Johannes Kepler Giant of Faith and Science
Kepler believed in a basic harmony of the universe put there by the Creator. He showed with one grand sweep the joy of studying God's handiwork.
While a student, Johannes Kepler took a class in astronomy, a study of the planets and stars. At that time, most students believed that planets traveled around the earth in perfectly circular orbits. Astronomers needed seventy circles to accurately show how the planets moved.
|Johannes Kepler knew that God
had given the sun, moon, stars, and planets as natural clocks and calendars.
The Bible in Genesis 1:14 says, "...let them be for signs, and for
seasons, and for days, and years."
Johannes Kepler learned how to calculate when the moon would be full, when the sun would rise and set, when eclipses would darken the sun. He knew that God had given the sun, moon, stars, and planets as natural clocks and calendars. The Bible in Genesis 1:14 says, ".let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years."
Astronomy should not be confused with astrology, which is a false science that tried to predict the future. The Bible warns God's people to avoid soothsayers and fortunetellers. Jeremiah told the people not to fear the signs of the heavens, as the heathen do ( Jeremiah 10:2 ). Johannes Kepler kept records of predictions by astrologers. He concluded it did not work. He said, "I fear astrology is nothing but a dreadful superstition, so unlike astronomy which is a true science."
Johannes Kepler became a mathematics teacher. As part of his duties, he wrote a yearly calendar and almanac. An almanac helped farmers and travelers by predicting time of sunrise, sunset, full moon, and other events.
|"I fear astrology is nothing
but a dreadful superstition, so unlike astronomy which is a true science."
Several years earlier, Copernicus had proposed that the sun and not the earth was the center of the planetary system. Few astronomers took Copernicus' idea seriously. The new idea did make calculations easier. Kepler began using the sun-centered planetary system. He became the first well-known scientist to publicly support Copernicus.
Despite his best efforts, Kepler's calculations fell short of predicting celestial events correctly. He worked with old data about the planets' positions. The only person who could supply Kepler with better information was Tycho Brahe, an astronomer who lived in far away Denmark. Tycho had spent a lifetime measuring exactly the positions of the planets against the background of stars. The great astronomer had not yet published his data. Kepler sighed, "I'll never be able to meet Tycho Brahe."
Then, because of religious persecution, Kepler had to flee Germany. He settled in Prague. Unknown to Kepler, the great Tycho Brahe had moved to that same city. Tycho asked the young mathematician to be his chief assistant.
Johannes Kepler worked on the orbit of Mars. Figuring the orbit of a planet is difficult. If Kepler succeeded, he would reduce the hundreds of observations of Mars to a single mathematical equation. Time and again Kepler had to start over. Tycho's observations revealed the slightest errors. After six years, Kepler realized his stubborn error. He, along with all the other astronomers, believed Mars traveled in a circle around the Sun. What if Mars' orbit was a figure other than a perfect circle? Johannes Kepler proved that Mars traveled around the sun in a stretched out figure called an ellipse. Kepler swept away the seventy circles and replaced them with a single elliptical orbit for each planet.
In 1609, Johannes Kepler told about his discoveries in his book, The New Astronomy. He summarized his findings in three laws of planetary motion. The first law states that the planets follow elliptical orbits around the sun. He ended the book with a song of praise for the Creator. He wrote, "Thus God himself was too kind to remain idle, and began to play the game of signatures, signing his likeness into the world. Kepler's laws of planetary motion became the foundation of modern astronomy.
Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen farther it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Johannes Kepler was one of the giants. Sir Isaac Newton based much of his work with gravity upon Kepler's Laws. One reason scientists so readily accepted Newton's law of gravity was because they followed Kepler's three laws of planetary motion.
|Johannes Kepler believed in
harmony in the universe put there according to God's design
Johannes Kepler believed in harmony in the universe put there according to God's design. He said, "Great is God our Lord. Great is His power and there is no end to His wisdom."
Johannes Kepler enjoyed great fame during his lifetime. His fame continues to grow. On any list of the great scientists, he is usually in the top ten. He considered his vast scientific studies as another way of looking into God's magnificent creation. He often became so excited with his discoveries that he would write songs of praise to God in his scientific journals.
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