Keplers Legacy

Johannes Kepler was a brilliant scientist, sensitive, caring, and humble. In the infancy of modern astronomy and throughout the beginning of the age of reason, he gave his all to humanity without boast or regret, and often he held the work of others in greater appreciation than his own. His lifework helped lay to rest the mystery behind planetary motion and set humankind on the correct path toward understanding the dynamics of the universe. For this sacrifice through the best and worst years of his life, astronomy is truly grateful. Nothing remains of Kepler's tomb. However, his manuscripts survived and were purchased nearly a century later by Catherine II of Russia.

They are now preserved at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Pulkovo Observatory, near St. Petersburg.



Born on December 27 in Weil der Stadt, Germany


Observes his first comet


Observes his first lunar eclipse


Enters the Protestant University of Tübingen, Germany, where he is introduced to Copernicanism


Receives his master's degree in arts, continues to study theology


Accepts the seat as professor of mathematics at Gratz, Austria


Publishes his famous work Mysterium cosmographicum (Secrets of the universe), in which he describes his new model of the universe


Accepts a job in Prague as assistant to Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe

1601 Appointed as Brahe's successor after Brahe's death


Publishes Astronomia pars optica (The optical part of astronomy), in which he addresses atmospheric refraction for the first time


Publishes De stella nova (Concerning the new star) on the supernova of 1604


Publishes Astronomia nova (New astronomy), outlining his first two laws of planetary motion


Publishes Narratio de observatis quatuor jovis satel-litibus (Narration about four satellites of Jupiter observed) in support of Galileo's discoveries using the newly invented telescope


Publishes Dioptrice (Dioptrics), in which he describes his new telescope structure


Forced out of Prague and accepts a job in Linz, Austria


Publishes Epitome astronomiae copernicanae (Epitome of Copernican astronomy), a book on heliocentric theory


Publishes Harmonice mundi (Harmony of the world), in which he describes his third law of planetary motion


Publishes the Tabulae rudolphinae (Rudolphine tables), which contains accurate predictions of the planets' future positions


Dies from illness on November 15 in Ratisbon, Germany

Caspar, Max. Kepler. New York: Dover Publications, 1993. A definitive biography of Johannes Kepler, translated from German. Introduction and notes by Owen Gingerich. Kepler, Johannes; A. M. Duncan, translator. Secrets of the Universe (Mysterium cosmographicum). New York: Abaris Books, 1981. This is the first English translation of Kepler's original 1596 volume.

Koestler, Arthur. The Watershed: A Biography of Johannes Kepler. New York: Doubleday, 1960. A well-written piece outlining the life and scientific accomplishments of Johannes Kepler.

Rosen, Sidney. The Harmonious World of Johannes Kepler. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. A compelling biography ofJohannes Kepler written for a younger audience.

Voelkel, James R. Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Designed for students in middle school and up, this is an easy-to-follow biography of Johannes Kepler that deals with his discoveries as well as his personal life.

Web Sites

Drennon, William L. "Kepler's Laws." Available online. URL: Accessed November 29, 2004. An animated Web page outlining Kepler's three laws of planetary motion. Provides a brief history of astronomy and biographies on Kepler and Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.

Fowler, Michael. "Johannes Kepler." Available online. URL: http:// Accessed November 29, 2004. A brief biography on Johannes Kepler including line drawings, links to other astronomy-oriented lectures, and references.

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