Thanks for this delightful post, Rebecca! The airport in Oslo has a huge Kepplerstar designed by an artist from hometown in Norway, Vebjørn Sand. Now I live in Germany with one foot in England and read aboout Keplpler in a post from Canada. 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Have a lovely Monday!

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    1. Clanmother says:

      We live in a global world that offers so much to us in terms of sharing knowledge. Now I have another place to add to my bucket list – I must see the Kepplerstar! All the very best, dear friend! You always make my day…

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  4. Ms Frances says:

    Truly great and courageous men in their time. Our heritage. We are blest to learn about them.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      So very true! When I look back, I often wonder why others did not value their scientific efforts. This past week, I have been prompted to look more closely at what is happening in my timeline. I think I will be paying more attention.

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  5. Hello Rebecca, Another great post 🙂

    I Studied Art history some while back and I find in fascinating that both Artists and Scientists had to have a Royal connection to be recorded and get anywhere..

    Again I really like this journey your on, so often people think why bother its all been done, but that’s not the point at all, the point is have you been on this road as much as you wanted.

    Keep going Rebecca I am enjoying every post 🙂

    Nigel

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you, Nigel, for all of your encouragement. Over the weekend, I had another idea for a segue. Stay tuned!!!

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      1. 🙂 that sounds very interesting…..

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      2. Clanmother says:

        I am very excited about this new topic! I have never researched it before….I will be learning as I go. And that, as you well know my friend, is what makes life so much more interesting.

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  6. ciao! as i read your interesting post, i was reminded that knowledge is a journey…to be continued. thanks.
    thebestdressup

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I agree wholehearted – it is the best journey to be on…

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  7. adinparadise says:

    I love those Kepler quotes, especially the first one. He must have been beside himself with joy on that morning when the realisation dawned on his mind. 🙂

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Can you imagine his feeling!! I think of the moment in the “Christmas Carol” when Scrooge realized he didn’t miss Christmas. I am certain that Kepler leaped for joy….

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  8. 67paintings says:

    I too have an endless fascination with Astronomy, it’s keep the spirit awake.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I agree wholeheartedly. My eyes have been opened as I continue with my research…

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