K is for Kepler

German Kepler stamp, from astampaday.com

Johannes Kepler was a late Renaissance astronomer/astrologer whose work helped launch Newton and the Scientific Revolution. A devout Christian, Kepler searched for ways to prove the divine within nature and the cosmos, creating models that tried to reconcile the Trinity with the movements of the planets and astro-phenomena. While Kepler had his own religious skirmishes with authorities, he managed to avoid the accusations of heresy and tragedy that enfolded is contemporary Galileo. 

He also explained snowflakes.

Horoscope from imperial astrologer Kepler. Photo from wikipedia.

Astronomy and Astrology: the STEM Disciplines in 1597

Back in 1600, astronomy was one of the foremost of the sciences, along with astrology. Since astrologers had to calculate planetary conditions down to precise moments of birth using limited information, their work was intricate, even if we might scoff at its purpose today. Astronomy and astrology were, therefore, branches of mathematics, which were categorized under the liberal arts. Math was sometimes taught as part of theology. Physics, which hadn’t developed much beyond Archimedes jumping out of the bathtub, was categorized as a part of “natural philosophy.”

Kepler enjoyed math as a youth and ended up studying under Tycho Brahe in Poland, as well as being imperial mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperors Rudolf II, Matthias, and Ferdinand II. If you want to know what an H.R.E. is, see G is for Ghibellines.

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