Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy

David K. Love. Prometheus Books, $24 (255p) ISBN 978-1-63388-106-8
Love, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, reveals the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) as a complex, prickly, and brilliant scientist who led a life of “genius and originality with an appalling degree of personal tragedy.” Born 28 years after Copernicus died, Kepler was a sickly but determined child of Lutheran parents in a “patchwork” Germany of squabbling Catholic and Lutheran states. Love describes how a devout young Kepler planned to become a clergyman, but found himself instead employed as a math professor because of his vocal support for Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the universe—a model condemned by Martin Luther. Kepler’s “puzzling” over several astronomical questions that followed from the work of Copernicus became his groundbreaking work, including his proposition of the existence of a mysterious force from the Sun that pulled the planets around in their orbits—decades before Newton’s work on gravity—and the three laws of planetary motion, which were worked out from meticulous data recorded by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, Kepler’s onetime employer. In Love’s hands, Kepler becomes a brimming and accessible font of ideas, convinced that Nature preferred simplicity to complexity and determined to find the truth, no matter how unpopular it might be. Illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/21/2015
Release date: 11/10/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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