Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sexy Astronomers of History [No. 6]

Collect 'em all!

Johannes Kepler
(Dec 27, 1571 – Nov 15, 1630)
Birthplace:  Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt near Stuttgart, Holy Roman Empire (now Germany)
Culture-shaping contribution:  The laws of planetary motion, which proved mathematically that planetary orbits around the sun are elliptical. Really there's much more to it than that, but suffice it to say that Kepler's math checked out thanks to his groundbreaking use of physics. His theory fueled Isaac Newton's laws of universal gravitation, even though at the time Kepler published his theory, Galileo and Descartes thought it was nonsense.
Fun fact:  Kepler's mother, Katharina, was arrested in 1620 for witchcraft. The charges had been levelled at her in 1615, during a wave of accusations that snared herbalist Katharina. Johannes took her away, but upon her return she was arrested. Her son managed to argue for her freedom in 1621. She died a year later, a free woman. [This is a "fun" fact? -- ed.]