Johannes Kepler

Born
prematurely in 1571 on the waning side of a family fortune, Johannes Kepler was
forced to find his own way in the world. His father, a mercenary, was presumed dead
after disappearing during the Eighty Year’s war between

When
he had finished his public, Protestant schooling, he began to attend the

One of the first works he put forth
was the *Mysterium** Cosmographicum* that primarily supported the Copernican heliocentric
solar system model. In his model he was
able to show that each of the known planets could be placed inside of each
other if they were assigned to concentric geometric shapes in the following
order: octahedron,
icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, cube, Kepler
was able to design spheres that were roughly the size of the known orbits of
the planets. Kepler was obsessed with
showing that God had designed the universe along some complex mathematical
lines and that it would be possible to unlock the secrets of the universe
through math. The Kepler polyhedrons are
the result of trying to find the innate order of the universe through geometry.
He even went so far as to show that
there was a direct relationship between the size of the planet and their orbit
path, a fact that he eventually rejected, though it helped him to complete his
work on planetary motion.

In the years that he worked on his
book, he met and married his wife, Barbara Müller. Her father was
not in favor of the union, despite his noble stature, mainly due to his
poverty. After he published his work he
consented, but almost withdrew when Kepler was gone promoting his book. After urging from the church, Jobst Müller, allowed his
daughter to marry Johannes in 1597. They
had five children together, though the first two died in infancy.

Kepler’s
work took him to the observatories of Tycho Brahe. Despite a bitter feud that evolved quickly, Kepler
relied on Brahe for technical and financial support. Though he could not start working for Brahe
due to political and religious problems in his hometown, Kepler eventually
caught up with Brahe when Brahe served in the court of Rudolph II, the Holy
Roman Emperor. Brahe had overcome the
severe debates with Ursus and had put aside his
feelings for Kepler so that they could both gain from the relationship, a trend
that would be strained at times. When
Brahe died in 1601, Kepler quickly took advantage of the situation to obtain
the long-desired tables of Brahe’s observations that had been closely guarded
by Brahe in life. He spent the next
eleven years as Tycho Brahe’s successor in the royal
court of Rudolph II.

The years
that Kepler spent in the court of Rudolph II were some of his most productive. During this time he published the Rudolphine Tables (predictions of planetary observations)
based on Brahe’s observations of Mars, worked with optics to describe parallax,
the inverse square law, the cause of and observations of eclipses and relative
distances of celestial bodies. In 1604,
he identified a super nova (SN1604) and published work about astrological
symbols like the great conjunctions (pairing of planets in the observable sky,
specifically, Jupiter and Saturn). Galileo
began a correspondence with Kepler and even requested that Kepler succeed him
when he left the

In 1611,
despite having a family ravaged by sickness (wife Hungarian spotted fever and
all three children with smallpox) Kepler created an improved telescope after
the model Galileo created. His second-youngest
son and his wife died that year from their illnesses. This was also the year that Rudolph II’s brother, Matthias, forced Rudolph II to hand over the
throne to the

Though the acceptance of Kepler’s
work was mixed, he managed to correctly produce much of the groundwork of what
we know about the universe. His search
for an orderly state in the universe that was based in mathematics was at the
route of all of his work while his religious background disallowed his work
from recognizing the presence of an all-powerful creator who governed the world
in a way that defied all convention. His
work allowed men like Tycho and Galileo to gain
further reputation and others like

Kepler’s original ideas about the universe led him to
design a series of polyhedrons that were bound by spheres representing the
orbit of the known planets.

The Supernova Remnant observed by Kepler in 1604 as seen
through (from left to right) high energy X-ray, low energy X-ray, visible and
IR. The large photo is an overlapping of
the four images at the bottom.

Kepler’s work with three-dimensional polyhedrons led to
incredible expansion of geometry.