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JOHANNES KEPLER

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2008, 11:06:59 am »









Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, calendars, and the witch trial of Kepler's mother



Since completing the Astronomia nova, Kepler had intended to compose an astronomy textbook.

In 1615, he completed the first of three volumes of Epitome astronomia Copernicanae (Epitome of Copernican Astronomy); the first volume (books I-III) was printed in 1617, the second (book IV) in 1620, and the third (books V-VII) in 1621. Despite the title, which referred simply to heliocentrism, Kepler's textbook culminated in his own ellipse-based system. Epitome became Kepler's most influential work. It contained all three laws of planetary motion and attempted to explain heavenly motions through physical causes.  Though it explicitly extended the first two laws of planetary motion (applied to Mars in Astronomia nova) to all the planets as well as the Moon and the Medicean satellites of Jupiter, it did not explain how elliptical orbits could be derived from observational data.

As a spin-off from the Rudolphine Tables and the related Ephemerides, Kepler published astrological calendars, which were very popular and helped offset the costs of producing his other work especially when support from the Imperial treasury was withheld. In his calendars six between 1617 and 1624 Kepler forecast planetary positions and weather as well as political events; the latter were often cannily accurate, thanks to his keen grasp of contemporary political and theological tensions. By 1624, however, the escalation of those tensions and the ambiguity of the prophecies meant political trouble for Kepler himself; his final calendar was publicly burned in Graz.

 




Geometrical harmonies in the regular polygons from Harmonices Mundi (1619).



The iconic frontispiece to the Rudolphine Tables celebrates the great astronomers of the past:

Hipparchus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, and most prominently, Tycho Brahe.


In 1615, Ursula Reingold, a woman in a financial dispute with Kepler's brother Cristoph, claimed Kepler's mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, and in 1617, Katharina was accused of witchcraft; witchcraft trials were relatively common in central Europe at this time. Beginning in August 1620 she was imprisoned for fourteen months. She was released in October 1621, thanks in part to the extensive legal defense drawn up by Kepler. The accusers had no stronger evidence than rumors, along with a distorted, second-hand version of Kepler's Somnium, in which a woman mixes potions and enlists the aid of a demon. However, Katharina was subjected to territio verbalis, a graphic description of the torture awaiting her as a witch, in a final attempt to make her confess.

Throughout the trial, Kepler postponed his other work to focus on his "harmonic theory". The result, published in 1619, was Harmonices Mundi ("Harmony of the Worlds").
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