Surprise Career in Mathematics and Astronomy

In 1591, Kepler passed his exams and received a master's degree in arts. For three more years, he stayed on at Tübingen, attending graduate courses in theology, still aiming toward a life in the Protestant ministry. Even though he was a genius at mathematics and even more enthusiastic (and far more outspoken) about Copernicanism than was Professor Maestlin, he had never considered a career other than ecclesiastical. Therefore, it was a surprise when, in 1594, he was offered a professorship in mathematics and astronomy at the Protestant University of Gratz, Styria (now part of Austria). This offer came about after an inquiry from the Gratz governors to the Tübingen Senate, asking for a recommendation for a mathematics teacher to replace theirs, who had recently died. The Tübingen Senate recommended Kepler for two reasons: first, he was a skilled mathematician, and second, he was an open advocate for Copernicanism, which was not associated with true men of God. Considering his heretical devotion to Copernicanism, the Senate secretly decided it was best that Kepler be steered away from a career in the church.

After a short time of indecision, Kepler finally accepted the job, and in April 1594, he arrived in Gratz. Part of his duties as mathematician and astronomer was to cast astrological predictions. Kepler deeply believed in a kindred link between humankind and the cosmos; however, he also believed that basing astrological predictions on a faulty (Ptolemaic) system was foolhardy. Despite his distaste for the conventional methods, Kepler predicted a cold winter ahead and a Turkish invasion, both of which came true. This earned him new respect and an increase in salary.

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