Johannes Kepler

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Johannes Kepler - The Astronomer

Johannes Kepler, a well-known astronomer, made important observations in his famous three laws and provided empirical evidence to back them up. He made significant advances in optics and discovered the mechanics of normal polyhedral shapes. He mathematically demonstrated the mechanics of two identical spheres. He also developed a hypothesis of how celestial systems revolve around a central stage. His discoveries paved the way for modern calculus fundamentals. He is regarded as one of the founders of scientific science due to his focus on statistical verification of his discoveries rather than general assumptions (Redd).

Early Life

Johannes Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt in southwest Germany on the 27th Of December 1571. Kepler was born to a modest family and was always sickly during his early days. His father was one of the soldiers killed in a war in Netherlands when Kepler was only five. During his school days, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Tubingen. In that era, hardworking students from modest families secured study scholarships by their brilliance and sworn allegiance to the ruler of that time. During that period, most graduates from the universities would later become teachers, ministers and state functionaries but Kepler initially wanted to be a Theologian (Rabin).

Astronomy and Discoveries

His developed interest in astronomy made him then pursue his dreams and made significant discoveries in science. During his study in the university, he grew interested in the study of the universe and how the planets revolve around the sun. His interest developed after being exposed to the work of Nicolaus Copernicus. He later invested much of his study and research revolving around the solar system. Later on, he scripted a note describing his previous intentions to become a theologian and how he grew restless after discovering his new love of mathematical analysis of the universe. He made significant improvements on Copernicus’ sun-centered discovery into a complete detailed information about the solar system (Wallis).

Professor of Mathematics

By 1594 he had become a professor of mathematics in an institution in Austria. There, he advanced his findings on the analytical study of the solar system basing his studies on the Copernicus findings. By 1596 he had his first lecture on the Copernican system. His address was called Mysterium Cosmographicum of 1595. His discovery of polyhedrons formed his basis of his research. He critically argued that planetary orbits could be elliptical rather than circular. One challenge he had was the fact that during his time the institutions of learning were mostly sponsored by the church. One astronomer, Galileo Galilei had been sentenced to house arrest due to his publications on the Copernicus theory of which was in contrast belief with the religious ideologies. This made Kepler base his advancements on the solar system findings revolving around a theological perspective. For his safety, it is understood that Kepler and his then-wife Barbara had created a communication code in which they could communicate and decode their information without the handlers in authority understanding the contents of the message.

Contradiction and Collaboration

During his early research days, Kepler contradicted the views of fellow astronomer Tycho Brahe. Brahe, a Danish astronomer, researched on the spectacular motions of the planets around the focused sun. He had set up his base at his Castle Benatky where he invited Kepler to join his team of researchers. Due to their ideological differences, Brahe could not work with Kepler. Instead, Brahe called on Kepler to seek his separate information about the Mars mystery. Ironically, Mars being the most challenging problem of the time, Kepler’s findings on Mars solved the greatest puzzle that later formed his base of argument on the solar system. Later on, when Brahe died in 1601, Kepler finally accessed the notes the former had written about his findings on the solar system. Kepler utilized Brahe’s records on the precision of the solar system. Other significant information on Brahe’s discoveries that Kepler needed was the precision of the elliptical orbits of the planets around the sun. Kepler needed this to complete his first and second laws. He had managed access to Brahe’s notes soon enough before Brahe’s family, or research heirs could use it for financial benefits. Kepler was later suspected to have killed Brahe when mercury remains were found in his body remains.

Kepler's Laws

Using the analysis of Brahe’s notes, he made his mathematical proofs for his three laws. The planetary law, area law, and the harmonic law. He concluded that the different planets of the universe move in elliptical orbits around the sun as the focal point. He discovered that the sun did not sit the exact center of a circular orbit. He had mathematical proof to validate his findings. He made an extensive research on the structure of the universe and used his study of identical perfect solids such as a sphere to reach his conclusion. He claimed that the five identical spheres could be used to explain the mystery of the five dominant planets in the universe.

The Area Law

His second law famously known as the area law states that for one to discover the quantity of time needed to go around the orbit revolving around a focal point, the distance is proportional to the area of the given sector between the focal point and the orbits arc. In a broader view, his area law can be explained as, from the suns direct vertical vector, the sun sweeps two same areas equally on both sides of the vector. This information was vital to discredit the initial assumption by scholars that the planets revolved around the sun at a uniform speed. Kepler proved that it was only the area traversed that was uniform for each separate planet, but their speeds were different due to their elliptical orbits and varying length of orbits.

The Harmonic Law

His final law was known as the “harmonic law.” In this law, he states that there is an interrelationship between the cubes of two respective bodies and the squares of the planets periodic times. At the time of his discoveries, these were mere opinions from his calculated research and would later be confirmed as laws after Isaac Newton’s utilizing on Kepler’s basics (Markowsky). The formulae is P2=Kd3 where K is constant. Isaac Newton used Kepler’s information to base his discovery on the theory of gravity.

Legacy and Criticisms

His findings at his time were received as too broad and serious. Although his conclusions were not publicly disseminated immediately after his publications, Isaac Newton took up from Kepler findings to continue with his discoveries. The reception of the results by Isaac Newton suggested that Kepler’s conclusions were substantial. Critics stated that Kepler’s findings were deeply engraved in deep mathematical and physic theories and needed intelligence to understand his Latin writings and to decode the information. Critics view his publications with personal interjections of his publication as self-doubting and giving room for errors. However, Kepler gave those interjections and notes to guide the future students researching on his work.

Contributions to Physics and Mathematics

Although his significant findings were mainly based on astrological work Kepler, made extensive research on both physics and mathematics. Other discoveries that he made include the description of how vision happens. This was in his publication in 1604; Astronomiae Pars Optica which also had an extensive research report on how the telescope uses the science of light. He used the science of refraction to justify the viewing of objects using the telescope. His discoveries on celestial physics are still valid up to date. He discovered that heavenly bodies are physical. He claimed that physical forces move these bodies. Some of his findings were deemed theoretical like the theory of planetary motions. However, some engraved mathematical understanding like the theoretical analysis of the area and harmonic laws. He is currently regarded as an industrious astronomer together with Brahe, Galileo and other celebrated astronomers of his era.

Works Cited

Markowsky, Greg. "A retelling of Newton’s work on Kepler’s Laws." Expositiones Mathematicae 29.3 (2011): 253-282.

Rabin, Sheila J. "Johannes Kepler." Oxford Bibliographies (2017). .

Redd, Nola Taylor. "Johannes Kepler: Unlocking the Secrets of Planetary Motion." 20 November 2017. 23 November 2017. .

"The Mathematics of the Area Law: Kepler's successful proof in Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae." Archive for History of Exact Sciences 57.5 (2003): 355-393.

Wallis, C. G. Epitome astronomiae copernicanae: Partial trans. Vol. 16. London, 1952.

January 05, 2023



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