Born into Poverty

Johannes Kepler was born prematurely on December 27, 1571, in Weil der Stadt, Germany, to Heinrich Kepler, a mercenary soldier, or warrior for hire, and Katherine Kepler, daughter of an innkeeper. Johannes Kepler did not speak well of either of his parents in later life. He was always a weak and sickly child, and much of his life was spent in ill health. He contracted smallpox at a very young age and suffered from poor vision.

In 1576, his parents moved to nearby Leonberg, Germany, then to Ellmendingen, Germany, then back to Leonberg. This unstable lifestyle made it difficult for Johannes to attend elementary school. More often, he was put to work at the inn of his maternal grandfather. Despite his sporadic education, Johannes displayed uncommon intelligence and insatiable curiosity—an important fact to consider, since it was during these early inquisitive years that he was first introduced to astronomy.

When he was six, his mother took him to observe the famous 1577 comet, discovered by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). This event made a lasting impression on the young boy, sparking his first interest in the stars. Then, in 1580, at age nine, he was privileged to witness a full lunar eclipse. This was another event that fueled the scientific ember that had begun burning within him. One must remember, though, that during Kepler's time an astronomer was considered more accurately as an astrologer, whose job it was to study the stars simply to cast predictions and manage the calendar.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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